Essential Guidance to Create an Enterprise Automation Strategy

Creating an enterprise automation strategy - key guidanceYour organization likely has a mix of tools for collaboration, document workflow, business process management (BPM), and possibly case management. Many organizations are facing the challenge of how to effectively introduce the newest types of intelligent process automation (IPA) tools, like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA), which are more accurately described as task automation tools.

This whitepaper explains how to incorporate the newest automation tools into your enterprise process management and automation strategy, using RPA as a focal point. You can use a similar framework to incorporate other types of IPA tools into your enterprise automation strategy.

We originally created this content as a whitepaper. If you would like to download a PDF of this content as a whitepaper, click here.

Use a Framework to Create Your Enterprise Automation Strategy

We’ve found that using a framework is the best way to think about and succeed with complex disciplines like enterprise automation. The framework elements are the important components to include in your strategy, and they include:

  • Overall strategy
  • Capabilities
  • Technology
  • Governance, Resources and Operating Model
  • Financial Management
  • Development and Deployment
  • Organizational Readiness and Sustainability

This paper reviews each of these elements and discusses a number of considerations for organizations as they head down the RPA and enterprise automation path.

Sample Framework for Enterprise Automation Strategy

Sample framework for enterprise automation strategy

Overall Strategy for Enterprise Automation

Your vision and strategy should enable you to plan and manage RPA and enterprise automation as a program by overseeing and managing all of the program components described in this white paper.

The strategy should address the whole range of automation approaches, from basic to complex. The strategy should also address a range of use cases for automation, including scenarios for human collaboration, document workflow, BPM, case management, and all types of task automation from simple macros and RPAs to the most advanced AI-enhanced IPA tools.

When creating the strategy, employ a rigorous methodology that includes (at minimum) such initiatives as current state assessments, future state specifications, and roadmaps to get to the future state.

Ensure that your strategy and roadmap align with your limited resources (including time, people, and money) and risk tolerance. Finally, design the program so if you need to change plans, you can declare victory for the progress you’ve made, and keep moving forward when possible.

Automation strategy: design the program so if you need to change plans you can declare victory for the progress you've made and keep moving forward when possible.

Capabilities

Determine the breadth and depth of automation capabilities that should be used throughout the organization. Your assessment of capabilities and opportunities should identify which processes can be addressed by enterprise automation, prioritize the opportunities, identify the kinds of capabilities are required for each opportunity, and inventory your current portfolio of automation capabilities. After comparing the inventory with the list of necessary capabilities, you can determine which capabilities you need to acquire. Here’s an outline of the steps to follow:

  1. Conduct an inventory and assessment of your opportunities and processes that can be addressed with RPAs or other types of automation.
  2. Prioritize which ones to do first, later, and maybe never. It’s helpful to use the following application categories during your assessment: generic (like transferring files), activity-specific (like creating a PDF of information collected from one or more systems), or industry-specific (like running a credit check for a loan, which involves opening a credit-reporting website and pulling customer information from the loan processing system). Also, consider whether the automation can be full (replacing an FTE) or assisted – e.g., providing a hypothesis or a few options that the user selects from. Lastly, remember that RPA should not be the default. It’s duct tape, so look at other options first.
  3. Sort and rank the opportunities. The best cases for RPAs are typically high headcount processes; processes that are rules-based, simple to moderately complex, stable and documented, structured with at least semi-structured documents and data; and processes where user interfaces are web-based or old-fashioned thick client.
  4. Set up a decision tree with 5 basic cases.

            For each opportunity where the process is broken, you can:

            a. Leave it alone (because it’s low value or low risk),
            b. Redesign it (because it’s high value), or
            c. Use RPA as duct tape for some of the sub-optimal steps within the process.

            For each opportunity where the process is in good shape, you can:

            d. Leave it alone (because it isn’t broken), or
            e. Convert it to BPM or case management, possibly with IPA components like AI to automate decision                    making for straight-through processing.

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Technology

Consider these process automation and management technologies as you are developing your strategy.

Technology

Characteristics

Macro or scripted automation

  • Very high maturity; best used for specific tasks in tactical deployments
  • Exists on desktops and scrapes data from a field in a fixed location and move that data to a field in another fixed location
  • Brittle and difficult to maintain long term

BPM

  • Very high maturity; best used for large scale deployments with enterprise-level transformation
  • Requires redesign and transformation of underlying process, building new applications
  • Can become complex and expensive

RPA

  • Medium and evolving maturity; more sophisticated than macros or scripts; best used for repetitive transactional and rule-based tasks
  • Can scrape but also can connect at the presentation layer to HTML, servers, and mainframe apps; processes can be on a centralized server and run by multiple robots, with audit metrics and dashboard
  • Often deployed tactically or with BPM tools

AI

  • Medium and evolving maturity; potentially best used in many areas such as content-heavy processes with all types of data
  • Uses probabilistic processing and machine learning, “deep learning,” natural language processing
  • Until recently, effective deployments were limited to particular domains and were difficult to train and maintain, particularly in large scale organizations

 

Governance, Resources, and Operating Model

Determine how you’re going to govern and operate the RPA and enterprise capabilities. This includes the organizational structures (committees, governance bodies), communications processes; business/IT interfaces; measurement, review and evaluation processes; and such topics as decision-making authority, escalation, prioritization, and resource allocation processes (i.e., for projects or major enhancements).

