Article - A Case to Implement a Business Process Automation Centre of Excellence (BPA CoE)

Executive Summary:

Typically a key finding of an IT Capabilities As-Is assessment is the lack of a coordinated Process Automation capability. In addition

1.lack of process and system documentation is a significant capability gap
2.Multiple RPA solutions (i.e Appian and Automation Anywhere)

This article reviews current best practices and industry recommendations to establish a process automation centre of excellence that will consolidate an organization’s process excellence (lean) activities, process mapping / modelling, BPM-RPA services, automated template design and a Business Process Management Framework.

This document will propose a process automation capability, structure, governance, ownership, roles and responsibilities, operating model and risk implementation  / operational risk considerations, Use Case identification of automation candidates and a central repository for process documentation

Contents:

Case for a Business Process Automation CoE

A crucial step in moving from the proof-of-concept stage to distributing process automation (RPA) across an organization is to implement an operational model. This helps to ensure governance and alignment to corporate strategy and operations.

In a survey by Hfs (Horses for Sources), only 18% have set up a dedicated CoE model for RPA. However, 88% of these said that an automation CoE is effective in delivering business value.

RPA Scope

Organization

  • Integration into the overall corporation organizational structure
  • Internal and external roles and responsibilities to support the functionalities of the RPA initiative
  • Training of new resources
  • Change management.

Governance

  • Escalation paths
  • Compliance to policies and procedures
  • System accesses
  • Process prioritization.

Technology

  • Architecture for the robotic operating environment (ROE)
  • Infrastructure support
  • Technology choice and licenses.

Processes

  • Assessment
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Development standards.

Operations

  • Maintenance of existing automated processes
  • Support
  • Monitoring.

 

Where should the BPA CoE sit?

The two most common options are within IT or as a Business Services function at Group level

Capgemini recommendation (article below) is to “drive the CoE as a Business Services function at Group level, with a close relationship to IT. This provides the freedom required for such initiatives and it enables proactive and strong leadership.

If the CoE is set up within a business function, it will be difficult to drive the initiative across the organization. However, it will work well to drive automation internally.”

Reference: Capgemini - https://www.capgemini.com/2018/10/considerations-before-implementing-rpa-coe/

 

BPA CoE Structure Options

 

 

Process Automation Demand –  Guide to Identifying right candidates

Qualifying Questions

 

Rule based vs. Judgment based (cognitive)?

Rules based work is perfectly suited for process automation. On another hand, RPA robots cannot handle unexpected situations or making judgment based decisions

Structured vs. unstructured input?

Processing hand written invoices, faxes or unstructured document data component are better processed manually. Specialist technology based on ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) is available but is only realistic to deploy in very high volume processes. Also, if the input to the process is free flow text it may be challenging for a robot. Doing that is not impossible however; the price of implementation will be much higher.

Integration options: user interface vs API/Data?

If the applications have APIs or other data feeds built into them the value of using RPA is less significant compared to enterprises that have a landscape of quite a few of different types of applications (homegrown, legacy and new) and are using army of people to integrate across those systems.

Optimization of legacy applications vs deploying RPA?

Before considering deploying RPA robots, fully investigate if the process legacy application can be optimised (i.e. ServiceNow workflow – Clarity integration etc.) to improve performance

Are processes optimized and documented before deploying RPA?

Before considering deploying RPA, first check that the processes have been optimised (lean) and documented. If not, the Process Excellence team should assess the processes for optimization opportunities which may or may not include deploying RPA

Copy/paste data from one template to another?

When data is copied from one standalone template to another (word-Excel-PowerPoint) there may be the opportunity to first introduce automated Excel templates to replace and/or integrate the standalone templates

 

Efficiency Drivers

 

Continuous Volume & Handle Time

The value of automation increases with the increase in volume and handle time of processes. Robots can operate 24*7, hence pushing productivity potential to the maximum capacity.

Error Rate

Processes which involve a high error rate, are great candidates for automation, which will ensure flawless execution.

Standardized vs. exception based process

RPA is built to handle multiple use cases and rules-based exceptions. However, it is recommended to look for the simpler, standard processes for a quicker development time and time to ROI.

Frequency of re-keying and collating of data

Processes which are composed mainly of copy and paste of information from one system to another or data validation (comparing data from one application to another), would benefit greatly from automation, as well as increase employee satisfaction since these processes are very clerical, time consuming, prone to errors, and not very fulfilling to do.

