RPA Governance Success Factors

by Brian Barrett

RPA governance consists of the standards that coordinate and control your RPA objectives, resources and program activities.  Depending on who you speak with, they may focus that discussion on controls and risk management, resource management, approval processes, or even ethics.   RPA governance is essential to supporting the growth and stability of an organization’s RPA program.  However, it can hinder progress and diminish the potential business impact if it is not implemented correctly.

A key consideration is that an organization’s RPA activities and goals will mature over time.  For this reason, governance of the program will need to be flexible enough to set the standards necessary to reduce risk while still supporting the growth and innovation of the program.

What to Avoid

Right out of undergrad, I was asked to assist developers with some Java development.  From the onset, our discussions focused on what I could not do. After several meetings, I understood well what restrictions and rules were in place to protect our client.  At the same time, I felt concerned about what I actually could do and was apprehensive on how to proceed.  I felt there were so many rules that I was bound to break them.  It was not until I understood our objectives, the resources I could reach out to, saw some examples, and understood our key priorities that I was able to contribute and make progress towards achieving the client goals.  Governance should do the same.  Be sure to lead with the capabilities that RPA can provide and ground rules to achieve success.

Excessive Oversight

Direction and visibility of the goals of the program and policies and procedures will greatly enhance the success and effectiveness of the RPA plan.  Oversight needs to be in place to ensure the team is working on the proper objectives and that procedural standards are followed. 

When approval processes are convoluted and excessive controls are put in place, these are hindrances to the productivity, innovation, and visibility of the team members.  This can ultimately lead to stagnation, poor productivity, and low team morale.

Few, Poor, or Excessive Controls

When too few, poorly composed, or too many controls are in place, it will result in either increased risk and vulnerability or meager productivity.  Just as in sports, rules are there to enable the players to play, be safe, and have an equal ability to win.  With driving, we have controls in place such as stop signs, speed limits, etc. to protect drivers and ensure the flow of traffic.  Like sports and driving, controls are put in place to protect an organization, enable the team to reduce risk, enhance compliance, and improve productivity.  It is important to not put an excessive number of controls as it can begin to become a detriment to collaboration and entrepreneurship.  Those involved with the RPA program will perform better and feel more empowered with thoughtfully composed and clearly worded controls in place.

Unclear Objectives

Objectives make it easier to plan, prioritize time, as well as discuss and evaluate progress.  When having objectives, they should be clear, achievable, and actionable.  Many recommend SMART Objectives that are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-oriented.

Examples of goals:

  • Unclear Goal: I want our RPA program to be top notch.
  • SMART Goal: I want to identify and automate 3 processes by the end of this quarter.

Vague Responsibilities

Clarity around responsibilities is crucial for RPA success.  Roles and responsibilities help define which tasks individuals should be involved in. Individuals assigned certain tasks then have accountability to perform those activities and deliver results.  With defined responsibilities, team members can manage how they can contribute, who to reach out to for help, when they are expected to accomplish each task, and what will make them successful.

 

What to Establish

Strategy and Governance

A clear program strategy with organized sponsorship and oversight is critical to the success and expansion of the RPA efforts.  Automation should be viewed as a capability, not a tool.  And all capabilities should be aligned to strategy.  With this leadership in place, policies, standards, and controls will need to be established to enable those participating in the program to have clarity and reduce risk. Lastly, funding to support the program is also necessary to ensure the proper technologies and personnel are in place to maintain the success of the program.

Operating Model

An organized Operating Model is essential to lasting RPA success.  The operating model defined will drive the program forward in organizing the RPA effort, setting governance principles and ensuring compliance, identifying the technology and infrastructure to leverage, approving investment, identifying processes to be automated, and building the team and skills to support the program.  Without a strong Operating Model, the long-term success of the RPA Program will be in jeopardy.  Embracing change of the operating model is also important.  The ‘Day One’ operating model will evolve as the capability scales.

 

Process Intake

Process intake is a critical aspect.  Intake is the accelerant to capturing the short payback periods of automation initiatives.  A clear approach is needed to identify, evaluate, and prioritize processes.   Considerations such as ensuring the process has a high volume of transactions, is rules based, is standardized and repeatable, and has structured data are just some key areas to evaluate.  In addition, processes should be evaluated based on their ROI or Business Outcomes.  Not all processes will have a direct ROI, but each should contribute to specific Business Outcomes.  To identify a process for automation, the ability to automate the process as well as the objectives to achieve by automating it should be considered against the other processes that have been identified.  Funding processes should also be taking into consideration when prioritizing automation candidates. 

Process Development and Management

Building processes should be methodical and standardized.  Poor design, testing, development standards, and exception handling will lead to increased maintenance and inconsistencies between processes.  Also, leveraging reusable components should be considered to reduce development and maintenance.

Technology & Innovation

Technology such as infrastructure, security, licensing, and release management are just a few considerations that should be made.  In addition, innovation such as determining which software to leverage and creating a vendor roadmap of future capabilities to leverage will lead to a more robust Intelligent Automation program.

Change Management

Change is bound to happen.  Employees need to be prepared and supported for the changes RPA will bring to their role and workload. Training is vital to direct and support team members of these changes. By ensuring employees are ready for the improvements and changes that come with the adoption of RPA processes, it will be more likely to gain employee approval. In addition, employees who understand the benefits of RPA can more readily identify new RPA processes needed to reduce chaos and increase productivity.  Change management should not be an afterthought. 

Summary

Governance should empower your teams to be successful.  It should be in place to allow teams to have guidance, reduce risk, and enable your organization to achieve their business objectives.  It should not be a complex approval process that limits entrepreneurship and progress.  Thoughtfully designed governance will be the lynchpin to ensure a successful RPA program.