Robotic process automation (RPA) software platforms often market themselves as being a one-stop solution for creating a culture of automation. “Just buy our RPA licenses,” they say, “and before you know it citizen developers will rise up from within your organization and create lasting impact and change!”.
What RPA software platform marketing teams don’t tell you, is that successfully building, launching, and sustaining automation in an organization is hard. The average “technically inclined” employee who takes the online learning course will still not be able to build a complex automation, capable of cost savings, and successfully launch it into a production environment. They might try to build an automation or two, but with a lack of support and their normal responsibilities piling up, will typically shelve the RPA project.
Next, business units, under pressure to produce results from their RPA license investment, hire consultants. These consultants will follow proven playbooks for building a pipeline of automation opportunities optimized for maximum value capture (based on an analysis of future impact and cost to develop), and build a few of the automations as a “proof of concept”. Then consultants hand the pipeline back to the business to repeat the cycle of lackluster internal development, or stay on indefinitely (at significant cost) to build additional automations. This usually ends in an effective net loss to the business, and that’s not including the cost of long term automation support and maintenance.
The key to successful automation program management depends on organizations ignoring the utopian visions described by RPA platform sales and marketing teams, and instead focusing on building enterprise automation capabilities from the ground up.
- Development of internal processes for identifying and assessing best-fit opportunities for automation, with a predefined path to capturing value
- Hiring of dedicated automation resources, and creation of robust on-going training programs for existing employees, with clear incentives for successfully developing automation
- A center of excellence for automation to create automation coding standards, perform code review and support the testing and production launch of automations, while also taking responsibility for long term automation monitoring, change management, break / fix execution, maintenance, and reporting.
- Creation of a governance board, or steering committee, to administer and reinforce the above initiatives, while monitoring incremental progress and ensuring the realization of the enterprise-wide digital transformation goals. And of course...to conduct an RPA vendor selection process that evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the available platforms, and picks the right one, at the right time.
With the right resources in place cost-savings can be captured for a longer period of time. Just remember, unsupported code is a liability.