Process adherence problems

Employees do not always follow precisely the processes’ flow and rules and as result expose the organization to security breaches and compliance fines. Robots will always perform the process as it was programmed to do, eliminating errors and the chance of being in non-adherence.

Customer experience KPIs

Robots perform tasks much quicker than the human employee, and can work 24*7, thus improving the organization’s SLAs and improving the customer experience

Stability of the process and underlying applications

Robots are best applied in a stable environment, in terms of processes and applications which don’t incur frequent changes.

Thick client vs Citrix / RDP

In thick client environment RPA is most efficient and fast. Citrix/RDP environments make automations somewhat more challenging since they require the use of screen scraping in order to connect to the underlying applications.

Speed The faster the underlying systems are the more efficient the automation is in delivering value

 

BPA CoE Foundation Building Blocks

As a foundation for the COE, it is recommended that the following policies and concerns be prioritized:

  • Establish Project Delivery Methodology (incl. Reviews/Gates)
  • Establish Project level Responsibility Matrix (RACI)
  • Establish Business Roadmap (Current and Forward-Looking)
  • Establish System Maps
  • Establish Appian Architecture Practice
  • Establish Infrastructure Guidelines and Data Sources of Truth
  • Establish Knowledge Base for Design Patterns, Best Practices and Common Framework
  • Establish Training & Certification Plans
1. Benefits

Predictability

A repeatable methodology for assessing the opportunity to include a project in the Digital Transformation program and provide accurate and realistic forecasts of the resources required to complete a successful project

Consistency

A centralized school of thought around best practices allows developers from different projects to approach similar technical problems with similar technical solutions. This has the direct benefit of reducing development cycles by reusing proven methodologies and lowering onboarding time for developers since they will already be familiar with the techniques used

Maintainability

A key responsibility of the COE is ensuring that design practices with long-term application health in mind are always used. This allows applications to evolve and change with business needs (business agility) without incurring undue technical debt and corresponding development costs

Reuse

By creating a singular point of contact for all projects and shared functionality can be properly identified and duplicate work eliminated. Over time and as the COE matures, some of these centralized duplicate feature solutions will have been enhanced enough to the point of becoming an almost platform capability unique to the organization. Much like any other platform capability provided natively by Appian, these can be leveraged by all future projects and can significantly influence future project scoping as large swaths of technical needs may have already been addressed

Innovation

Maintaining a link between the ever-advancing Appian platform roadmap and Appian Community assets as well as industry technology trends. The COE provides a controlled means to monitor and validate new innovation that will drive improved End User experiences as well as reduced application development cycles and a reduction in production application support costs

 

BPA CoE Best Practices

1. Implementation:

 

Recommendations

 

It is important to keep it simple

Implement an approach of assessing the current state, defining the target state, aligning and educating the stakeholders, and equipping the budding CoE set-up with fit-for-purpose tools and templates along with adequately training the relevant resources

A clearly defined and articulated operating model gets the ball rolling

Once the ownership is established, it becomes relatively easy to define a robust governance structure, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities from the business, CoE, IT and other support functions. Defining governance controls, reporting and escalation mechanisms helps nail the operating model.

The Automation CoE benefits from clearly established policies and procedures

It is important to define and agree key policies and procedures specific to RPA. For example, the enterprise IT Change Management policy may be too slow and stringent for RPA, given the non-intrusive nature of RPA scripts. Similarly, a custom Incident Management policy / procedure may be warranted to clearly identify the scope and timing of involvement of the IT Service Desk, IT Support team, CoE, external support provider or the Automation tool provider.

Start small and design for rapid scalability

A scalable CoE model allows low upfront investment in the CoE setup and operations. The ability to learn from its successes and mistakes should be engrained in the CoE so that it can start small, gradually learn and gain momentum as the RPA program in the organisation ramps up.

Process visibility

Identifying inefficiencies or issues in your current business processes is the first step to effective digital transformation. Process mapping is key here. Once every process is mapped and visible, it’s easier to identify which processes can be optimized and automated. 

The COE team works closely with senior management to get to the root of how processes work and whether they work well or poorly. A COE team studies processes to eliminate unnecessary and repetitive steps. This improves process efficiency and frees up employees’ time so they can concentrate on higher-value work

 

Keep up with technical advances

When a recent study asked businesses to name the most important needs driving automation, more than half of business users listed “adapting to the rate of change.” Technology’s evolution is a vehicle for innovation and workplace efficiency, but only if employees are kept up to speed with the changes.  

