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A Well-Oiled Machine: A Robot’s Guide to Program Governance

by Hasitha Sridharan and Zak Ancel

In today’s market, the driver for innovation is often not the need to develop new products or services, but to increase the quality and speed of delivery.

The rigor traditionally associated with new product development must be applied when choosing process optimization as an enterprise-wide strategy. These large-scale efforts require participation from diverse internal organizations with varying levels of technological expertise. Firms are often incentivized to rush from pilot to production without a strong governance and delivery framework, eventually finding themselves unequipped to scale.

To gain efficiencies across its enterprise, one of Kenway’s clients introduced Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to its organization after successfully piloting a leading software. RPA, a technology designed to replicate human activity, can be thought of as a “robot” performing the clicks and actions exactly as a user would during repeatable processes across multiple applications.

Eager to realize the promising return on investment, the organization quickly moved to enable all interested departments with this technology. The RPA program leaders soon found it difficult to accomplish their goals, as they were balancing different expectations of how RPA should be implemented without a unified strategy. While the organization had resources with technical expertise, it struggled to create structure and rigor within its program.

Kenway recognized the need for an operational methodology, delivery framework, and strategic program management to ensure that the program could scale successfully. Our team analyzed the outcomes of the pilot and identified the operational functions required to repeatedly deploy robotics across the company. We then documented characteristics of ideal processes for automation (essentially linear, repeatable procedures), and developed an estimation model to manage the supply of development and business analysis capacity against the number of candidate processes.

With the client’s RPA operational methodology defined, internal organizations were reengaged through a strong change management process and new roles and responsibilities were defined. It became apparent; however, that different business units would instantiate RPA more successfully than others.

In efforts to serve the program stakeholders, Kenway categorized each internal business unit based on its level of RPA maturity. Less mature units required more oversight and assistance from the program than those that quickly adopted the operational methodology. We found that units that had direct experience partnering with IT organizations to implement solutions fared the best.

The mission of the RPA program was to increase the efficiency of implementing robotics across the organization by training more junior groups and ensuring that experienced business units were continuing to identify new opportunities and maintain positive returns on their investment. The enterprise-wide program began to communicate uniquely with each internal organization to ensure that expectations were well-set, the path to greater efficiency was defined, and that accountability was sustained. This exercise brought process governance to the program but, as more pain points were identified, it became clear that these could not be resolved without a large strategic shift.

As the program grew, it needed to continually examine itself and right-size its processes and governance structure. Innovation is required for survival; static business processes will eventually be abandoned or replaced. Without a continually improving delivery strategy, the program was not rolling out quality products on time, which was the very driver of taking on the RPA initiative. However, with new automation candidates being identified and improved communication channels in place, a new arm of the program dedicated to strategic initiatives was created.

Our team solicited feedback from program leaders and end-users to identity pain points and opportunities for improvement. New projects were created to address the various problems and were prioritized based on their potential benefits. Dedicating resources to a strategic roadmap, outside of the day-to-day operations, ensured that the program would maintain relevance and meet its commitment to the enterprise. We introduced program governance that was specific to RPA, but the principles applied are relevant to any enterprise-level program that intends to realize long-term benefits.

At Kenway, one of our Guiding Principles is, “To never rest on our laurels, always looking to the future to identify necessary changes to maintain and improve strategic advantages.” Many organizations set aside the strategic lens after defining an objective and kicking off a project. Kenway helps our clients build stable and profitable programs not simply by asking “what are we doing” but, rather repeatedly assessing how well we are doing it and ensuring that we – and our clients – keep innovation and self-improvement in focus.

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