The Center of Excellence (CoE)
Every enterprise conversation I have regarding RPA includes a question regarding the coveted “COE”. Discussions are broad and varied – “Do I need one”, “How do I Set one up?”, “How can you help us set one up?” and so on.
First, let’s get something out of the way, this post is geared towards enterprise conversations. The people we are talking to are seasoned professionals who have done their research about RPA, know what it is capable of, and have decided to adopt it as a strategic initiative within their organization.
So, Yes! We can help setup a COE
I will not go into the details of what a CoE is responsible for; there is enough material out there on what the CoE functions are. If you don’t have any, just drop me a line and I will send you some information. It’s the usual vision, strategy governance, methodology, service model, people and technology.
So, to get the basic questions out of the way. “Do I need a COE?” well, yes and no. If you are doing a Pilot or a POC, you don’t need one to start that. However, keep in mind that you will need someone to be in charge of setting up an enterprise program and infrastructure that will need to scale with the sudden influx of automation requests we usually see, once Proof of Value is visible. You will also need someone to navigate the technical challenges of setting up infrastructure and bot IDs, VMs, etc. It may be a good idea to involve the group/person that will be best to run the CoE up front. (Keep reading to discover who that group/person is)
Having spent almost all my professional life in the enterprise, I have seen many CoEs setup and the only ones that were successful in having the enterprise adopt their recommendations were the ones that had delivery capability built into them right from inception and were responsible for delivering real-life, business value solutions. Most of these CoEs sat within an Enterprise Architecture or Shared Service groups. There is nothing more annoying to a line of business IT managers than an EA group that presents standards in abstract without having practical delivery experience. Seasoned enterprise architects always built a delivery capability within their CoE. A CoE must “eat its own dog food”. It will never be able to tell other groups within the enterprise how to do things unless it has itself consumed its architecture, governance practices and delivery methodologies.
“Who should run the CoE?” is a loaded question. Some put it under shared services; some under Enterprise Architecture; some under a line of business IT group that volunteers to be the guinea pig for RPA. We recommend having the CoE sit in a group that has enterprise exposure and has visibility into other enterprise standards and initiatives. Regardless of where it sits, our recommendation is to have the CoE seeded with delivery capability. Have a staged maturity plan; this will ensure that enterprise specific lessons learned are incorporated as the CoE matures. Also, have the CoE be responsible for delivering projects to the business that show actual value and accelerate this delivery capability by engaging a nimble and lean delivery partner and make sure they help you build your in-house capability.
Setting up an automation program for the enterprise requires a thorough understanding of not only challenges that are unique to RPA but also expertise with infrastructure and DevOps. The COE provides various services such as demand generation and management, process analysis, automation development (configuration) and ongoing maintenance and support. In order to provide these services efficiently, a successful RPA CoE needs to establish three verticals:
- Operations Center
*Governance and Business Continuity are disciplines that run horizontally across these verticals
Our clients are seasoned enterprise professionals and have experience setting up Centers of Excellence in other areas. They know what their company culture is and what works vs. what doesn’t. Where they most need assistance is in defining and implementing process automation specific procedures and tool-sets specifically catering to their organization and it’s needs.
In my next post I will talk about each one of the areas I mention above and talk about what it takes to set it up.