4 Reasons You Need an RPA Center of Excellence
If your business is like most others, over the next five to 10 years, you’ll be operating with a combination of human and virtual workers (software robots, or “bots”). This is because of the rapid advancement of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and intelligent automation (IA). According to Gartner, global RPA software revenue is projected to reach $1.89 billion in 2021, an increase of 19.5% from 2020. It is expected to continue with double-digit growth through 2024.
If you’re trending with the rest of the world, chances are good you will have built an RPA center of excellence (CoE). A CoE makes sure you get the most out of your integrated human-and-bot workforce. In fact, when you reach a certain volume of RPA automation in your organization, an RPA CoE can help ensure success.
What is a Robotic Process Automation CoE?
RPA CoE is a centralized group that oversees RPA deployment across the enterprise. The group may include IT experts, citizen developers, process managers, functional experts, and representatives from different parts of the organization. Depending on the exact governance model, it might have strict authority over all RPA initiatives, or may share governance responsibilities with business units. In either case, the CoE establishes standards and best practices and provides leadership and technical expertise, to ensure that the enterprise gets the most out of its RPA investment.
In most organizations, RPA may begin as a proof of concept (POC) or a pilot, but when a CoE takes shape, the CoE can shoulder a lot of responsibilities such as:
- Developing an enterprise-wide RPA strategy
- Aligning the needs and goals of all stakeholders
- Establishing RPA standards, best practices, and processes
- Providing centralized RPA governance
- Overseeing RPA change management, from both business and technical perspectives
- Training and educating employees on RPA skills
- Providing RPA service and support
An RPA CoE delivers a host of benefits. Here are some of the most significant ones that can be gained from building and maintaining your own CoE.
Four benefits of a CoE
CoEs play important roles in ensuring the success of RPA initiatives. Here are four benefits they deliver if done right.
Improve the efficiency of the bot development lifecycle
When early in the RPA deployment process, it’s not uncommon for business units to take control of choosing which processes to automate and which RPA platform to implement because of the relative ease of use of RPA tools. But that means each business unit that decides to build bots is reinventing the wheel each time—researching options, choosing RPA platforms and learning from scratch how best to automate processes—and, ultimately, how to maintain and support the bots.
With a CoE, all of that learning and knowledge accumulates in one place, and all the best practices are shared with all the business units that wish to explore RPA. The result is a greatly streamlined approach to managing the bot lifecycle, which leads to many other advantages, including reduced cost (see “improved ROI” below).
Integrate IT with RPA efforts
All too often, there is a disconnect between IT and RPA efforts. RPA efforts at first tend to be grass-roots initiatives, done with minimal or no IT involvement. While that approach might work with simple process automation, once automations start becoming more complex, IT must be involved to ensure the right security, compliance, and optimizaton of RPA usage at the enterprise level.
With a well-designed CoE, IT is part of the team, not just an optional adjunct. Infrastructure, security, data privacy, and other considerations that IT oversees are factored in from the beginning of a project, not tacked on as an afterthought. Legacy IT systems are constantly being upgraded and patched. Such upgrades can break user interface level automation, making it difficult to maintain automation over time. By involving IT at the CoE level, all IT updates can be coordinated to ensure that bots keep running smoothly and the investment in RPA is not squandered.
Scale more easily
When left to their own devices, different business units will choose different RPA products, engage them at different times, and deploy them in different ways. Because of a lack of communication between uncoordinated RPA projects, there are no synergies that business units can leverage across organizational boundaries. This results in numerous siloed RPA initiatives that are incapable of scaling to meet the needs of the enterprise.
A CoE is essential for preventing these kinds of disconnects and for seeking to establish an enterprisewide vision that allows RPA to scale effortlessly.
When taking a decentralized approach to ROI, without a CoE, the cost can escalate quickly because of inefficiencies in identifying processes to automate and in RPA procurement, training, and support.
Additionally, often, to get a quick ROI, business units will choose projects that are low-hanging fruit for automation. They avoid the more complex strategic initiatives that would, among other things, require involvement from IT. But it’s the bigger, more complex projects that have the larger ROIs attached.
Finally, without a centralized CoE accumulating internal know-how and expertise, over the long term the cost of automation will be high because of the need to hire outside consultants for process design, architecture, development, testing, and project management.
All of these challenges are addressed with a well-run CoE.
Protect your RPA investment
Your CoE is a part of your RPA investment. It creates an institutional framework to help you maximize RPA-driven value creation and keep pace with the latest innovations. In essence, RPA CoE ensures that you continue to leverage RPA to stay ahead of your competition.