Adopting a Tripartite Approach to RPA


Tripartism refers to the collaboration among HR, BUs and IT throughout the entire automation journey. Typically, these tripartite partners make up members of the organization’s Automation Centre of Excellence (CoE). The Automation CoE helps ensure the success of any automation programme by providing leadership, governance, best practices, resources, among many others.

This tripartite approach to RPA is unique because most conversations centre on whether the business or technology department should own the RPA initiative. HR is often nothing more than an afterthought.

But as anyone who has been involved in change management can readily attest, the blueprint for implementing and scaling RPA successfully always includes three key ingredients – people, process and technology. This makes eminent good sense. Afterall, the strategic value of RPA arguably lies in empowering people through harmonizing processes and leveraging technology.

Challenges in Robotic Process Automation

In The State of Intelligent Automation 2019 report, advisory firm HfS Research highlighted the list of inhibitors holding companies back from achieving their strategic and operational goals with Intelligent Automation.

Source: HfS Research

Adopting a tripartite approach in RPA can help unblock many of these inhibitors that are plaguing RPA implementations, particularly for enterprise-wide rollouts, i.e. beyond the initial Proof-of-Concept or Pilot. Here are just a few examples.

Change management concerns over the effect on employees

In many organizations with ongoing automation and digitalization initiatives, there is undoubtably a degree of automation anxiety – a pulpable sense of fear among existing employees over job losses. And who can blame them? As Upton Sinclair aptly described, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

So, companies need to get real. If the stated goal of RPA is to boost productivity (and not eliminate headcounts), both HR and L&D (Learning and Development) teams need to be onboarded early in the journey to work on a few critical tasks, such as:

  • Organize activities like town halls to communicate the value of automation to employees

  • Perform job redesign, including revamping employee scorecards, for roles affected by automation

  • Put in place a framework for the re-skilling and up-skilling of affected employees

  • Provide workplace counselling to ease automation anxiety

  • Recruit specialist roles to address the lack of in-house talents (another key inhibitor)

Concerns about changes in governance and risk management

One of the key value proposition of RPA software is its ease of use. Interestingly, the two major players in this space – UiPath and Automation Anywhere – has recently announced new product releases (see UiPath StudioX and Enterprise A2019 respectively) that is upping the ante in this regard.

But this ease of use can be a double-edge sword. The emergence of this so-called Citizen Developers is creating some angst among CIOs and IT executives, who fret over the security and governance of the digital workers spawned.

This is in addition to a commonly held viewpoint that RPA is nothing more than a short-term band aid (as compared to APIs). Or that RPA is no more than a fancy version of Excel macros that will lead to substantial technical debt in the long-run. More on this in a later article.

Unfortunately, this has sometimes resulted in a grand RPA tug of war between business and technology teams.

What gives? The reality is that the democratization of automation has arguably unleashed the pent-up demands within business to operate at the speed of their customers, not their IT department.

Hence, IT needs to play a facilitator role throughout the RPA journey, performing activities such as:

  • Involve in the evaluation and selection of the RPA software

  • Set up and maintain the entire RPA enterprise platform, including infrastructure

  • Ensure compliance to security and privacy rules and regulations

  • Provide bot governance, e.g. dictating coding standards and best practices

  • Provide proactive and regular communications to bot owners, e.g. system downtimes, application upgrades and enhancements, etc

  • Augment business users with developmental resources (if required), especially when automating more complex use cases

All hands on deck

As we like to say, RPA is simple, but not easy. Implementing automation at scale successfully requires a whole-of-organization approach with business, technology and HR all playing significant roles.

Good automating!

Do you agree with this tripartite approach to RPA? Do drop us a comment below.

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***The Three Laws of Robotic Process Automation:

  1. The purpose of the RPA software robots is to augment the existing human workforce.

  2. The human managers are responsible for the actions of the RPA software robots.

  3. The learning and development needs of the RPA software robots are no less than that of the human employees

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