While robotic process automation (RPA) is at the heart of many digital transformation efforts, it’s all too common for organizations to roll out their software robots in a piecemeal manner. Even rolling out a single robot for a proof of concept or test case. For example, a company’s accounting department deploys a robot to automate invoice processing, while operations rolls out another to expedite shipping requests, without coordination between the departments. This decentralized approach presents a risk – one that leads to problems later.
Automating operations often requires robots to interact with each other and access or disseminate data, and those robots are often dependent on related systems and policies. But what happens when there’s a policy change or a system breaks down?
Simple. Your robots stop working and processes come to a grinding halt.
There’s no shortage of situations in which this could happen. Legacy systems and websites evolve; applications get updated; passwords expire; humans modify spreadsheets and security patches get applied.
Without some sort of standard or way of managing and maintaining this digital workforce, when something changes, the robots won’t know what to do – and they’ll run amok.
Prevent chaos by implementing a strong governance program. As you scale across the business, governance becomes more important. Lack of governance is one of the most common reasons that initial RPA projects fail, according to EY. Without a strong governance program and the right robot lifecycle management tools in place, you’ll put automation initiatives at risk. Robots need guidance, management and maintenance to continue to work properly and deliver maximum value.
A solid governance program should include three essential components: a guiding framework, a Center of Excellence, and robot lifecycle management and analytics tools to support your automation program. Let’s explore each one in more detail:
1. Lay the Governance Groundwork
Chief operating officers (COOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) should collaborate to establish an optimal software robot deployment and operating model if they want to maximize RPA benefits. In designing and implementing a guiding framework, this team should determine how the digital workforce will work with employees. This is similar to a compliance policy that employees typically sign when they start working for a company.
An effective framework requires
- An enterprise robotics council: This team spearheads the program, defines its scope and sets targets for tracking execution efficiency and outcomes.
- A business unit governance council: This group is responsible for prioritizing RPA projects across departments and business units.
- An RPA technical council or Center of Excellence (COE): This team designs standards, formulates working principles and guidelines and compiles best practices.
2. Establish a Center of Excellence
The Center of Excellence (CoE) is comprised of core resources and people responsible for guiding everything related to automation, including managing and maintaining standards and vendors; establishing best practices; training and onboarding. You’ll want to include IT as well as subject matter experts from each business area. With this collection of intelligence, the team will be better equipped not only to make decisions on the right RPA tools to deploy, but also which processes are prime candidates for automation.
There are three basic CoE models, each differs according to how responsibilities are shared across the enterprise.
- Centralized operating model: A single team is responsible for running and controlling all aspects of the program.
- Decentralized operating model: The responsibilities for running the automation program are replicated across separate business areas within the organization.
- Hybrid operating model: Some aspects of the automation program are run by a single, centralized team, while others are replicated across business units.
Choose the model that makes the most sense given where you are today and adjust down the road as needed.
3. Invest in Robot Lifecycle Management and Analytics
Governance is easy to accomplish when RPA tools include management and oversight capabilities like version control. More sophisticated capabilities, such as Robot Lifecycle Management, help your teams manage RPA robot deployments from hundreds to thousands of bots or processes. These tools help your users keep track of changes, compare files and analyse changes made. And it also makes it easy to store backup files so that if you have to revert to a previous working version, it’s simple fast.
When scaling automation, a strong governance and version control program becomes increasingly important. When a robot breaks down, if you don’t have governance or digital workforce analytics, it’s almost impossible to track which one among hundreds or thousands is causing an issue or where one may have crashed into another and stopped a process in its tracks.
By leveraging a Center of Excellence along with tools like Robot Lifecycle Management, you’ll take a more business-centric approach to RPA that goes far beyond simple task automation.
A strong governance program is a key RPA success indicator. When it’s supported by Robot Lifecycle Management and digital workforce analytics, you'll reduce the risk your robots will run amok..