How to Set Up, Guide, and Lead an Effective RPA Program
Bringing the Automation Anywhere Enterprise platform into your organization creates a different kind of buzz than bringing in other enterprise applications.
There's excitement about the possibilities of automating mundane repetitive tasks. There's anxiousness to make sure things are set up in a way that you can grow into them. And, there’s anticipation of your Robotic Process Automation (RPA) initiatives returning a big return on investment (ROI).
It's also a time filled with a lot of questions:
- What are the differences between RPA initiatives that thrive and those that have trouble getting off the ground?
- What do you do to make sure this doesn't cause a cultural divide in your organization?
- How do you get started taking on RPA?
- What can help jump-start the process?
The good news is you’re not alone in your line of questioning. Technology leaders across the globe are actively trying to set up, guide, and lead RPA practices within their organizations. Let's look at four key components most successful RPA initiatives share to understand how your organization can start its RPA practice strong and keep it strong.
Get buy-in from leadership
One of the most important factors separating RPA programs that struggle and those that flourish is buy-in from leadership. Let's be honest — bringing in an RPA application creates a different level of expectation within an organization than bringing in a new database platform or document scanning application.
Leaders and employees from many levels have heard about the impact of robotics and the future of work. Some may see it as a threat to what they’re doing, and some welcome the technology with open arms, excited about its prospects.
Having the support of leaders who are willing to champion RPA initiatives and help "go to bat" for those facing roadblocks along the journey goes a long way in problem resolution. This leadership support becomes especially valuable when considering the different groups that will have some input/interaction with an RPA practice:
- Enterprise architecture for approval of system designs and high availability
- Cybersecurity for approval of installation and monitoring ongoing use
- Release management for establishing an appropriate cadence for deployments
- System administrators for setting up virtual desktops and supporting the environment
- Other technology teams that may own applications bots will scrape from/make API calls to
Identify leaders whom Malcolm Gladwell would define as "Connectors" — natural hubs who have large networks internally and are trusted authorities in their different circles — and connect with them for their support in your initiatives.
Make sure they understand the power of RPA and can help clear roadblocks you may encounter as you start to expand the platform internally.
Encourage a cultural shift for RPA success
From the way processes are viewed to the way different roles within the organization are perceived internally, a cultural shift is required for the success of an RPA program. Because of what people have heard in the news or read online about workforce automation, role elimination is a natural fear of many people working in operational spaces.
It's important that your RPA practice address this early on, as the most successful RPA initiatives take an inclusive over intrusive approach to expanding RPA to all areas of the organization. That means paving the way for employees at all levels to upskill, side-skill, and reskill through education and enablement efforts.
Think about it like this: Who knows the operational tasks that are done every day better than the people who actually do them? Likely no one. The people doing the operational tasks know all the ins and outs of operational steps that are done daily — even the steps that may not have been documented anywhere.
Some of these people will be very interested in learning new things and will be great contributors to the RPA program. Research from the University of London backs this: More than 60% of employees surveyed indicated they were interested in the opportunity to experiment with new automation technologies.
Taking it a step further, not everyone involved in an RPA initiative needs to build bots daily. There are many secondary roles indirectly created through a successful RPA practice: opportunity finders, process analysts, production support, exception handlers, etc.
Set up laptops in a central area with people "manning their stations" to show what RPA is and how it can be used internally. Let employees know how they can get involved on even a part-time basis — many of them will have good automation opportunity ideas the RPA platform team may have never considered.
Point those who are interested to Automation Anywhere University, where they can quickly get started on various on-demand learning trails based on their background/area of interest. Support them as they start to explore what may be a totally new thing for them and encourage them as they come up with new automation ideas.
Build momentum through quick wins
The biggest RPA practices are made up of lots of small pieces put together — lessons learned, reusable MetaBots, repurposed bot components, bot shells, etc. When just getting started with RPA internally, prioritize quick wins over the highest-value wins to learn to create these components.
Instead of starting with a super complex process worth a $1 million per-year save, for example, quick wins allow for RPA teams to create momentum, correct mistakes on a much smaller level, and generate a buzz around RPA initiatives.
The quick wins set the stage for learning, refining, and establishing best practices for things such as design, reporting, error handling, bot resiliency, and bot/file structure. Those established lessons learned will, in turn, make tackling that more complex $1 million process quicker and cleaner in the long run.
