Automation is taking businesses by storm and is at the epic center of digital disruption. Process automation is a journey, and a Center of Excellence (CoE) can help grow your process automation footprint for long-term strategic gain and ROI. Because the entry barriers for robotic process automation (RPA) technology are so low, individual business units can pilot RPA, or even build RPA delivery capability, with little or no involvement from IT. Issues emerge when:
- Different business units adopt competing RPA technologies
- Businesses can no longer support the volume of robots deployed
- Changes to the workflow break existing automation which IT may or may not be aware of
The journey to scale begins with moving from RPA to Intelligent Automation (IA). RPA can free up the workforce to focus on more strategic activities or customer-focused tasks. In their embrace of more digitized business, many organisations have adopted robotics to automate repetitive rules-based processes. They are now trying to scale these solutions and make them smarter by integrating artificial intelligence capabilities. Currently, 40% of the Fortune 250 enterprise operate an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) using either a centralized or federated structure.
Shifts in technology and innovations are driving the digital “workforce” transformation. To reap the maximum benefit, enterprises must understand the challenges and plan for transformation. Some common challenges faced by companies embarking on the automation journey:
- How to define the automation strategy and determine which processes should be automated?
- What is the right scalable automation architecture? How to integrate RPA/IA into IT Systems?
- What type of governance mechanism is required? How to operationalize automation CoE?
- What should be the change management strategy? What skill sets need to be built to support automation?
Need for automation CoE
To address these challenges, large enterprises often conclude that they need to establish a Center of Excellence (COE) around automation. The CoE will have a granular understanding of the business process and have access to technological resources as well as skills to formulate enterprise-level best practices. The management team should be the key sponsor for the CoE. At the same time, the Center of Excellence should have adequate representation of the IT team, in order to have a ground-level understanding of the technology infrastructure to calibrate rollout plans effectively.
The broad responsibilities of an automation Center for Excellence are following:
- Create a common strategy for intelligent automation and perform ongoing risk assessments
- Ensure security and controls standards are established and followed
- Create policies and procedures that direct automation development
- Define a change management process for automation
- Develop action plans for issue identification and resolution
- Align automation software vendor contracts
- Rationalize frameworks, data extraction, and digitizing the testing of controls
- Establish key performance indicators to measure the success, including redeployment of resources, cost to automate per process, and implementation cycle times
In addition to these, the Center of Excellence will also be responsible for procuring automation technology. This will mean, evaluating the need and value proposition of new technology available in the market on a continual basis.
Choosing the right CoE operating model
Automation Centers of Excellence is meant to be central units of direction for systemic change. Following are three commonly used models for operating a CoE:
- Centralized Model: Everything is performed by a central team, which directs the enterprise-wide actions. While this can be an efficient way of deploying projects, the team might be too far away from everyday operations to understand the nuanced friction that can come when the projects are rolled out.
- Decentralized Model: This is not a Center of Excellence by design, but an attempt to create bodies that supervise project initiatives, implementation, and best-practices across all functions. While this can add the detailed perspective specific to each function, it also results in redundant processes that consume unnecessary resources.
- Federated Model: The federated model entails a centralized group that provides enterprise-wide guidance. But the implementation is done by a solutions factory, which works in tandem with each function or business unit in the company. This way, the scaling and planning is done at the organizational level, but the nuanced understanding of everyday operations is not lost.
Assemble automation team and partners
Team is one of the key factors in the success of automation implementation, so assembling a team with the right skill sets and a clear division of responsibilities is of the utmost importance when establishing a CoE. It is also important to plan training and upskilling the team members in advance based on their role in the project. Automation must be envisaged holistically rather than in silos. So, while building a core team, do not just look at RPA experts, but people who know process modelling, business experience, AI/ML, and other core technologies.
Partnering with the right external vendor can help plug the skill gaps and accelerate setting up Automation CoE. Partners bring the knowledge and best practices of deploying automation across industries. Also, vendors can provide tools & accelerators or automation solutions catering to business functions to enable teams to focus on strategic tasks rather than time-consuming operational activities. As a part of the integrated automation concept, iOPEX has come up with a workflow assistance system to enhance business and process efficiency across different functions like Ad Operations, HR, Finance, Supply Chain, and IT Operations for automating end-to-end business processes at the enterprise level.
The automation center of excellence enables rapid transformation while mitigating associated risks, ensuring that automation investments are managed efficiently. By focusing on the organizational, operational, and governance readiness aspects of automation up front—companies can significantly increase the speed and scale of their automation projects. The CoE model will be specific to each company but leveraging best practices can help avoid common pitfalls.
Setting up an automation CoE can help accelerate your organization’s automation journey. Contact us to know how iOPEX can help you scale.