This is a guest post by Sundara Sukavanam, vice president of intelligent process automation at Cognizant.
Mahesh Shenoi, director of intelligent automation at Cognizant, was a key contributor to this article. Cognizant is a UiPath global business partner and a FORWARD III Diamond sponsor.
The automation journey isn’t linear. The flip side to the wide-reaching potential of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is that scaling isn’t easy. Different organizations share recognizable patterns, but the path each organization takes is unique.
Unlike other new technologies and tools, organizations can’t rely on the dedicated effort of a small team to ‘raise’ their software robots. If automation is to transform an entire company, then everyone in that company needs to be involved – it takes a village.
In October, my colleague Ketan Ambani, assistant vice president (AVP) of Cognizant Digital Operations Intelligent Process Automation, and Ahmed Hussain, senior manager at one of our clients, Alliance Data, had the opportunity to present at FORWARD III. The Las Vegas, Nevada conference was the largest gathering of RPA practitioners and experts in history. In their presentation, they explained why organizations need a village of experts, enthusiasts, and developers to accomplish digital transformation.
For those who weren’t able to attend their presentation, we’re sharing their insights for you today.
Note: For the purposes of this post, we focus on intelligent process automation (IPA) rather than RPA, though the insights shared here apply to both.
Every stakeholder will have different needs, goals, and desires. Getting everyone engaged, excited, and united is foundational for your long-term success.
Without a village, your transformation might lose its direction, your return on investment (ROI) might become unpredictable, and the enthusiasm you started out with will be vulnerable. To build a successful digital transformation strategy, organizations need to cultivate engagement up and down the company.
Automation can transform entire companies, departments, and roles. To make this vision practical, disparate teams need to unite under shared goals.
This is easier said than done. Ambani cautioned:
You will hear the CFO say, "We just want to reduce costs." You may hear the contact center team say, "We just want to improve customer experience." These are often complementary but contradicting objectives. Having clarity of thought for what you really want to do is important.
Without a vision that surpasses immediate needs, your IPA scaling strategy will be mired in smaller problems. Automation risks becoming another tool that departments can call upon as necessary.
Drill down to the problems at the core of each process and look beyond immediate benefits. Different teams will want different benefits, so you need a strategy that gives them each a role in executing parts of the vision.
Once disparate teams become one village, you can share needs and prioritize them as necessary. According to Hussain, his team developed 128 ideas for their IPA deployments. “With the current set of resources,” he said, “it would take us more than 10 years to get that work done.”
The ability to prioritize isn’t a 'nice to have' when you’re trying to scale automation. The key, as Hussain pointed out, isn’t just to automate, but to automate “the right stuff.” Tools like the UiPath Explorer product family make it easy to identify and prioritize the best automation opportunities in your organization.
The clarity of your vision enables this prioritization. Robots are often replicable across departments, so a use case for one might demonstrate a use case for another. Determining what success looks like means creating metrics and budgets that account for that reach.
All digital transformation efforts require trust. Until you can break down organizational silos and create buy-in from different teams, your IPA deployment will likely hit a snag.
This likelihood is highest if you can’t get the business and IT teams in sync.
“If you don't have executive sponsorship from business and IT, you will not make this kind of progress. If it's just business driven or it's only IT driven, work will come to a standstill. It's just a matter of time as to when,” Ambani said.
Without buy-in from the teams that support your infrastructure, your IPA rollout will stall. Without buy-in from business, you won’t have processes to automate.
As you start to roll out software robots, you’ll regularly need to build business cases that justify continued investment. Those business cases rely on your ability to improve the experiences of your users and demonstrate that improvement to your village of internal supporters. Speaking about a particularly memorable case, Hussain said:
When we implemented a couple of the solutions, the feedback and the testimony that came from the users was very, very powerful. One associate who was doing this work for a credit bureau attachment process said, “Finally, someone listened to us, and now I can focus more on what I do best.” They're able to process more cases, so they're able to get a better reward for their compensation.
If you can build a feedback loop that captures these experiences, you can sustain the excitement and energy of your village. These vivid successes are what builds trust.
Another way to build trust is to 'get your hands dirty.' Ambani spoke about how, for instance, the team regularly ran workshops and talked to people on the shop floor: “It's a lot more effort than you would think it is, and it's not just about making a presentation or sending out an email. It's about really being with the troops, on the ground, day in and day out, to make them feel part of the process.”
Working directly with the employees in your organization is the best way to convince them that you all share the same journey.
Setting the pace of your transformation is essential for making it sustainable. Without the right preparation and scoping, the sheer amount you can change risks making your vision too difficult to plan and execute.
As excited as you might be about automation, enthusiasm requires time to build up. Once you go beyond talking about benefits to demonstrating them, you can start scaling enthusiasm.
If you try to do too much at once, you’ll spend more time convincing than doing, as Ambani explained:
There's a gray area between trying to go all in—setting up a CoE [Center of Excellence] and deploying in the next six months or something crazy like that—versus rolling out the first robot and figuring out what happens next. Having that balance is important. You can't go so overboard that you are creating shelfware or PowerPoint documents that nobody has the time to read or digest, and the business loses interest.
You can seed enthusiasm with presentations and pitches, but building it up across your village requires real examples. That’s why Ambani recommends using, and building on, quick wins. These are the low-hanging fruit, the processes that are relatively easy to automate but that result in significant ROI.
According to Ambani: “Success breeds success. When you see success, you can publish newsletters, you can create some internal competition—that allows you to go faster.”
The length of the automation journey means it will take a while before every person in your organization feels the effects of software robots. To keep the entire village engaged, leverage these victories and publish the results. This keeps people on the ground excited about the potential and executives excited about the progress.
Each quick win is a demonstration, as well as a success in its own right.
Quick wins can demonstrate successes big and small.
According to Ambani, the automation journey requires the pace, and, more importantly, the planning of a marathoner: “Sometimes, people think that if I just buy the right pair of shoes, I will be the fastest runner. But as you know, it takes a lot more than just that—there's a diet involved, there's exercise involved, and continuous practice.”
There’s no singular tool or method that will raise your software robots for you. You need to engage the entire company—from excited users to expert developers, from business analysts to C-suite executives—to sustain the journey.
Every time you see an impressive IPA deployment, remember that, as Ambani said, “There is a story behind the success.” That story can be written only with a village of supporters.