• November 17, 2019
A Letter to My Younger Self about RPA

A Guest Perspective by Samuel Best.

Sam is an experienced leader who specializes in leveraging technology to solve meaningful business problems and improve the customer experience.  He has a high competency in automation techniques, which helps companies maximize their automation program benefits.  In his current role, Sam leads the Business Automation team at GM Financial where he is responsible for deploying automation solutions for internal business partners.  Prior to GM Financial, Sam was a Managing Consultant for ISG’s automation practice and before that, he was an automation program manager at AT&T.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/bestsamuel/

Greetings Sam,

I hope this letter finds you well! I’d like to introduce myself. I’m you—two years from now. Right now you’re in the early stages of your RPA journey. On the outside, you are confident and up to the challenge, but inside, you’re not entirely sure how you will navigate these uncharted waters. There will be challenges and setbacks along the way, but don’t worry, you’ll make it through to the other side. I’ve been where you’re going – literally – and I’ve included five tips to help guide you on your journey.

Move Fast

You’ve had some early successes and your business partners now believe in the value of RPA. As a reward for your efforts, the business is collecting a tidal wave of ideas for your team to automate and you’ll need to move quickly to meet the demand. To do this, you’ll need to challenge the status quo.

Don’t make the mistake of forcing RPA into existing delivery models for the sake of convenience. The routines you select should deliver high quality automation solutions in days or weeks, not months. If existing routines do not facilitate rapid delivery, then use your creativity to design new delivery models.

The first step you can take is to align technology and business resources. By breaking down the traditional business/IT silos, you can move at a rapid pace, which can result in deploying automations in as little as one week with the right use case. Remember, any governance, development life cycle or delivery framework should enable you to deliver business benefit quickly, not inhibit progress from being made.

Pursue Excellence, Not Perfection

Don’t allow yourself or others to fall into the trap of pursuing perfection. It’s a tiresome pursuit that leads to analysis paralysis and hinders your program’s growth. Common examples include trying to improve and make a process perfect before automating it and creating development standards that a master developer would have difficulty following. These activities masquerade as essential, but they will impede your ability to be successful.

To succeed, you’ll need to accept that the perfect process does not exist and perfect development execution will never happen so don’t focus all of your energy here; instead, pursue excellence!

Excellence affords something that perfection doesn’t allow; the freedom to make mistakes. The pursuit of excellence accepts there will be challenges and mistakes are inevitable, but you’re going to move forward anyways. Don’t allow failures to halt progress, but instead, use them as an opportunity to learn and refine future automations. Before moving onto another automation, take time with your team to discuss what went well and what could be improved. Capture the lessons learned and then apply solutions to future automations. This self-evaluation is critical in pursuing excellence.

Involve the Right People

You can’t go at it alone. Every automation requires a cross-functional team to get it over the finish line. When looking at the industry, I’m a bit perplexed there is still a somewhat contentious debate on who performs automation delivery, business or IT, when both groups are clearly needed.

The most successful automation programs divide responsibilities based on strengths. Let me give you an example: IT should be responsible for the activities they are really great at, such as establishing a reliable, secure and scalable environment. For the business, leverage their strong operations knowledge to identify the areas where automation would provide the biggest value. Continue to utilize their business knowledge during automation delivery to maximize efficiencies. A business led automation, fully supported by IT, is a formula for success.

Aside from business and IT, there are other delivery partners needed to make your program a success. Some examples include finance, HR, cyber and audit just to name a few. Establish key contacts in these areas and get them plugged into what you are doing early. This will save you rework down the road.

One final note – at about this time, you are beginning to evaluate partners to help accelerate your journey. This is an important decision and I caution you to be very selective. If you choose the wrong partner, it can cripple your program and set you back months. To protect the program, choose a partner with a demonstrated track record of success in automation. They should have a deep bench of knowledgeable automation resources. Next, talk with others in your industry who have used that partner and solicit their honest feedback. Finally, limit the scope of the first agreement until they have proven themselves as a trusted partner. And if things don’t work out, you’ll have isolated your risk to a short amount of time, plus picked up some interesting stories to tell along the way.

Don’t Underestimate Production Support

You’ve had some great wins and the first automations you deployed to production are running smoothly. I know I’m bursting your bubble, but it won’t always be this way. Don’t fret, automation programs today still struggle with production support, so you’re in good company. As you setup production support, here are a few items to consider:

  • Be aware of environment, application and business process changes and how they impact your automations. Work to get out in front of these changes, but know this will not happen 100 percent of the time.
  • Dedicate development resources for production support. If you continually pull developers from in-flight projects to fix production issues, you won’t scale.
  • Define severity, priority and SLA’s for issue resolution. Incorporate into existing trouble ticket system so issues can be tracked and measured.

Equip the Workforce


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