Organizations have been looking for ways to improve their efficiencies, reduce errors, and increase data security and privacy using robotic process automation (RPA). This technology has been implemented across thousands of organizations globally since it emerged over ten years ago. However, while the promise of huge gains in efficiencies has been proven, documented, and reported by many sources, some organizations are not seeing the same results. In this series of articles, the goal is to understand the primary reasons why some are realizing these results but others are only achieving marginal returns on their investments. To harness the power of the RPA platform, it’s important to consider the human element, the infrastructure, the roadmap of where you ultimately want to go, and the definition of success as the program progresses.
Building a Digital Workforce
Forward thinking companies are quickly seeing the benefits of a digital workforce but are often stuck while considering where to start. There are vendor selections, infrastructure questions, organizational considerations, process explorations, documentation efforts, and other topics that cause firms to grind their gears as they look to embark upon the automation journey.
As with any new technology, building a digital workforce requires an understanding of how it will be used within the organization. Who will be driving the solution? Is the business ready to engage the platform? Will IT be able to support the platform? These questions are all legitimate, and there are answers to them. It’s often best to have a guide as you explore new territory, so you may want to engage the support of a consulting firm that knows how to get started and can lead you down the right path that is tailored to your organizational needs and culture.
Center of Excellence
While this term has been used for years to describe the team of people within an organization that provide leadership, best practices, and support for a specific function, it may have lost some of its impact after many of these groups failed to deliver on its intended purpose. However, the concept should not be dismissed. Rather, it should be reevaluated to ensure greater success. Within an organization looking to adopt a digital workforce, it’s imperative that a fully functional Center of Excellence (CoE) is created to support this new capability. The reasons behind this are two-fold: to coordinate the right skills in the firm and to ensure that the technology team is ready.
First, coordinating the skills within the organization involves far more than selecting a few people from a functional area that may understand a little about automation. Process improvement and re-engineering require team efforts that include people familiar with the techniques as well as people who are subject matter experts. The same concept applies within an automation CoE. Often, the firm will partner with experts to support part of the team who understands how RPA works. These experts support and train the organization’s members while they are supporting the initial efforts. The subject matter experts work alongside those who understand the automation and process management roles to help them come together and prioritize the most effective automation strategies.
Second, the technology team must be a part of the CoE from the beginning. While much of the process-based work may not be second nature to the IT team, the technology to support the automations certainly is. By engaging the IT teams early, the understanding of the platform will become more clear. In addition, the technology team can provide additional support and guidance when configuring the digital workers for the firm’s unique requirements for security, compliance, and auditing. As the IT team becomes more familiar with the technology platform, often they will adopt digital workers to support their own processes. This functional teamwork provides synergies that allow the digital workforce to be more easily adopted into an organization’s core fabric.
On Premises or Cloud-Based Digital Workers
While it may be evident that your company prefers one technology hosting approach over another, there are many considerations that must be evaluated when deciding where the digital workers will reside. Many firms have large data centers with mature management and heavy investments that will prefer on-site solutions where digital workers reside in their local data center. There are several benefits to this option. First, digital workers will have faster access to the applications with which they’re working. If other applications are running in the data center, then it makes sense to reduce the amount of time it takes to access these applications by having the workers close by. This reduction in the latency, or time that it takes to get data from one point to another, greatly enhances the responsiveness of the digital workers. Second, if the data center has sufficient capacity, adding the environments to support digital workers may be more cost effective with site licensing and capacity usage. Finally, firms that process sensitive data or are highly-regulated may require the data to reside in-house which further supports an on-premise implementation.
Some companies, however, have actively reduced their reliance on local application services. By outsourcing the data center functions to the cloud, they have been able to provide higher levels of up-time and security than with their own resources. Additionally, by managing a widespread enterprise, there may not be a good centralized location to support these data services. Implementing a digital workforce in the cloud also has several advantages, such as minimal impact on localized data system resources, controlled licensing models, and capacity that can flex up or down on demand. Companies that support this model will be able to leverage this flexibility to support a digital workforce that can flex as their needs do.
Finally, some companies will find that a hybrid model works best for them, with some digital workers executing work from within their data centers while others coordinate their work within a cloud environment. Supporting a flexible approach to a digital workforce ensures that there is sufficient capacity for work where it’s needed.