The COE team can ensure your business keeps up to date with the latest technology, ensuring your IT environment is fluid, flexible and ready to integrate with other business solutions. Process mapping, for example, helps you identify inefficient or ineffective processes, which in turn helps you minimize problems that can arise when introducing new technology.

Improved collaboration

As companies grow, processes often become inadequate or obsolete and must be modified or replaced with new ones. Collaboration across the entire organization helps ensure that every team is in sync as the business expands. 

A process COE can facilitate this collaboration by creating links among business units. Visibility and communication are essential for productivity and employee satisfaction — 99.1% of employees prefer a workplace where people identify and discuss issues truthfully. CoEs centralize information so that employees can access the data they need to create tailored solutions to problems.

 

2. BPA CoE Roles:

Leader, Evangelist, Advocate, Governance
  • The first role provides leadership for a centre of excellence, providing the strategy and the vision for process automation, evangelising the importance at senior levels to ensure buy-in and support, raising awareness, celebrating success and showcasing the impact. 
  • Establishing and chairing the steering group to drive engagement and direction at executive level while taking accountability to ensure appropriate standards are establishing and maintained.
Process Improvement, Lean Thinking, Systems Thinking, Problem Solving, Continuous Improvement
  • Optimisation of processes ready for automation is a crucial first step in development of automation processes. Providing the initial assessment to establish priority and impact while also understanding that efficient automated processes are different to efficient people-operated processes.
  • A clear set of criteria should be established to quickly identify the opportunity areas for intelligent automation.
  • Intelligent Automation is not just about automating the tasks carried out by people today, but also identifying the opportunities that were simply not possible to complete by people.  The disruptive end of automation is still untapped in the market today.
Operating Model, Business Architecture, Organisational Design
  • Implementing Process Automation is a paradigm shift requiring Business Transformation thinking and not simple evolutionary thinking. Areas of accountability will change significantly requiring a respective designed and well considered change to the operating model.
  • Challenge organisational thinking for new robotic operating models also requires traditional change management techniques to ensure the changes are embedded and benefits released.

Architecture, Technology Stack, Solution Design, Enterprise Architecture

  • The first benefit that can be achieved by a centre of excellence is in establishing agreed technologies that fit the business need, avoiding the risk of a proliferation of technologies.  Obtaining technical skills is one of the greatest challenges so taking time to evaluate and select the correct technologies is an essential first step.
  • Providing technology guidance, choice, configuration, maintenance and solution design.
  • Inevitably as the use of intelligent automation increases, there is also an increase in the level of complexity needed to integrate with other applications. 
  • Understanding of the wider technology stack to facilitate efficient reuse and integration will become an increasingly important skillset.

Development, Testing, Collaboration, Agile Working

 
  • Development of robotic automations for existing processes generally fits within the business functions, however complex automations and testing of new concepts would fit within the CoE, thus providing training expertise and availability of shared development resources to aid establishing the first generation operating model.
  • Automation Development, Testing and Deployment and Version Control.

Operations, Maintenance, Support

  • Maintenance of existing robotic automations require 24/7 operations considerations, particularly around exception handling and performance monitoring.
  • The ongoing maintenance of existing robotic automations, monitoring, re-training and optimising Robot Utilisation across the portfolio becomes a new role in the organisation.

 

BPA CoE Roles

1. Business Side

Business Process Analyst

Experienced BPM practitioner with a minimum of 3 years of BPM/BPMS experience. This experience should include:

  • Interviewing business managers and staff member (know how to pull the right information out of the people being interviewed) and conducting workshops with business managers
  • BPM techniques (for modelling, rules definition, data use definition, data collection, process / work flow analysis and redesign, business operation testing, etc.)
  • Building and analysing current operational models
  • Business rule definition and entry into a rules modelling tool
  • Defining problems with cost, quality, effectiveness, efficiency and failure to meet with KPI targets – tracking the problems to their sources and determining how they can be eliminated
  • Designing performance management models
  • Redesigning business operations and application support
  • Defining application requirements for the business and creating technical spec for the applications
  • Simulating the outcome of changes in process and workflow (manually or with a BPMS)
  • Creating creative designs and approaches to solving operating problems

These process analysts will have worked on different operational improvement projects and should have a firm understanding of BPM and BPMS information needs and pitfalls. Although not a technical specialist, the Business Process Analyst will have a firm understanding of IT concepts related to application definition, web services definition and use, user interface design, application interfacing, and data use modelling.

Business Process Modeler or Business Analyst

Experienced in interviewing business staff and in building models and identifying problems in collaboration with the people they interview. This is an entry level role in the Process Automation CoE and this person will be expected to know major RDA-RPA-BPM concepts, basic IT application capability concepts and business operating concepts (the various business functions in a company and how they work together).

