One of the biggest challenges organizations face when establishing a robotic process automation (RPA) or intelligent automation program is figuring out how to sustain and scale these activities, so they deliver transformative outcomes across the enterprise.
The reality is that having good intentions and good intelligent automation technologies is a great start, but when it comes to a successful automation journey it just isn’t enough. In fact, the people, processes, and structure behind an intelligent automation program are almost as important as the technology itself.
Over time, we’ve seen that the true potential of intelligent automation is best realized by not only enabling enterprise-led, ‘top down,’ and smarter ways of working, but also applying these capabilities centrally and collaboratively, with the greatest ease and scale.
Below are eight proven steps that we and our customers have continually evolved to ensure your intelligent automation program becomes an ongoing value generator across operations:
Intelligent automation initiatives are typically business-led. They’re run by business leaders who best understand existing operational challenges and demands and can determine where intelligent automation will have the greatest impact on delivering positive business outcomes.
Therefore, before any program commences, an intelligent automation strategy and vision aligned to the wider business needs is required. Rather than focusing on short-term, tactical savings, this typically involves broader, longer-term goals.
Think improving operational continuity, resilience, efficiency, process quality, employee empowerment, or enhancing stakeholder experiences and you get the picture. It’s all about making the enterprise smarter, more agile, efficient and competitive.
A continuous communication of the vision is also imperative, so be clear about the end goal, what must be in place to reach it, and the individual roles and the likely impact on them.
Evolving an intelligent automation strategy into a living program may prove difficult, without buy-in from senior IT personnel. So, involve them from the start, as they can provide support on many critical fronts, such as compliance with IT security, auditability, as well as the supporting infrastructure, its configuration, and scalability.
Liaising with IT must also be an ongoing activity to help limit any operational impacts.
For intelligent automation programs to be sustainable, they must also receive buy-in from the C-suite, too. If they see it as a strategic business project, they’ll sponsor and champion it, while providing the requisite financial and human resources needed to make it successful.
Next up, create a governance board that’s responsible for setting the intelligent automation strategy for and delivering against it, too. Typically chaired by the person leading an automation program, together with business, IT, and change personnel, a governing board:
To ensure that intelligent automation activities can effectively scale as demand increases, plan where this capability sits within the business. A favored option is the centralized approach that encompasses the entire organization. It may be beneficial to embed this into an Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence (CoE) or, at least, move toward creating this type of operating environment.
Another highly effective approach is the federated model where the intelligent automation capability sits within a particular function but is scaled across the business, with the central automation team controlling standards and best practices and managing the RPA strategy and roadmap.
To start automating processes, you’ll want to capture the correct information in the process define phase, so involve knowledgeable subject matter experts in this activity. It’s also worth holding a process automation walk-through for the right audience and understanding how it will differ from the same human process.
Once the business and process design authorities have approved the proposed blueprint, development can begin.
Once your processes are in production, they need the right support around them. Ensure that digital workers are handing back business referrals or exceptions to the operational team for manual intervention.
Also, have a technical capability available in case digital workers don’t act exactly as expected the first time around. Ultimately, to ensure continuity and availability of automation resources, there must be a robust, supporting IT infrastructure.
Having the appropriate roles and skills in place is critical to running a successful digital workforce, including:
- Developers, who will be responsible for designing, testing, and delivering automated processes using defined design principles and following the appropriate standards, while ensuring they’re aligned to current policies and practices.
- Process analysts, who capture the detailed requirements for each process automation, ensuring reusability, resilience, and scalability, as well as reduction of delivery costs and timeframes.
The people involved in running and managing the intelligent automation program also require several personal skills. While problem solving is important, the ability to communicate well with both IT and business teams is also key.
Having a vision-aligned strategy and operating methodology is pivotal to sustaining and scaling intelligent automation at every stage of your intelligent automation journey.
In fact, it’s the single biggest determinant of success or failure of intelligent automation programs. Plus, enterprises report it has helped them achieve even greater success during the roll out of their intelligent automation programs, too.
Next: Chapter 3
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