The hype around digital transformation belies widespread, often unspoken confusion on how to get there.
In a recent poll by The Economist, 93% of business leaders said that digital transformation starts with automation. Going from that belief to transformation, however, is a path not many have yet articulated.
The key to achieving digital transformation lies in establishing what we call the ‘automation first’ mindset. Most organizations recognize the potential of automation and are in serious scaling mode, but many are unsure about the next steps to leverage RPA to transformation their entire organization.
Transformation calls for a shift in priorities and plans. Remaking the enterprise requires three primary automation strategies:
- Build awareness and excitement to support growth
- Extend automation to every person
- Introduce and facilitate both a top-down and bottom-up automation first mindset
To build the bridge between Robotic Process Automation (RPA) growth and transformation, automation needs to become a first principle, and then you can improve digital processes with that capacity in mind.
Design automation strategies for each phase of growth
RPA deployment tends to go through three stages of evolution.
In the first stage, or start, early adopters automate processes across a few business units. Most of the work is done internally by each business unit.
In the second stage, or scale, businesses standardize their approach to automation. They consolidate best practices and facilitate the growth of a now-mature Center of Excellence (CoE).
In the third stage, or transform, organizations give employees the freedom to automate tasks as necessary. Employees are empowered to find the most suitable processes to automate from the bottom up. The C-suite cultivates that engagement with an automation first mindset, and the CoE ensures proper deployment from the top down.
Scaling is one of the most common challenges with RPA, and we’ve written about it before. The key to success beyond the scale phase is building the automation strategies that make your expanding scale sustainable and set you up to reach the next phase.
These next three tips focus on the automation strategies that’ll get you from the scale phase to the transform phase.
Though automation will bring efficiency and productivity benefits as soon as you start deploying it, full potential is possible only when you’re prepared for the automation first era.
1. Build the people power to support transformation
Early on, organizations can have a measure of RPA success primarily due to a few RPA champions and developers inside siloed business units.
Automating individual, isolated processes can offer some efficiency improvements, but stacking new automated processes one by one will offer only limited returns and unpredictable growth. To scale sustainably and eventually transform, you need company-wide buy-in.
The focal point for the most effective centralized automation strategies is a CoE. The CoE leads robot deployment and scaling. In some organizations it is called the Robotic Operations Center (ROC).
A CoE centralizes governance policies and prioritizes automation requests. All automation decisions and policies flow through the CoE. The CoE serves as a filter and a support system, ensuring that automation is done right, without employees getting in the way of each other.
A CoE is at the core of your people power, but a transformed organization needs diffused as well as centralized leadership
As you scale RPA, your organization will need business and IT units working together closely. To transform, the C-suite also needs to take a leadership role. By the transform phase of growth, the C-suite considers one of its main goals to be spreading and facilitating automation beyond centralized planning. At this point, they understand the savings and productivity benefits and believe in the payoff for employees freed from monotonous work.
RPA leaders can spread enthusiasm with proofs of concepts (POCs) that demonstrate both successes and opportunities. In earlier phases, the focus is on implementing and deploying RPA, but in the third phase (transform), the focus shifts to building consensus about further progress.
Every RPA project should include a process for documenting its deployment and presenting its success.
RPA leaders need to scale RPA, but they also need to scale enthusiasm for it. With the right people power behind it, RPA can eventually transform your organization.
2. Make automation an everyday solution
The automation first era means an end to business as usual.
Automation demands a fresh approach to the way you organize your business. To transform, the scope of automation utilization and creation needs to expand so everyone has access to using and developing robots.
In the start phase, RPA deployment is localized to the departmental level. The scale phase spreads that deployment across your organization. The transform phase requires even more ambition—a robot for every person.
Set up a program to train employees to identify automation opportunities and support a healthy automation pipeline. By identifying more technologically inclined employees on the business side, you can train them to perform more complex automation tasks than the average employee. With the right support, employees only need help from IT when necessary and can set up attended robots that don’t require programming.
By the scale phase, the IT and business units are working in sync, and they collaborate with the rest of the organization via the CoE.
The CoE is there to ensure that automation remains high quality. Once you set up an employee training program and roll out RPA to business users, your CoE becomes the central clearinghouse for automation. The CoE team can ensure compliance and security standards. They can also surface any automations built by end users that could be used across the organization.
3. Catalyze a transformational mindset up and down your organization
Typically, when businesses encounter problems or inefficiencies, their first strategy is to hire more people to deal with them. An automation first business instead prioritizes the more efficient, more scalable capabilities of its robot workforce.
In an automation first business, your perspective on success is focused on outcomes. Leaders prioritize goals above the means of achieving them and strategically divide human and robot labor to get there.
That goal starts with a top-down plan to deliver outcomes: If it can be automated, it should be automated. By this phase, your automation team is regularly identifying and prioritizing inefficient processes and then deploying automations. If certain processes are too complex for your internal team, you have established relationships with external partners to ensure the automation pipeline keeps delivering.
Once you can rely on your top-down automation pipeline, you can facilitate a parallel pipeline from the bottom up. As described in the prior strategy, automation becomes a regular solution during the transform phase. Your newly empowered employees identify marginal processes in their everyday work that benefit from automation, creating massive organizational returns in aggregate.
With an outcomes-based perspective, employees won’t worry about how they get things done; they’ll think deliberately about getting things done well, getting things done fast, and using the time automation frees to focus on customer service and high-value, fulfilling work.
Putting your future first
Automation first companies never stop learning new automation strategies. Going from scale to transform means organizations developing, deploying, documenting, and improving best practices. Business units can learn from each other and build skills that are useful across your organization.
With a CoE operating internally, and partnerships with external RPA experts from companies like UiPath, you can prioritize the future of your company.
The automation first era is going to pose many challenges, but with an organization set up to transform, you’ll have the adaptability, flexibility, and scalability to evolve however you need to grow and succeed.
To find out more, get your complimentary copy of the report Welcome to Automation First Era: Your guide to a thriving enterprise in an automated world
Diego Lomanto is Vice President of Product Marketing at UiPath.