Additionally, consider breaking up the $1 million process into several much smaller processes as you work toward automating tasks of an entire end-to-end process. As a bonus, successful quick wins make the job of your bought-in leader easier, as well as encourage a continued cultural shift — as you’ll likely find more robotics opportunities as early RPA success grabs the attention of forward-thinking leaders.
Start by gathering a list of all the automation opportunities the team can come up with (both internally and through conversations with other stakeholders). As a group, work to order them from the least to the most complex (regardless of their ROI). Discuss the top three to five to determine the first opportunities the team should tackle to gain some experience.
Note: It could be that the $1 million per-year save idea is in the top three. If so, do it. But experience has shown that, typically, processes with the astronomical saves are those that are more complex.
Leverage every tool available
We've already mentioned several things you'll have to work on internally as you start your successful RPA practice. The good news is there are a ton of available resources to help you and your team along the way. Let’s explore some of them:
- Automation Anywhere University (AAU)
This is a great resource for learning how to get started using Automation Anywhere Enterprise. The best news is AAU is not just for developers. It offers learning trails for users who may be more business-focused, as well as those who want to become certified developers.
You can take a single course or an entire learning trail. Best of all, the courses are free and available on demand. Start learning what RPA is, how to build bots, and how to maintain your system. Encourage others in your organization who are interested in RPA to try out the training as well.
- Bot Store
Did you know Automation Anywhere Bot Store is the world's largest RPA marketplace? You’ll find more than 700 free and paid bots and Digital Workers available. Using bots from Bot Store allows you to quickly create and deploy advanced automations without having to build each of the underlying, building-block components themselves.
Want some inspiration? Browse through the categories to explore bots using artificial intelligence or performing cognitive automation. Want to accelerate your ROI from RPA? Leverage the paid Bot Store bots to jump-start your automation initiatives and lower your upfront/ongoing costs.
Need to create a bot that can interface with other internal enterprise apps? Many Bot Store bots already integrate with popular enterprise applications to make your bot building a breeze.
- Bot Insight
Three months from now, someone will come to you and ask how much money the bots have saved, how much they’ve been running, and how successful the RPA practice has been. Will you be able to answer them confidently?
Bot Insight enables you to run numbers for weekly, monthly, or quarterly cost savings — helping you track your quick wins. On top of that, Bot Insight can deliver actionable intelligence — so you can dig into the data your bots are using to find trends, report, and even create additional bots from lessons learned. Bot Insight also provides helpful visualizations so you can share and explore your data in an engaging way.
- IQ Bot
No doubt as your RPA practice continues to mature, someone will ask you to take on what has traditionally been a very challenging task for document imaging applications: reading unstructured data to automate transactions. When, not if, that request comes, confidently look to integrate IQ Bot into some of your automations.
IQ Bot reads both structured and unstructured data to automate transactions, closing the gap from RPA task automation to end-to-end process automation and increasing the rate of straight through processing.
Additionally, IQ Bot can be trained to recognize, understand, and improve on its decision-making by observing human behavior, making it a more effective tool the longer it’s used.
Get started with the educational, marketplace, and product resources available early in your process. Make it a habit to check Bot Store for bots/components that can help accelerate bot building (and ROI) as you take on a new process.
Establish your reporting standards from the get-go so that 12 months down the road, you have the reporting capabilities you need. These resources are available to you wherever you are in your RPA journey — from getting started with training materials and browsing prebuilt bots to exploring other product offerings or learning to use the products you already have in a new way.
Putting all the pieces together
Setting up an RPA practice internally is exciting for sure. What's most important about the four key components is that they create synergies for one another.
Need buy-in from top-level leaders? Share with them the opportunity to promote free training and reskilling programs, and you'll find they’re more interested in getting behind RPA initiatives. In this way, they can encourage employees to upskill while also promoting the platform.
Looking for C-level support? Demonstrate that your RPA practice has achieved quick wins with specific measurable outcomes through the reports and graphs available in Bot Insights. They’ll be more than happy to champion future RPA projects.
Need to create some momentum for your platform right out of the gate? Look to Bot Store to explore bots that can accelerate your quick wins’ ROI and be a catalyst for other RPA opportunities.
No doubt it can feel overwhelming at times, but you can do this. Commit to the four key components of RPA success and, a year from now, you'll have an RPA practice that’s continuing to grow, expand, and deliver massive value to your organization.