According to Gartner, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a top strategic trend and the RPA software market will grow by 41% year over year through 2022. Nonetheless, being a new topic, it can be hard to define a strategy for governing the implementation, monitoring and maintenance of bots.Thinking RPA as a project is a big mistake. It’s an even worse mistake to think of it as a series of independent small projects. Implementing RPA is an initiative, and it should be governed by always having a clear big picture of the situation and of the goals you want to reach: this is why governance is so important for RPA.
Deploying new solutions without a clear strategy and governance in fact may result to be under effective or, in the worst case, even counterproductive. This could also create another siloed software group, which continues to work as a black box unlinked to the rest of the business processes.
Necessarily, governance must ensure that RPAs are consistent with security, compliance and change management regulations, yet allowing implementations to run with a good degree of agility. In addition to this, governance should also be able to align enterprise goals and guarantee the possibility to easily scale up.
This may sound like an old and well-known challenge, but it is not completely true. Designing an RPA is much closer to shaping the business process than thinking about tools and technical solutions. In RPA initiatives, business and IT domains get closer as never before, overlapping for most of the work: RPA initiatives may require to setup a new operating model in order to reach strategic and operational effectiveness.
RPA Operating Models and Center of Excellence
Choosing the adequate operating model for RPA initiatives mainly depends on the existing organizational structure and delivery model, the scope and the maturity within the RPA area.
During the implementation of an RPA initiative, a core element for the operating model is the Center of Excellence (CoE), which is responsible for:
- Assessment and prioritization of processes to be robotized
- RPA development and setup of production environment
- Setup of working procedures
- RPA vendors management
At a glance, we can identify three basic models depending on how and where CoEs act within the organization: centralized, hybrid and decentralized.
In a centralized model, a single Center of Excellence embeds all the resources for RPA initiatives. In a hybrid model, most of the RPA functions and developments are centralized, while coordinated teams can be allocated to the business functions/units where a closer collaboration with the key users is needed. Last, in a decentralized model resources are assigned to decentralized units, by function or geographically, while a central unit is in charge of redacting RPA procedures to be shared among all stakeholders.
Ensuring the strategic effectiveness of RPA initiatives
When an RPA initiative starts, you will probably find dozens of possible processes as candidates for robotization. The first discovery of initial candidates can be executed through dedicated design thinking workshops, that typically brings on the table a lot of ideas, which need to be filtered and prioritized.
In this phase, it’s clearly important to set and follow a defined set of rules to evaluate all the ideas, in order to understand which ones are actually suitable for the RPA initiative (indeed: RPA is not the solution to every problem!) and which ones might have the best return on the investment.
The best candidate for robotization may be a repetitive, routinary, stable and predictable process. The ROI is then amplified by the duration and frequency of the process, the number of people involved, the volume of structured data used by the process.
In addition to the identification, prioritization and planning of processes, a long term strategic roadmap will also need to include an integration strategy with the different tools - including for instance ERP, Business Process Management (BPM) tools and other Artificial Intelligence solutions.
Reaching the operational effectiveness of RPA initiatives
Let’s say that a first group of RPAs went live and is now being used. Although this might seem the successful conclusion of your initiative, it’s actually just the beginning of the game.
RPAs, like humans, need to evolve - sometimes, they even retire. Choosing the best KPIs to monitor the RPAs activity is key to understand which functionalities to plan for improvements, and on the other hand recognize the points of failure of the process. Again, this needs strict communication between the business process experts and IT people.
Last but not least, a cultural mind shift is important within the corporate employees. At its best, employees not only will be grateful for being freed by the burden of repetitive and low value-added tasks, but will also be able to identify new possibilities for robotization to be channeled to the CoE for further investigation.
RPA governance is the foundation for success
Thinking of RPA initiatives as a piece of cake, compared to the old complex and burdensome IT programmes, it is quite a mistake: it may lead to think that all the related activities can be carried on internally by the company.
This decision can easily result in failure to grow at scale. Experience demonstrates that consulting partners play a key role in RPA initiatives, being able to support in the development, setup of best practices, skills development and much more. In this case, choosing and managing vendors is also part of the work of the RPA Center of Excellence.RPA
Regardless of how you decide to proceed, the core message remains the same. RPA governance is a vital element that will determine the success (or failure) of your initiative: having a clear strategy - and the ability to execute it - will definitely help you ensure the strategic and operational effectiveness of your RPA initiatives.