Business SME

This person will not be part of the BPM CoE, but SMEs will need to be identified for each of the business areas the BPM CoE will work with. Their responsibility will be to insure that the BPM CoE team talks to the right people, gets access to the right information and understands the business operation and its real problems and needs. For business redesign, the Business SME is responsible for making certain the new business operation design is feasible and the construction and deployment plan considers all of the business constraints, timing issues, etc.

Business Architect

If the company will look at business operating design, and if the BPM CoE will deal with truly transformational projects, consideration should be given to adding one or more Business Architects to the staff. This person is invaluable in looking at the bigger picture and how the business itself will function. The Business Architect will work at the strategic level and help management consider how the business operation should change to deliver strategy and meet goals. This guides the design of business operating models that show what is to be done, where, why, how, and by whom. These operating models drive operational decisions and ultimately process change.

2. Technology Side

Technology SME

The BPMS must be set up properly when it is installed. That can be contracted to the vendor and a consulting firm with the right expertise. This should begin with the definition of a formal architecture defining how the BPMS will fit into your current technical operating environment and how it will be deployed – number of users, size and distribution of servers, communications requirements, etc.

At the end of this install there should be a formal test and a turn over process. If your IT group has standards for this turn over, you will need to use them. Once installed and ready for use, the internal BPMS SME will need to take responsibility for the setup and use of the BPMS for each project. This includes working with the IT specialists to define data use, application integration, mobility computing use, legacy application functionality reuse, etc.

To do this, the BPMS SME must be an expert in the technical side of the Business Process Management Suite (BPMS) that you select. He or she must know how each module works, what is needed to feed it, how to use it and how to set it up. Finally, they need to understand Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) technology and architectures and how they affect the design and generation of BPMS applications and their use. Yep, a tall order.

RDA - RPA - BPMS Developer

This is a technician who understands the RPA & BPMS tool suite and how to tie data schema’s, rule, internal databases, etc. to set up and use the modelling tools. This person must also understand how the RPA / BPMS can be used and what it can and cannot do to help the business analysts and modelers resolve use issues.

The RPA / BPMS Developer must know how to define and code rules, how to convert and use business models to generation applications in the BPMS and how to interface to legacy data and applications. And, they must know when to define external Java module use and how to tie in web services.

 

Business Process Management

1. Core Capabilities

Leadership Commitment

Process Ownership

Organization  and Governance

Communication and Change

Single Source of Truth

Skills and Methods

Tools and Technology

Process Management Leadership

Process Ownership Concept and Roles

Process Management Organization

Process Values, Beliefs and Attitudes

Process Architecture and Organization

Process Management Skills and Expertise

Digital Focus

Process Management Vision

Process Ownership and Commitment

Process-driven Organizational Structures

Process Management Communications

Process Repository Quality and  Completeness

Business Process Modelling and Analysis

Business Process Modelling and Analysis

Process change Encouragement

Process Owner Empowerment

Process Governance Alignment

Process Learning and Training

Customer Process View

Process Automation and Workflow

Process Automation and Workflow

Accountabilities and Commitment

Performance and Incentives

Process Roles and Responsibilities

Process Change management

Process Collaboration

Process Intelligence and Monitoring

Process Mining and Monitoring

Project and Process Alignment

Process Change and KPI Alignment

Process Management Policies and standards

Process management Community

Process Communication

Methodology Alignment

Tool and Technology Alignment

Continuous Process Management Focus and Support

Process Management Decision Making

Process Performance and Value Management

Transparency and Values of Customer Awareness

Process Repository Alignment and Integration

Trust and Team Work

IT and Process Management Strategy Alignment

Open Communication Policy

Continuous Process Improvement

 

Concept of Change

Process Repository Value Creation

   

 

2. Maturity

An organization can assess their achievements for each of these seven capabilities, by asking:

  • Is there clear leadership commitment for business process management within the organization?
  • Are owners for all processes in place? Are they empowered through a clear mandate, and are they successfully filling that role?
  • Do you have process management organization and governance structures established to lead, coordinate, and supports process efforts for the organization?
  • Is process information communicated regularly, consumed easily throughout the organization, and offering a focal point for collaboration and change?
  • How complete, integrated, and standardized is your process documentation?
  • Do you have the necessary process management skills and resources available?
  • Are you using the necessary business process management tools to drive consistent and positive business outcomes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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