The ‘automation first’ era has arrived, and companies around the world are rapidly adopting the technologies that have come with it. In fact, 90% of businesses today use technology to automate mundane processes and drive efficiency, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit.
But, in many cases, businesses can’t compensate for the technical knowledge gaps that often go with these new tools. Many company leaders and IT experts find themselves learning the dos and don'ts of automation via trial and error. This can result in automation initiatives stalling out before their strategies can scale. It’s no surprise, then, that only three percent of companies have scaled beyond 50 robots and tackled their long-term automation goals.
Thankfully, C-suite leaders hoping to wade into the ocean of automation tools don’t have to do it alone. A whole fleet of technology consultants are available to support the adoption and scaling of these new technologies in the form of automation partners.
In this article, we’ll talk about how automation partners can accelerate your digital transformation, the qualities of a good partner, and what role they’ll fulfill once they’re on board.
How automation partners help your long-term success
Automation partners are an integral part of your long-term success. They allow you to skip the painful trial-and-error stages of pilot implementation, help with project management, and provide lasting strategic frameworks for growth.
A technology partner provides the missing link to accelerate your organization’s digital transformation and is integral to your long-term success.
Today, long-term success for the automated enterprise includes hyperautomation. Hyperautomation involves implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), process mining, decision management, and related technologies together in an end-to-end automation solution.
Partners ensure that automation software integration is the easiest part of your digital transformation.
Traditionally, large and small IT consulting firms have existed to fulfill large-scale enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. However, experience in implementing hyperautomation is relatively new. This creates a void even in the IT consulting world.
To meet this ever-increasing demand, consulting firms are constantly working to fill roles in their respective organizations. Most are staying ahead of the curve, though some firms have yet to catch up. Therefore, selecting an IT consulting firm or a partner becomes challenging.
Next, we look at the selection criteria for a right partner.
With the help of automation partners, C-suite leaders, and robotic Centers of Excellence (CoEs) can focus on realizing ROI and laying the groundwork for future automation goals.
5 key qualifications to look for in an automation partner
We have identified five criteria for selecting the right automation partner for your organization. If you are planning to release a request for quotation (RFQ) for partner selection, you can leverage this list as a part of your questionnaire.
Before we get into the list, one critical element to consider is that your automation journey will never be led solely by the partner. Your organization must participate and take ownership at every step.
Each automation partner will approach RPA differently. An assessment of five key qualifications allows you to decide if their approach matches with and supports your business goals:
- 1. Process innovation and design
- Processes are the backbone of any hyperautomation journey. Automating bad processes will yield bad automation. Your potential partner’s ability to demonstrate thorough understanding of your processes is the first key element. They should have a proven track record of working with companies in your space, automating the processes you use most, and know the right questions to ask based on your industry. They need to work with your organization as an extended team, ideating and challenging automation opportunities to produce a robust pipeline. Therefore, a partner who also has a consultative arm may be a better fit rather than an IT-only firm. The not-so-successful stories have been around partners who never questioned a customer on their processes, nor did they come up with innovative process design before starting the automation.
- 2. Automation delivery capabilities
- As the RPA industry matures and learns, the ability to deliver better automations are gradually increasing. This also means that there are (and will be) failures. So, when selecting a partner, it is important to know:
- How many automations have they delivered?
- How complex were those automations?
- What kinds of processes were automated?
- What is their governance model?
- What is their approach to develop comprehensive solutions?
- If you are a global company, can your partner support local deployments? It’s also helpful to understand what kind of customers your potential partner supports. Are they similar to your company? Asking for customer references at this point could be appropriate.
- To understand your prospective automation partner’s depth, it is important to understand both historic automations and their current pipeline. This will be a good time to also understand how much time a partner may take to deliver a certain list of automations. In the RFQ, you can provide a list of low-to-high complex processes and ask your potential partners how long they will take to automate those processes. You may not get a straight answer because there are many variables for an automation, but you can ask potential partners to include all the caveats to level the field.
- 3. Bench strength
- This point is taken from the classical IT implementation page. Traditionally, large IT companies have maintained a robust bench to take on IT deployment projects without delay. The same applies here. It is important to know how many developers are being engaged by your potential partner and the average experience levels of those developers. An automation partner with lesser bench strength may falter on delivery timelines and or impact the quality of delivery.
