- Ronan O'Ceallachain
So you have delivered your first automations successfully, what now?
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
You’ve done it and reached the promised land! You have selected your process candidates, developed your automations and they are now running in production delivering value. What happens next? How do you look after your production automations and make sure they stay relevant to your business needs? How do you make sure that they keep delivering benefits?
One thing is certain – your business will change over time. Software will be updated, processes will need to be responsive to new business opportunities, automations will be tweaked to deliver increased benefit, exceptions will need to be managed. If you’re not already in the cloud, then you’re probably thinking about it.
After your investment of time, effort, and cost, it is important to look after your automations and ensure you have a means to modify them. Automations are adaptable and changes can be implemented quickly, however without some form of framework in place, your automations may not achieve their benefit. You leave behind additional quick-win benefits on the table by not reviewing performance or at worst they stop working due to system or business changes. This is an all too common story we hear again and again.
We quizzed Eclair’s process analyst, Ronan O’Ceallachain, about some of the pitfalls that companies come across without the right support systems in place.
RO’C: “It is important that users do not feel abandoned once their processes are automated and working in the business. Without a means of escalating issues, without knowing who is responsible for what, without a framework for making changes as required, a business owner can quickly become dis-illusioned and the work to drive efficiency using automation can run out of steam.
From experience, users can be unwilling to promote use of automation if they were not part of the implementation process, or if they feel it would be less work to keep processing tasks manually. Sometimes, the user who helped implement the automation a few years ago no longer works for the company, and the new users are left with an automation they don’t understand and don’t appreciate. That’s how RPA programmes can start to fall down.”
A Centre of Excellence (CoE) will promote the success of your robots before, during and after their installation. A CoE provides the framework for how the Robots will be managed once implemented. It also provides a guideline for how future robots should be prioritised and employed.
At Eclair, we have a comprehensive CoE approach derived from best-practice and real-world implementation experience. Our approach to Centre of Excellence consists of 5 key strategy pillars:
At Eclair, we work collaboratively with our clients based on their abilities, needs and overall growth strategy to define what that CoE should look like. We provide everything from training and enablement to allow organisations to establish and run their own CoE, to full managed service run by Eclair.
Under each of these Pillars we have a drill-down to the specific area underpinning each pillar. Each of these is further supported by templates, processes, and guides. The below is an example of Governance, an area often reduced to only project management and escalation during project lifecycle.
Below is a very brief intro into the Pillars and some of our own lesson-learnt, feel free to reach out to us for a more in-depth discussion.
Governance – Allowing scalable and security-conscious processes to enter production in a structured manner
Without a Governance Framework in place for your Automation Programme, a CoE will stutter and fail. This structure is vital to ensure that you set out how you are going to manage your automations and who is responsible for ensuring their successful operation. It also outlines what involvement is needed from the users and how changes are managed. It describes how escalations are handled and how the opportunity pipeline is prioritised.
RO’C: ‘The key word here is consistency. Ideally, you want the same automation provider, the same process mining tools, the same business case assessment tools across all your automations. It would be great to have the same people delivering the automations as well. That is why it’s worth putting the effort into establishing your CoE (or even putting in the building blocks) before you even start writing your first line of code. You are investing in the future success of your automation programme.’
Portfolio Management – Build, manage and monitor your opportunity pipeline
Throughout an RPA programme, new opportunities arise as you delve into your business processes. You will need to assess and manage these opportunities and revisit them once you have your first batch of automations up and running. Once your robots are in operation, you need a way of measuring the performance of each Bot to ensure they are generating the savings that you expected.
RO’C: ‘When calculating the return on investment for processes in different departments, it is important that the calculation methodology is reliable. Whether your HR department is looking to implement an onboarding process, or your Finance department is automating an invoicing process, there should be uniformity of approach across the board. Make sure to carefully interrogate the assumptions used in generating the business case because they will inform the company’s decisions on the future automation opportunities in the pipeline. ‘
Operations – Ensuring Robots operate as expected and system infrastructure is in place
The CoE allows for the maintenance of the Robot systems and environment, ensuring that your robots are ready to process tasks as and when required. This is completed through schedule management, which monitors that the Robots are operating as expected, as well as the management of software licenses. The CoE will also check any exceptions encountered to ensure they are expected and report the issues back to the team for monitoring and further action.
RO’C: A simple but common example is that of Password management. As automations access the same applications as users using their own login credentials, the passwords need to be kept up to date and an owner assigned to password resets in the event they become locked. The CoE is designed to manage this operation so that IT Managers don’t get angry emails and automations don’t have downtime when they should be working’.
Support – Pre-emptive actions and providing a means of escalation for users
If a problem arises with a Robot, the user needs a means of escalating the issue for it to be investigated. And, hopefully, resolved. In addition, the Support model allows for the Robot to be adapted to changes in the business process that are coming down the line through coordination with the company’s IT Team on regression testing requirements. The CoE provides for a defined “support function”, rather than just a “support guy”.
RO’C: Say for example your business is planning on upgrading its CRM system. The IT Team (and the rest of the company) will already have their hands full dealing with security issues, data migration, workflow changes, employee training... The last thing they want to be dealing with is a suite of idle robots and a mountain of manual data entry. The Centre of Excellence team will have your robots ready for the new software before the upgrade rather than putting out the fires afterwards.
Continuous Improvements – Educating users and reviewing the Robot’s performance
If a user is not confident or comfortable with a Robot, they will be less likely to submit tasks to it. A retrospective review of the Robot performance can help identify where there is a need for staff education sessions. Sometimes, the review will reveal small tweaks that would benefit the automation code or schedules. It will indicate the Robots that have additional capacity to undertake other processes, or where additional licences are required to meet peaks in demand.
RO’C: Some businesses have seasonal peaks in staffing levels. Tax season can be a big one in financial services, sometimes requiring additional personnel on short term contracts, performing manual entry tasks which could easily be undertaken by robots. How do you decide if it is worth installing the extra bots to avoid unnecessary additional costs? Well, your CoE is designed to know the answer to that question before you even asked it.
A Centre of Excellence will instil confidence in your RPA programme across all levels of your business. Your staff will “buy in” to the concept once they can see and understand the benefits that are being delivered and well as providing them the necessary supports.
Not every organisation requires the full weight of every aspect of the CoE, it will depend on size of company, number of automations, speed of implementation to name a few. Eclair will work with you to understand your ambition and deliver a tailored solution that fits your scale and budget.
Your CoE should be the hub which ensures the ongoing success of your automations and become your internal champion to plan, realise, adapt and report on the benefits of automation.