Don’t underestimate collaboration when scaling automation - The EE

Don’t underestimate collaboration when scaling automation

You will not be able to deploy your robots without the strong partnership from IT colleagues, says Mee.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the fastest growing segment of the global enterprise software market. In fact, Deloitte suggests that 72% of organisations will have begun their RPA journey by 2022.

As the technology booms, it’s important to consider how to achieve the best outcomes through collaboration, says Gavin Mee, managing director Northern Europe at UiPath.

One or two specialist champions can get an early-stage automation project off the ground by creating and deploying simple software robots designed to ‘wow’ stakeholders. Once the low-hanging fruit automations are picked, the scaling can begin.

At this stage, these champions will often established a centre of excellence (CoE), to help steer the automation programme, house RPA expertise and bring in wider senior executive support. However, these specialists shouldn’t be expected to manage the entire roll-out in isolation it’s vital cross-function working takes place.

In fact, McKinsey research suggests that by coordinating across business functions, automation projects are three times more likely to succeed. As Paula McKillen, head of automation and RPA, Electrocomponents plc puts it, “You can do a lot of work in your CoE but you will not be able to deploy your robots without the strong partnership from IT colleagues.”

As automation grows it will begin to touch more processes, applications and data sources owned by IT. Furthermore, IT advice and governance will be required to ensure more complex automations remain effective. With this in mind, collaborating with IT is essential as it is a natural testing and deployment ground, housing skills that other departments lack.

There are five key areas where IT can provide support: preparing business infrastructure, assisting with complex builds, providing quality assurance, safeguarding security and ensuring the budget is there to make it all happen.

A compatible IT infrastructure

Your IT infrastructure must be compatible with your chosen automation platform and primed to host the technology to secure high levels of performance, stability and scalability. As the IT team is responsible for the underlying infrastructure, their involvement is key.

Once trained in the specifics of optimising infrastructure for automation, IT teams possess the knowledge to implement these changes. As automations are deployed, IT teams may also be called upon to maintain this infrastructure as required.

Creating and maintaining sound infrastructure allows for more stable and reliable automations, and consequently a higher level of performance.

Designing automations

Low-code and no-code platforms allow business users from all departments to create and deploy simple automations. However, IT specialisms may be needed to push more complex automations over the line. IT’s code configurability, performance and testing skills are often key to ensuring complex automations are designed to best serve the needs of the business. 

This isn’t necessary for every automation and it’s important to retain a level of flexibility and agility within development. However, IT teams need to be brought in to ensure that every process that can benefit from automation is considered.

IT builds quality assurance

In order to effectively scale RPA, you need to be confident that software robots will perform as expected. IT can play an important role in building quality assurance into automation development and deployment. As IT teams will often own the applications in which automations operate, they can generate reports on how the business is benefiting from the technology.

While system changes may be intuitive for human colleagues, software robots need guidance. IT has a full view of upgrade and maintenance schedules and must work closely with automation teams to ensure any changes are easily adapted so that software robots can continue performing as intended.

IT insures security of automation deployments

When processing sensitive data, it makes no difference whether a human or a robot is completing the task the same security standards must apply. Most automations will need access to business-critical systems and sensitive data to complete enterprise-wide tasks, and as a result, security and compliance remain essential. IT must be involved when building automations so that accessing systems does not compromise security.

Collaborating on budget

In order to achieve automation at scale, the resources need to be available. Importantly, you don’t want your automation and IT teams battling for budget. Having teams collaborate on budget and resourcing cycles leads to more logical and efficient financing decisions, while sharing expertise can help to avoid any unexpected hidden costs.

Scaling automation certainly isn’t just an IT project, but without IT’s support you might miss the mark. While automation experts and business users have their own part to play, IT’s testing, version control, deployment, maintenance and support are vital. It is very rare that an organisation will have a dedicated automation IT team and as such, careful consideration must go into how to collaborate with IT and other departments to ensure success.

The author is Gavin Mee, managing director Northern Europe at UiPath.

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