Reading about robotic process automation (RPA) concepts can help you better understand how automation can potentially benefit your business. But theory can look drastically different in practice.
That’s why we’re kicking off our new series, “Automation: Real World Adventures,” where we interview individuals from various companies to get a more in-depth look at their personal RPA journeys. From businesses that are just getting started with automation to those surrounded by robots, we’re covering the gamut to provide you with valuable insights that can help on your own automation journey.
In this first issue, we’ll explore topics like:
- Maintaining momentum and overcoming common pitfalls in your RPA program
- Building a successful RPA team
- Measuring and showing the value of your automations
World Fuel Services is a Fortune 500 company based in Doral, Florida in the United States (U.S.) that provides energy services to customers globally. Marilene Schofield heads the organization’s burgeoning RPA team.
From journalism to RPA
With a formal background in journalism, RPA wasn’t exactly on her radar when it came to career paths. “I spent a little bit of time in marketing and then quickly transitioned into product. I worked mainly on SaaS [software as a service] solutions, so I had my foot in the technology sector for many years. There was an opportunity that opened up at Bayview [asset management in Coral Gables, FL], where they were starting an RPA program. I took a leap of faith and was one of the earlier members of that team, helping to define it and create the program,” says Schofield about the winding road that led her to the world of automation.
Schofield considers herself lucky since the RPA platform she learned to automate on at Bayview was the same one being leveraged at World Fuel Services (both organizations used the UiPath Platform). This allowed her to continue to hone her UiPath automation skills while seeing first-hand what made UiPath different from other automation platforms.
“What I can say truly stands out for me personally, aside from the platform, is the overall engagement that I’ve had with the UiPath team. From helping with awareness campaigns to having another sounding board from an experienced set of teams to support us with our program – that has been more valuable than the platform itself. Over time, the various RPA platforms may mostly measure up to one another, but what’s unique is the people behind the technology.”
- Marilene Schofield, RPA Leader, World Fuel Services
How to build and manage RPA teams
As RPA Leader, Schofield understands what it takes to successfully build and manage an RPA team. While technical backgrounds and certifications certainly help, there’s more to it than that.
“You need a team of people who are smart, who are hungry, passionate, flexible to wear a lot of different hats and do different things,” explains Schofield. “Particularly in the early days because the program’s just taking shape and you need people who can think differently. Getting the right people from the start is an integral part of success.”
Proving the value of RPA
Like any initiative, executive sponsorship is essential. But the ROI associated with automation is not cut and dry and can be approached from a variety of viewpoints.
So, how do you go about selling an arguably nebulous concept like RPA?
Schofield proposes, “The first thing you want to do is provide that immediate value. It was important that we continue to focus on incrementally improving our operations as we went, showcasing the value that we were producing, and the hours that we were giving back to the business. It’s important to provide that confidence to leadership so they know that the investment they made is a solid one.”
So, Schofield had an automation platform she was comfortable with, a talented team, and support from leadership.
The next step? Demonstrating the value of RPA in a quantifiable manner.
“I don’t believe success is the number of bots or processes you have in production. That number is subjective,” says Schofield.
“What I measure success by is how much value we’re giving back to the business in terms of hours. We give them time back, and in turn, the business can re-imagine how they operate – both strategically from an organizational perspective as well as day to day. Through automation, we elevate the human potential.”
Driving automation adoption
We’ve always advocated that RPA is beneficial to everyone and accessible to anyone. Schofield knows this and evangelizes her team’s work regularly to drive adoption and get more people interested in automation.
“We do a lot of RPA awareness to help educate people about the value of RPA, the opportunities that might lie within their departments, and what it can do for them. It’s constant education.”
Her team has also created a citizen developer program that allows anyone in the organization, regardless of technical background or skillset, to create software robots for everyday clerical tasks.
“We have UiPath StudioX licenses and we’ve launched a program for anybody who’s interested to automate portions of their work. We’ve received a lot of interest, and now it’s about getting them trained and empowered for hands-on automation. That’s a very exciting part of our program, and there’s definitely a lot of opportunity.”
Schofield’s story is just one of many we’ll be covering throughout our "Automation: Real World Adventures" series.
Upcoming issues will focus on how individuals in other companies plan, implement, and execute their RPA programs, and how they tailor them to their business.
In the meantime, you can learn more about different women in the automation field by accessing the recording of our Women in Automation – From RPA Dev to Expert virtual event (which took place on November 10, 2020).
Be sure to check out the resources below for more information about incorporating an RPA program into your business.
Special thanks to Cortney Dominguez for co-authoring this article with me. Dominguez is a Robotic Process Automation Strategic Consultant.