How to Run a Successful Bot-a-Thon: Citizen Developer University
With the dawn of UiPath StudioX and growing interest in citizen developers, Business Users across the country are using simplified automation building programs to create and implement their own personal automations. Programs such as StudioX are made specifically for business users as they are a simplified version of the typical process automation development studio and can help users to create their own attended automations or digital assistants. This type of software is not complex or difficult to learn and is mostly made up of pre-built automation segments that make it easy for users to “drag and drop” steps into a process flow therefore building automations with little to no coding background.
From a business user’s point of view, trying to build process/task automations without any prior knowledge or understanding of which tasks are plausible and most beneficial to automate, can be a daunting situation. However, most business users are excited about automation making their jobs easier and are ready to have it impact their day-to-day operations directly.
So, if the tool is available and the users are eager, how can enterprises capitalize on Citizen Development? Bot-a-Thons are a fun and interactive way to introduce business users to process automation development and can be used to enable them, with the right techniques and strategies, to build their own time-saving automations. The idea of a Bot-a-Thon is to challenge groups of business users to design and create attended bots for a large number of end-users that will be judged by trained expert developers and automation program coordinators. The advantage of such a program is that the competing automations target tasks that affect high-volume processes that are tedious and can free up FTE’s for multiple hours a day. All competing participants gain the knowledge to create large-scale attended automations, as well as the technical skills to create mini digital assistant bots for themselves. An important distinction to note when looking to introduce Bot-a-Thons into an organization is that the value comes from what you put into it, and it should not be a one-time competition. To see real savings, it is best to target training 500 users in waves of about 50-100 each Bot-a-Thon. To run a successful Bot-a-Thon, we recommend that you tackle the initiative in three phases — Train, Compete, and Implement.
Prior to running a Bot-a-Thon, the business should select a number of business users who are interested in learning RPA and know their work processes well. They will need to go through some quick, but necessary, StudioX/automation training. These business users can learn the program efficiently through a “Citizen Developer University”-style curriculum to teach them not only the software they would use to create their automations, but how to appropriately identify what processes they can and should automate.
Topics covered in the training should be based around three main categories: Identifying Opportunities, Designing Solutions, and Building Solutions. An example Citizen Developer University Catalog from Accelirate’s RDA365 Program can be found in the image to the right —>
At the end of the training phase, there is one more key step the business must take before beginning the competition. For this competition to provide enough value and be worth the time and effort spent, business users should suggest processes that are high-volume, repetitive, and are not overly complex. The types of automations Bot-a-Thons are designed to bring light to are the ones that can specifically be created using StudioX and affect everyday jobs, however, they are not complex enough to justify the use of a full UiPath license or an expert developer resource. In our experience, most automations suggested by the citizen developers are in the areas of payroll, SAP file extraction, ServiceNow Tickets, timesheet submission, and invoice filing.
Phase two of executing a successful Bot-a-Thon is the competition itself. We recommend starting with the division of business users who were trained via the “Citizen Developer University” into teams of about four people. The team should be comprised of the proposed bot process Subject Matter Expert (SME), three accompanying business user developers, and a trained expert RPA developer to play the role of “coach”.
A typical Bot-a-Thon is comprised of a two-day fast-paced schedule. The teams should be allowed ample time to craft their bot, so we suggest dedicating most of day 1 to building the automations with a little bit of time early in the day to improve and standardize the desired process for ease of development and increased ROI. Based on their training the teams should know the typical build process consists of interviewing the SME to fully understand the process, developing the bot step-by-step, and testing it every so often to ensure they are on the right track. During day 2, we like to give the teams the first part of the day to regroup and finalize their automations. Then early in the afternoon, teams are given a list of key automation objectives to guide their final decisions and prepare their final presentations for the judges and business RPA-COE. The team ensures they have a clear process overview, a defined human and robot workflow, a list of the automation’s benefits and a demonstration of their bot. A last important step for the teams is to present a list of challenges and struggles they encountered. These items then act as a list of advice and can be used as helpful guidelines for the next Bot-a-Thon groups; hence improving the automation outcomes with every executed competition.
At the end of the day the team automations are presented to the judges and the business’s COE. The importance of the COE representative in this case is to approve the practicality and logistics of the proposed automation. Their specific role is to guide each team’s process into implementation after the competition.
The last phase of executing a successful Bot-a-Thon is automation implementation. The teams should use feedback from the competition judge(s) and COE to put the finishing touches on their automations post-competition. The role of the COE representative in this phase is to present each team with an implementation map. This could include things like suggesting that the users simplify their process for ease of automation, adjusting team goals to match COE guidelines, or ensuring that the created bot does not involve any internal or external applications where automations are not allowed to operate. Also, they should ensure that the developed automations do not overlap or get in the way of any current enterprise automations the business has in production. Although only one team “wins”, no team’s work is scrapped after the competition. All team bots are provided corrective feedback and are adjusted for implementation and deployment.
After a successful Bot-a-Thon, the business will see the deployment of several desktop automations that help a large number of end users. They also will have a built-up arsenal of citizen developers all capable of creating mini time-saving bots for themselves and those around them, to assist with various daily tasks – whether it’s submitting time sheets accurately and in a timely manner, updating a sales CRM system based on email signature information, or even downloading a customer’s purchase history during a call center transaction. The business can see major hours (and thus money) returned when all the savings from hundreds of citizen-created personal automations are added together, as personal attended automations can easily save 1-2 hours a day per employee.
For more information on how to run a Bot-a-Thon or the Citizen Developer University Curriculum please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.