RPA growth has been nothing short of astonishing, especially when it is used with artificial intelligence (AI) to drive intelligent automation (IA), or—as Gartner calls it, when bundled with other technologies—hyperautomation. Despite the economic challenges of the past and ongoing COVID-19 years, 85% of Gartner clients say they will increase or maintain their investments in hyperautomation in 2022.
But still, many firms are struggling to get started with RPA and intelligent automation. They find it difficult to scale past their pilots or proofs of concept (POCs). In this blog, we’ll tell you how to get a robust pipeline of RPA projects filled so that you can take advantage of the exciting possibilities of automation.
First step: create an RPA center of excellence
Many firms realize that when they try to propagate RPA or IA to more departments or workgroups one of the biggest challenges they face is the cost—and hassle—of maintaining and supporting bots. For this reason, building a center of excellence (CoE) that acts as a central services provider to all RPA efforts throughout the business is a priority to contain costs and encourage best practices. RPA CoEs are increasing in popularity, helping to standardize and control RPA, minimizing bot failures and inefficiencies, and streamlining maintenance and support. In time, CoEs can transform themselves from cost to profit centers as RPA/IA begins gathering real returns.
Involve IT and operations from the beginning
If neither your IT nor operations team are on the automation bandwagon, your program will fail. Period.
Early RPA efforts tended to be driven by business units trying to solve tactical problems or to experiment with the technology to see what it could do. In 2021, thanks to the emergence of low code/no code (LCNC) tools, citizen developers began automating the tasks they’d prefer not to perform manually. But with the “democratization” of automation and the rise of citizen developers, issues about automated systems’ reliability, security, and ROI meant that the pendulum had to begin swinging the other way. Today, IT and operations are important contributors to the CoE and are assuming a fair amount of ownership over support services needed across the enterprise.
Include the C-Suite in your automation strategic planning
RPA already has been proven to work in revenue-producing departments such as customer self-service, contact centers, and sales and marketing. Indeed, the revenues that businesses are earning from RPA-driven processes are almost as much as the economic advantages of operational efficiencies and cost savings. This is prime C-suite territory. Achieving buy-in from senior leadership—especially if bonuses or other remunerations are tied to automation success—is virtually a guarantee that your RPA program will soar.
Identify process candidates for automation
First, talk to line-of-business managers and departmental leaders and educate them on the possibilities that RPA offers. Ask about manual, repetitive processes that are costly, prone to error, inefficient, or all three. Brainstorm possible ways to solve those issues with automation. Don’t focus just on automating existing business processes. Instead, ask what sorts of things a workgroup or department would be capable of if menial tasks were taken away from them. Create a “big list” of ideas that includes everything from your brainstorming and Q&A sessions with departmental heads.
Calculate potential ROI for various deployments
In this step, you need to assess how much value you can extract from different automation initiatives. You obviously can’t do a thorough ROI analysis for each item on your list, but you can do sufficient digging to arrive at fairly exact educated guesses on different types of projects. Include for consideration such things as new revenue streams, freeing up workers for higher-value work (worker productivity), and reduced errors.
Begin prioritizing initiatives
Identify which of the initiative ideas involve large numbers of employees or where employees from different divisions perform similar processes and economies of scale can be realized. Pinpoint the areas about which you have the most complaints or which suffer from high error and rework rates. Combine the results of these analyses with the ROI estimates you did in the previous step. Put together a “shortlist” of top initiatives to prioritize in order of preference.
Aim for a federated model of RPA governance
In this blog, we make certain assumptions—for example, that a centralized governance body in the form of a CoE at some point takes over the management and care of filling the pipeline. At Automation Anywhere, we know this isn’t always the case. In many instances, a decentralized model will work best at first as businesses ease into their first RPA efforts. But we do believe that eventually some halfway point between centralized and decentralized approaches—a “federated” model—makes sense to keep a robust pipeline filled with successful RPA projects.