Every great adventure requires an equally great team, and automation is no exception.
Have you ever tried finding automation champions at your company? It’s tough work!
We hear from plenty of automation center of excellence (CoE) leaders who want to improve their organizations with automation but have trouble finding automation advocates among disparate teams. These leaders have the right vision and a great set of tools, but they need heroes to help support and scale the efforts of their automation CoE. They need their Avengers. Their X-Men. Their automation champions.
Finding automation champions may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
These champions can make or break automation initiatives, so it’s critical to recruit people with the right outlook, skills, and pull at your organization. For example, we look for individuals with a unique talent for strategy, coaching, and project management. Our automation champions within UiPath have helped us build and adopt software robots for every division across the company.
Seek the management skills needed to captain your automation CoE
An effective automation champion is a particular kind of person. More than likely, numerous people in your organization will be excited about automation. While excitement is necessary, it’s not enough.
What you’re looking for is someone who can complement the efforts of your CoE. When you start looking for an automation champion, seek individuals with a blend of management skills, including admin, strategy, and coaching.
The necessity of this skill set becomes clear once you think about the complementary roles the CoE and automation champion play. The CoE manages the entire automation pipeline, from ideation to execution, whereas automation champions work to fill that pipeline. Automation champions work within their specific teams to evaluate automation submissions and connect the CoE with automation opportunities.
Automation champions are essential for facilitating the automation lifecycles within their departments.
Some of the best automation ideas will come from the bottom up, from the business users who are closest to the problems and best positioned to identify solutions. Automation champions crowdsource those ideas and prioritize which will go to the CoE. The CoE can then prioritize the resulting list against its bandwidth and execute from the top down. This dynamic creates a positive feedback loop where ideation leads to assessment, assessment leads to qualification, qualification leads to implementation, and implementation feeds back into further ideation. We call this the automation flywheel.
Think of champions like a project management team. They encourage bottom-up engagement while the CoE provides top-down oversight. Together, they can keep the automation pipeline full and users excited about the next automation around the corner.
That project management aspect is what makes it so important that you find the right people to be automation champions.
An ideal automation champion exemplifies four qualities:
- Strategic partner: they can collaborate and share resources among their teammates and with the CoE. They think clearly about the value automation can bring.
- Change agent: they promote, enable, and support automation initiatives. All the while, they maintain a singular focus on the people involved and affected by automation. They care about change, and they care about the effect of change.
- Admin expert: they can plan, report, and control the pipeline of ideas. They have to be able to encourage the flow of ideas while keeping a close eye on the ideas coming in and out.
- Highly engaged employee: they’re a high-performing and enthusiastic employee. They’re dedicated to improving certain areas within the company, and they’re curious about all the solutions available to do so.
Automation champions needn’t do this work alone. The UiPath CoE provides a perfect example: we use UiPath Automation Hub to centralize lifecycle management and crowdsource hundreds of automation ideas. With it, we can make idea submission easy and map the process from ideation to ROI. We shared details on how the UiPath CoE operates in a recent webinar (now available on demand).
Scour every division to find evangelists for your automation CoE
When you’re building your team of automation champions, recruit individuals from different divisions across your organization. That way, you can expand the reach of automation, crowdsource ideas from more teams, and spot automation potential in every division.
Bottom-up idea generation is best when the sourcing is wide and diverse. When you start the search for your automation champions, keep that diversity at the forefront of your search. Automation works best if ideas are coming from every level of the business. This level of engagement helps more people and ensures your automation pipeline remains full.
Encourage employees across the company to take part in automation ideation. You can do this in three ways. By asking employees to:
- Use pre-built automations from your CoE: Your employees will be more engaged the more they see automation in action. Encourage them to use the automations your CoE builds, so they can see what ideation can turn into.
- Add ideas to Automation Hub: Once your employees are using automation, they’ll be better able to see use cases in their workflow. The very process of thinking about use cases and articulating them as submissions will leave them more engaged.
- Attempt to build their own robots: If your users are technical enough, you can even encourage them to build their own robots. With guidance from your CoE, this can be one of the most effective ways of making employees feel engaged and empowered.
This sounds well and good, but what does it look like in practice? Our UiPath automation champions help stoke enthusiasm and scale engagement through a variety of methods (following the same suggestions provided above):
- Idea-generation workshops give employees an opportunity to puzzle through use cases.
- Hackathons give employees the chance to get their hands dirty working on robots.
- Automation training from the CoE to empower technically-minded citizen developers to find more day-to-day use cases for robots within their departments.
These have helped us ideate and create some awesome and useful robots for different departments. A couple of examples:
- Marketing: The UiPath social team uses robots to scan for new comments across all UiPath videos on every platform. This way, the team can view and respond to new comments on any UiPath video from one centralized hub rather than wasting time trying to hunt them down. Check out more examples of our marketing robots.
- Sales: Sales ops created a robot for sales managers. They can run a robot that generates a Microsoft Word document with the key fields for each account auto-filled by automation. And here’s another sales robot example.
In short, look in every division for someone who can help stoke engagement and coach teams to get diverse, quality automation ideas that will benefit your entire company, from the grassroots to the boardroom.
Recommended read: How to Evangelize RPA Within Your Organization
Select discerning champions to keep your automation CoE truly excellent
The automation champion’s primary role is to parse through piles of raw ideas to assess their quality, measure them against business strategy, and decide which ones should move along the automation pipeline.
Your first filter for a good automation champion is whether or not they have an eye for strategy. Automation use cases are endless, and a champion who can’t effectively determine the value of each use case risks filling your pipeline with junk. Choose champions with an eye for strategy (we’ll give an example in just a moment). You’re looking for champions who have a high-level view of the business, its existing automation, and the business value new automation would offer.
Beyond this high-level eye for strategy, good automation champions can, and will, look at every automation idea and ask numerous questions, such as:
- Is this an automatable process?
- Is this a good fit for robotic process automation (RPA) or another automation technology?
- Will automating this process have a long-term impact?
- Is this idea worth the automation CoE’s time?
- Is this a unique idea, or could it be combined with another suggestion?
Let’s walk through an example. Let’s say an automation champion notices five incoming ideas from the sales team related to lead qualification. Each idea is strong. The most obvious solution is to create five robots in response to these five ideas. But with a high-level overview, the automation champion decides that a holistic redesign of the sales-qualification process is a better solution than creating five robots. That’s the eye for strategy in action. That kind of decision is the result of being critical, asking questions, and thinking deeply about business value.
In short, find people who will fiercely protect the quality of your CoE’s strategy, so automation has the best shot at achieving its target ROI (and scaling beyond it).
Take a democratic approach to automation
Automation improves human workflows, and, in turn, human automation champions can improve your automation. Having automation champions is a great way to connect with people across your organizations in a scalable, strategy-driven way and usher automation into the hands of every team within your company.
Want to achieve widespread automation in your organization? Learn more about choosing your automation champion from our recent webinar.
Also, register for our Reboot Work Festival (December 15–17, 2020 🎉) to hear from top automation experts about democratizing automation, rebooting how we think about work, and so much more. And if you're reading this after the festival has wrapped up, you can still view the recordings of the sessions. Register on the Reboot Work Festival page for convenient, on-demand viewing.
Internal Automation CoE Head, UiPath