Blog: RPA — 3 Shifts for Succeeding at Scale and at Speed
Our efforts to scale RPA, and deliver a robot for every person, will be in vain until we shift our focus from delivering technology, to leading and delivering change. We can continue to build great software but if people aren’t actually, actively using it; thriving in its use even, the opportunity to build something of consequence will be lost. If we are really serious in achieving longevity we must place the adoption and change management discipline, and digital adoption technologies, at the core of automation efforts. This is fundamental to our success as an industry.
Change Management is by no means a new discipline but it is brought into sharp focus by automation. Even now many of the most significant barriers to scaling RPA are change management issues.
- 17% Lack of a clear RPA vision
- 17% Lack of IT readiness
- 7% Lack of skills to implement
- 7% Resistance to change
- 5% Executive support/alignment
Consider how this picture changes as traditional back-end process automation merges with personal automation. What happens when Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cognitive Services are brought into the mix? These technologies already have a reputation for threatening jobs.
There are three shifts that we need to make. Shift one targets our implementation partners; Shift two, our products; and Shift 3, our customers.
- Shift 1: Make change management the nucleus of the RPA operating model.
- Shift 2: Integrate digital adoption technologies into automation platforms to drive consistency of change management efforts at scale.
- Shift 3: Build a ‘Guiding Coalition’ (think CoE) that uses Automation to bring urgency to change efforts.
Shift 1: Make change management the nucleus of the RPA operating model
At the end of last year the Everest Group produced The Smart RPA Playbook. This is an invaluable resource for anyone working within RPA delivery but it is also a good example of the problem. The Playbook fails to put the discipline right at the core of automation efforts. It’s somehow separate. Peripheral. Something for some other team to concern themselves with. The structure of the RPA Centre of Excellence in the Playbook is designed to align an understanding of your business and its processes, with an understanding of the potential of the technology. That’s the same of any technology implementation for the last 30 years. The challenge is getting an organisation behind a technology. Actually, actively using it. Thriving in its use even. This is where the challenge lies and where the shift must come.
At UiPath we recognise the need for the change management discipline and include an ‘RPA Change Manager’ as a role within the Robotic Operating Team.
“An RPA Change Manager is essential for securing an easy adoption of RPA within the company. They are the ones who create the Change and Communication plan aligned to the deliverables of the project. They are a catalyst in the transition process, making sure each stakeholder is well informed and comfortably tuned to the changes taking place.”
However the discipline is paid lip service to in most delivery models and is not the driving force. In my experience change programs are often reduced to carefully crafted emails and training programs. An afterthought rather than the main event.
The change manager is the person who owns the automation strategy on behalf of the project sponsor, and is responsible for changing the way people work. By far the most significant challenge and yet rarely a central role in an RPA CoE.
We have a choice. Deliver technology or change the way people work. Our delivery frameworks have to change if we want people to change.
Shift 2: Integrate digital adoption technologies into automation platforms to drive consistency of change management efforts at scale
The second shift that needs to take place is aimed squarely at the RPA vendors and targets the challenge of delivering change at scale.
For most organisations the Digital Transformation has so far been more ‘Digital Patch’, in large part a result of cultural challenges. The change management discipline has solutions to tackle this but solving the issue at scale requires a Herculean effort and real long term commitment. More often than not this is lacking and this is where new technology can play a critical role. Technology can be used to magnify change efforts so that they are considerably more effective at scale.
There is still no substitute to face to face engagement. If you want to communicate a strategy, reinforce a message, turn a detractor into an advocate, understand a viewpoint, make a message stick by contextualising it (and so on) it’s so much easier to be effective when the communication is face to face. This is why change programs rely on a network of ‘champions’ to magnify the efforts of the change management teams. Unfortunately this is rarely, consistently effective, particularly as the number of people targeted by the process increases. The larger the target audience, the larger the change effort required and the more inconsistent the results. The more people you need to change, the more diluted the message becomes and the more inconsistencies there will be in its delivery and impact.
A Digital Adoption Platform might never have the same impact as good face to face communication, and will not replace a change champion network, but what technology can do is improve timing, focus and consistency, and ultimately reach.
There are a number of technology solutions out there. WalkMe and Walkfix are but two. Their platforms provide solutions that a user can interact with before, during and after the introduction of a new technology. The platforms provide a means of consistent communication with the users, the advantage being that communication can occur at the point at which they need it, rather than at the point at which their local change champion can provide it; either embedded with the newly deployed application or alongside.
Imagine being notified by my UiPath robot when I follow the same manual steps more than 3 times in a day?
Functionality that not only guides users in the use of RPA as they make their first step tentative steps, but also delivers real time data as to the effectiveness of the functionality is enormously impactful. The vendor that takes this on will differentiate themselves quickly.
Shift 3: Build a ‘Guiding Coalition’ (think CoE) that uses Automation to bring urgency to change efforts
Automation is the big opportunity that leaders must get behind to embed speed and agility in their large organisations.
As a reaction to the constant threat from small, agile, ‘digital first’, companies, enterprises require a new organisational model; one that combines the characteristics of established hierarchy, with that of a startup. A proven strategy for delivering this hybrid model is to build a ‘Guiding Coalition’ (think CoE) tasked with a ‘big opportunity’. The big opportunity is automation.
What would your business look like if your teams could redirect a day each week towards activities that played to their strengths?
Over the next few years the technology will become considerably more accessible to more people and businesses that embrace it early will find themselves at a considerable advantage. I have written in much more detail about this topic in this article.
The three shifts that we need to make as software vendors, as customers and as partners are significant but they are achievable. If we don’t refocus on people the opportunity to build something of consequence will be lost.