• Kustaa Kivelä

What is the future role of an RPA CoE?

Updated: Sep 24

One of the most common questions with all the new solutions is:

  • Whose responsibility is it? or

  • Whose responsibility it should be?

Sounds simple but becomes complex on things that touch many over the traditional organization and process boundaries. Robotic Process Automation leaders have been in a similar situation with RPA when it was new but are facing similar questions again with process mining and knowledge work analytics.

What is the future: RPA CoEs getting more power and responsibilities or more specific CoEs handling specific problems? Let’s dig into what we’ve learned while working with the RPA CoE leaders.

What are the questions RPA CoEs are facing now?

  • Quicks wins are implemented - what next?

  • How can we make bots more intelligent to automate more?

  • How can we scale up our programs?

  • How can we automate remotely, especially during the Covid-19?

Expectations seem quite straightforward - more automation and more productivity. And to be implemented yesterday, if the schedule is asked.

The future of RPA CoE

Robotic Process Automation Center of Excellence (CoE) is a very unique form of the centralized special unit working cross-department with a license to automate manual and repetitive work across the company. It should have this license to be successful, but usually, the role turns out to be more of a messenger raising awareness and giving support to different units.

Excellence in this acronym is typically just emphasizing that function is centralized and supporting other domains with their focus on mastering RPA technology. The creation of this kind of unit and making it work requires a lot of determination, trust in business cases, networking within the organization and then a stubborn leader who pulls it off. Once up and running, this unit is really unique facing a lot of mixed expectations and a lot of unleashed potential. So why are we talking about the future if there is still unleashed potential?

When we have talked with RPA CoE leaders on a daily basis, we have seen that they have entered a specific phase: a scaling plateau. Henri wrote in his last week’s blog post about these issues.

RPA CoE's evolution model

Is Hyperautomation CoE the next step?

No, but it’s time for RPA CoE’s to reinvent themselves - and they should do it well before hitting the plateau. Some have already started their reinvention, but with a technology focus. We think that the future of RPA CoE is not Hyperautomation CoE - even though it sounds quite cool and we’re sure that the future is full of hyperautomation.

Once a heavy investment in setting the RPA CoE is done - including operations, recruiting team, setting operational models and building networks across organizations - it would be significantly a loss for the enterprise to let CoE drain away.

Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of movement happening in the industry. RPA has matured from IT’s point of view. But what is more important is that RPA has been a significant shift from companies and their people in thinking about their own work and development. It’s a fresh breath of new ways to fix old problems that teams have been trying to solve earlier.

Should the future CoE be more productivity-oriented, not tied to technology?

Yes, and below are some quick fixes that we at Workfellow.ai have identified. This way companies could make the most out of their maturing RPA CoEs:

  • More empowerment to do whatever it takes to increase productivity - people, processes and technology - it’s not possible to improve productivity without giving insights to teams and units about what could be done with implementing improvement X, technology Y and change Z.

  • More autonomy regarding new technologies to solve problems with speedy procurement processes - there are thousands of startups developing solutions to specific problems so problem-solution-fit adopting must be agile if not immediate. Without a working adopting model, incentivized scaling will forge RPA as a solution to places where it should not be used.

  • More power to go over organization silos - let’s face it, if your organization wants to be at the top of the game, there must be top management support for automation as a default strategy. It means that the team responsible for it should have the autonomy to view process and task analytics throughout the whole company functions and departments to make the company competitive and future-proof. A democratized model to train every single employee to understand complex technologies or to understand what is possible to ease or automate in their own work might work in some ways, but the point is that it’s super slow.

Our optimistic view of the future

As we acknowledge that the majority of RPA CoE’s will drain away after quick wins using a single technology and move towards a run organization, we are optimistic that future leaders will reinvent their RPA CoE’s. So here is our thinking and bets on what reinventors will do:

  1. More empowered and autonomous team with a license to automate with whatever and wherever in an organization

  2. Data-driven decision making will be the cornerstone of everything - especially regarding solution and technology selection. Everything will be done remotely based on data-backed insights

  3. AI simplifies problems - simple problems mean faster solutions

  4. Technology stack will be much wider but simplified

  5. From-the-shelf SaaS solutions: More and more problems will be solved with a specific and thus powerful solution, which thousands of startups will provide to the ecosystem

  6. Head of Knowledge Work/Productivity/Productivity & Automation will be the new title of Head of RPA CoE. It's not anymore tied to “technology” as the majority of data-driven productivity improvements can be solved with low-tech and low-code solutions or without technology at all

  7. Productivity hackers: There will be a new profession in the future CoE, whose main job will be to find productivity holes and fill those with whatever they can get their hands on - in a fast and agile manner - not waiting years for a perfect solutions

So what are your bets regarding RPA CoE’s future?


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