Scaling up Robotic Process Automation (RPA) adoption - part 3
How to apply the bottom-up and top-down approaches
It’s one thing to know both approaches to selecting processes for RPA (described in my previous posts. In reality, sometimes it is challenging to have a clear-cut distinction between tasks and processes. More realistically, we should use a combination of both approaches (hybrid). The questions, however, remain: Where to start? How to start? How to come up with a hybrid approach that works for my organization?
Prove value from the bottom-up
RPA is a key technology for any digitization journey. Like any technology, it needs some time to get started and reach a maturity level in an organization. To get started, use the bottom-up approach, by initiating a proof-of-value (POV), not proof-of-concept (POC). The goal of the POV is to prove or measure the value an RPA transformation can provide, which is something quantifiable. You may build a few bots to understand and realize the value that comes from automating the tasks.
Jump in from the top-down
Once your organization decides to go big on RPA, it becomes very important for you to switch the focus from bottom-up to top-down. You may still use a bottom-up approach to crowdsource automation ideas through an idea submission portal. However, it becomes the job of a center of excellence (COE) team to take these bottom-up ideas and convert them into top-down by focusing on the bigger end-to-end business process. The RPA COE consists of a governance model, best practices/standards and a control framework and is widely accepted in the industry that it is required for the successful implementations at scale. In all the RPA implementations I’ve participated in, it’s clear that a hybrid approach is best for process selection.
The top-down approach offers a bigger return on investment, but it is obviously more complex and takes longer. You may even employ other solutions, such as artificial intelligence, to solve complex problems. The citizen model is more focused on the bottom-up approach to task automation and gives power to the end-users. However, it is important to have a governance model and control framework to keep track of the citizen developer. That will help to avoid a single point of failure at the task level that can have an upstream or downstream impact over a business process. It is also important to know the task-level automation done by your end-users while focusing on the entire business process to avoid duplication.
Steps to success
Here is one example of a successful implementation with a financial institution.
- Built proof-of-concept of RPA (two weeks). It was well-received, but it did not get much traction as a focus on value was more qualitative.
- Built proof-of-value for a specific task that had a good ROI (two weeks). It was quite successful from a bottom-up approach.
- Expanded the proof-of-value to a complete, top-down business process to deploy its production (additional 4 weeks).
- At this point, the company realized the benefit of using RPA, not only at the task level but also at the business process level. Now, we had buy-in/sponsorship from the top executives.
- A COE, governance, and control framework was formed. As part of this, we educated end-users on RPA capabilities and launched a SharePoint site to crowdsource automation candidates from across the organization (could be a task or a business process ). The importance and details of establishing an RPA COE will be the topic of a future blog.
- Selection involved idea evaluation, scoring the idea, calculating the ROI, and approving it. If an idea was a task-automation request, it was looked at from the entire business process perspective. However, we still approved task automation without waiting for analysis and logged the task automation into a central repository against that business process. This allowed us to add the business process to the automation pipeline for the automation evaluation, so we would have the details on the automated tasks.
- The above process was modified in a follow-on project to keep track of the citizen developer automation.
To conclude, for a successful scaling-up of RPA adoption, you need to have a strategy on how and where you plan to use bottom-up and top-down approaches. While looking for a better solution using a top-down approach, the solution may include other technologies, such as AI, OCR, or other technologies that will play an important role in propelling companies forward on their path to full automation. It is important to have an approach and control framework to govern the democratization of the RPA (citizen model), as this will play an important role in your organization's full automation vision.