- You may also want to understand how your potential partner builds its workforce, including what kind of training and support they provide and how much time they take to have a resource ready from the time they are hired. For example, a prospective partner might have a large pipeline, which they may have earned due to their solid performance, but you could still run into trouble if their bench strength is weak.
- 4. Cultural fit
- This point may not have science to it but is extremely critical and should be part of your due diligence process when evaluating potential automation partners. Innovative enterprises understand the right company culture helps set up the organization for automation success. This should be similar to hiring an employee for your own company. Even if all the requirements are met, unless an automation partner is compatible with your organization’s culture, they may not last in the long run. Involving your human resources (HR) function in this decision could provide you valuable pointers regarding the selection process.
- 5. Pricing
- Eventually, pricing will play an important role in the overall partner selection process. Decisions around pricing criteria typically depend on how a prospective automation partner has fared in the first four qualifications on this list. Your potential partner may have higher pricing but meets the other requirements. It ultimately comes down to the value they provide and the total cost of ownership. Hence, we will spend the least amount of time on this point as this is where we expect the leadership of a company to make an informed decision.
If you focus on finding an automation partner with the experience, skills, and knowledge listed above, you’ll be able to implement automation quickly. You can also trust that the implementation is being done correctly at each stage.
The role of automation partners
There are many moving pieces to manage and plan for when implementing a new technology. Your automation partner should guide you through every phase of digital transformation.
Whether it's selecting your first processes, training your staff on automation tools, or helping you implement complementary tech like AI and machine learning (ML), your automation partner is a fundamental part of your digital transformation.
Here are some of the main ways that your automation partner will help you seamlessly navigate RPA adoption.
They step in and build a roadmap for you: Your automation partner should be able to come in and develop a roadmap that gets automation up and running. This is often done through a series of interviews with company leaders and stakeholders.
They help you automate beyond the pilot: Your relationship with your automation partner shouldn’t end as soon as your robots are online. They should support you throughout the automation lifecycle.
They use a proven, outcomes-based method: This helps you avoid the guesswork of implementation and scaling. Your partner should come to the table with a proven method and help with change management.
They’re invested in your team’s evolution: Your partner should want to help you do RPA so well that one day you won’t need them. From day one, they should help your team build its core competency so that you can quickly scale when the time comes.
They push the technological envelope: If they’re not innovating, then they’re not serving you. Automation is about delivering continuous value. Your technology consultants and vendors should bring you new solutions throughout your automation journey.
How to be successful in the partnership
While we laid out the five points for your partner selection, it is also important to know that there are few things your partner will never be able to do on their own. It is important to set proper expectations internally as well:
1. Creating the vision: Your partner may participate in creating the vision for your organization, but the ownership solely lies with the organization’s leadership.
2. Change management: Your partner will not be able to effectively drive change management in your organization without assistance. They will need an RPA champion from your organization to help lead the charge on change management.
3. Implementation: Automation (particularly hyperautomation) implementation is a hands-on implementation. Your teams need to be constantly engaged with your automation partner, especially if you eventually plan to move into utilizing citizen developers.
4. Process complexity estimates: A partner is expected to bring in process knowledge, but each organization operates differently. There’s a risk that your subject matter experts (SMEs) may classify certain processes to be simple based on their understanding, but it might turn out otherwise. Give your partner flexibility on their process complexity estimations, even at the cost of running over a timeline.
5. IT challenges: Your partner can not solve your IT challenges. Although this may seem like an obvious point, we have seen organizations beginning their hyperautomation journeys without involving IT. Needless to say, those engagements run into turbulence pretty quickly.
Connect with our network of expert UiPath automation partners
Your automation journey and destination will be unique to your business. You need an automation partner that understands every stage.
A good partner must help you transform change, understand the potential of automation, and not only implement RPA, but ensure you have it right from the start.
The UiPath Partner Network provides companies new to RPA with the business and IT guidance they need to get the most out of their automation technology.
Shibaji Das is Director of Value Engineering at UiPath. Prior to UiPath, Das worked at GENPACT and GE Capital.