SIG University Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) program graduate Mike Morsch has led an RPA and IA journey before. He discusses the steps a company must address to ensure a successful Intelligent Automation journey to produce the best long term and sustainable outcomes.
In the CIAP program, students gain knowledge of automation technologies, learn how to identify the correct opportunities to build, run and sustain a successful automation program, and will understand the true potential of IPA technologies when adopted correctly.
I found the CIAP certification training to be an excellent baseline for anybody looking to embark on an intelligent automation (IA) journey. Senior leaders looking to sponsor a program really need to think through how they can best start the program to ensure both leadership and associates understand the focus of the program. It is easy to get caught up in “cost savings” and getting fast and visible results to justify a program. While quick wins are always a good way to show the value of any initiative, the long term benefits available in taking a broader view will pay the most dividends on investment over time. In thinking about my own experience and the lessons learned in the CIAP program, I would suggest to anyone considering IA the following areas of focus to create the best program.
Assess Organization Willingness
The training does a good job on the assessment phase of the program.I believe taking the time to educate stakeholders on the benefits, getting senior leadership buy-in and targeting areas of opportunity that resonate with leadership is critical to program success. I would create shorter versions of the training to build an understanding of the program and use constant communication at multiple levels to build up the organization's understanding. Once multiple levels of the organization understand the approach and benefit to their jobs, the program will have an easier path to success. I would not focus on cost savings, but on improvements to customers and job satisfaction of employees.
Choose Advisors Wisely
It is likely that most organizations will not have all of the skills and knowledge internally to start an effective program and will need to look outside. Firms should make sure to detail all expectations of a third party and complete a market analysis first before choosing an advisor. Taking some time upfront to understand what others have done and what is expected of the advisor will ensure a quality start.
Process Excellence Review
Having the right people with process knowledge is important as you start your program, but don’t overlook getting the skills required for process redesign. Whether it’s Lean / Six Sigma or other approaches, a higher value in automation comes with doing process redesign before executing RPA. Just automating what you have will provide tactical benefits, but likely will not produce a true strategic benefit.
As you are building the team, avoid the temptation to make the team too large or the project oversite too robust. Focus on building a center of excellence (COE), but keep it lean and expect to expand it over time as the needs of the program change. A small COE can be more agile in execution while still creating the big picture for the organization. The right model of the COE will vary, but the expectations remain constant and need to be tailored to each organization.
Role of IT
Companies with strong IT organizations may still falter in starting their IA journey. The business function may be eager to start its RPA program and think that IT teams are busy with other priorities. While this may be true, no IA program can really be effective without early IT involvement as strategies are being developed. The CIO needs to understand infrastructure expectations and ongoing support, as well as the need to augment IA into the broader IT agenda. While the business may be driving the priorities on automation, a partnership with IT is key for long-term success.
A key element of a successful program is constant communication to stakeholders on program intent, process, benefit and what is needed for sustainability. While this can seem to be unnecessary to complete the core work, the benefit of the program is getting to the strategic automation that truly benefit the customer experience and make the company easier to do business with. By showing associates that the program is making their jobs better and more meaningful to the business, the communication strategy can help pull out any of the hidden skepticism that can derail a program.
A well run IA program will lead to creating a more efficient and effective organization and will very likely drive organizational changes that are well understood by both leadership and associates. Setting this as an upfront and to-be-defined element will help associates feel they have a say in the direction, based on the efforts they put in for process improvement, automation and ultimately the improved customer experience.
These are just a few areas to discuss as a company starts down the IA path. Initial education and communication on program intent and expected benefits will lay the groundwork for a successful program. Starting small and adjusting the program over time as results are achieved will help set achievable expectations at all levels of the organization. These results will also produce the best long term and sustainable outcomes. An effective IA program should be seen not as a way to cut costs and reduce headcount. It should be seen as a way to make a company better for customers, employees and shareholders. It's a journey, not a destination.
The Certified Intelligent Automation Professional program is a six-week course delivered through SIG University’s unique education platform. Visit our website to learn more about intelligent process automation and enroll for the upcoming semester.
Mike is the Vice President of Procurement & Supply Chain at CDK Global, a $2B technology services and digital marketing company, where he is responsible for leading the global procurement, supply chain and operations functions. At CDK, Mike has been leading a digital transformation around an operating model and global structure to satisfy growing business requirements with optimized supply strategies. He also was a key leader in the CDK business transformation and robotic process automation program driving strategic benefit in cost, quality, responsiveness and continuity.