In our experience, when enterprise automation includes IPA such as RPA, the best governance approaches have the following characteristics:

  • Clear structure
  • A federated model, rather than completely decentralized or centralized
  • A governance team that is a strong centralized matrix organization with business area franchises for RPA, strong management support, and cross-functional involvement
  • A shared services group that owns the RPA technology
  • A clear process for project evaluation and prioritization, aligned with broader IT project management standards or a program management office (PMO)
  • Regular communication with the business to promote RPA capabilities and identify ways the RPA group can benefit the business
  • A defined process and metrics for measuring success and incorporating lessons learned back into strategy and operating plans

Financial Management

automation strategy: To plan, budget, justify, implement, and manage RPA and automation you need rigorous financial measurements and analysisTo plan, budget, justify, implement, and manage RPA and automation you need rigorous financial measurement and analysis. This includes realistic costs and benefits (e.g., robot licenses, training, migration, exiting, support; FTE and partial-FTE, productivity, quality); setting investment levels in strategy, planning and program management; setting investments levels in development, implementation and support; developing cost-benefit analyses; and tracking hard and soft benefits.

The best deployments have the following in common:

  • Financial planning is specific to RPA and automation, and realistic.
  • Strategy refresh is done annually by a cross functional team and driven down into operating plans.
  • There is sufficient investment in design/implementation staff, with an emphasis on increasing tenure.
  • Cost-benefit-analysis development is based on cost and benefit metrics derived from historical data.
  • Dashboards are used to track hard benefits quarterly, based on statistics, and are published to internal clients.
  • Soft benefits are tracked via anecdotal testimonials and periodic case studies.

Development and Deployment

Determine how you’re going to develop and deploy all the different pieces. If you are taking a Pilot, Beacon, or other stepwise approach, you might start by focusing on only one line of business.

Define IT guidelines and standards (rules) for expansion beyond your initial proof-of-concept or pilot. This will control not only how you deploy RPAs but also how you deploy process automation and management overall – RPAs or BPM, or just document collaboration or workflow using SharePoint.

Organizational Readiness and Sustainability

automation strategy: Risk and continuity are particularly important for RPAs, and require plans for exiting RPAs and addressing automation failures.Determine how you’re going to ensure that your organization is ready to launch and sustain all the changes. This means you’ll need to address communication, training, acceptance and organizational support for RPA and automation. This includes communications and training plan creation and implementation; tracking business unit end-user, manager, executive satisfaction; tracking IT team and IT executive satisfaction; and having a solid approach to risk management and business continuity. Risk and continuity are particularly important for RPAs, and require plans for exiting RPAs and addressing automation failures.

The best enterprise automation strategies have the following in common:

  • They have a program for regular communication with the business to promote RPA and automation and to identify ways the enterprise automation group can benefit the business.
  • They have a comprehensive training program in place, with regular reinforcement and use of multiple methods.
  • They have resources and a formal process in place for continually evaluating users’ communication and training needs, monitoring success, and refining plans and roadmaps.
  • They conduct regular, proactive surveying of users, managers, and senior management; they use satisfaction metrics for continued improvement; users feel involved.
  • The IT infrastructure team views the RPA team as a strategic partner, relying on their expertise.
  • They leverage usability labs to improve the overall system experience.
  • They conduct comprehensive risk management and business continuity planning and implementation – addressing RPA exits and automation failures.

In Conclusion

While RPA is a hot topic, it isn’t a magic bullet. Include all the process management technologies in your enterprise automation plan, if only to evaluate and reject them as you develop your broader enterprise automation strategy – which may also become part of your enterprise digital transformation roadmap.

If you enjoyed this paper and would like PDF to have for future reference, click here to download this content in whitepaper format.

Need help with your process auatomation strategy? Click here and we'll be in touch ASAP.

Rich Medina
Doculabs Vision Team
Our blogs are a group effort, from writing to editing to brainstorming topics. We collaborate to provide you with our best thinking that will help you use technology to improve how your organization operates. The Doculabs blogging team is Richard Medina, James Watson, Marty Pavlik, and Tom Roberts.