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Make the leap from RPA pilot to large-scale deployment


After seeing the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) during a pilot project, many businesses are eager to scale up their Intelligent Automation (IA) deployment to maximize the value they can achieve. So, how can companies make an effective transition from a focused pilot project to an enterprise-scale, factory-like approach for wider and ongoing digital transformation? The following are several of the best practices we recommend.

Automate entire departments

In the early stages, most Intelligent Automation initiatives target the low-hanging fruit: processes where automation will deliver the highest time savings. Some enterprises even set a minimum time-saving threshold to help them determine which processes are the best candidates for IA. However, this laser focus on higher-yield processes may not be the right approach. While IA may reduce the total time required for a process, that process may represent only a small fraction of an employee’s workload. Instead, the organization may want to prioritize IA based on the processes that consume the most time within a department. Under this approach, IA may deliver a 10 percent time savings on some processes, but those processes could represent a larger portion of a department’s overall workload — yielding greater bottom-line results in time saved.

Target inter-departmental processes

The processes that cross internal departmental boundaries are great candidates for automation—and they’re often overlooked.  In many cases, inter-departmental processes are highly complex, involving multiple applications and requiring significant process redesign to make them suitable candidates for automation. But that effort can deliver some of the highest productivity gains in an IA initiative.

This is one area where an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) can help. A CoE helps foster the cross-disciplinary expertise and specialized skill sets needed for automating inter-departmental processes. It also provides a structured environment for collaboration across organizational boundaries. In order to maximize business value, it’s also imporant to define the CoE’s Target Operating Model (TOM) to guide future operations. The TOM will provide clear definitons of the CoE capabilities and delivery models to drive business transformation.

Encourage more employees to become IA developers and analysts

An organization’s existing workforce is the best source for the IA expertise needed for deployment at an enterprise scale. After all, no one understands business processes better than the people who perform them every day. Also, IA requires relatively little coding expertise, which means that many employees can build the technical skills they need fairly easily. An internal training program that offers employees a way to add to their skills can help create the talent pool needed for wider IA deployment. UiPath has an extensive curriculum of online RPA training available for free.

Also, training in-house IA developers and analysts offers additional advantages. As with any new technology, IA can cause anxiety among employees who see it as a threat to their future. One of the best ways to assuage these fears is to launch an internal program to encourage employees to become IA developers and analysts.

Within a relatively short time, the internally trained IA experts embedded in each department will function as ‘citizen developers’ — bringing down the cost of future IA development and deployment.

Implement an IA lifecycle checklist

What’s the status of a process slated for IA? It’s a good question. Enterprises need a formalized way to track a process in its IA lifecycle to achieve the scalability they want. An IA lifecycle checklist can detail each step toward automation of the process and keep stakeholders and executives in the loop along the way. A lifecycle checklist also clearly outlines which steps are required to move on to the next phase and where potential bottlenecks may occur.

Keep good records — and share them

As the enterprise expands the scope of IA deployment, it’s increasingly important to keep different departments all on the same page and speaking the same language. This level of standardization requires formal documentation. Some of the key components can include:

  • Process definition documents – To clearly define the scope of the process slated for automation.
  • Solution design documents – To ensure that the process is correctly defined.
  • Business continuity documents – To provide a contingency plan in the event a robot stops working.

Adopt an agile mindset

Thinking big with IA often means stepping away from the big-bang approach of massive releases and focusing on short sprints and continuous delivery. With this more granular, agile mindset, the enterprise can tackle process issues more effectively. IA is the perfect candidate for agile development because it easily divides processes into user stories. The enterprise can then prioritize these user stories and put them into sprints— which improves transparency, increases delivery predictability, and allows for necessary changes.

The transition from an IA pilot program to a wider deployment takes some planning, but the benefits can be enormous. The more strategic and disciplined organizations can be as they expand focus, the better the results.

Blog Co-author
Chet Chambers, VP, UiPath