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How to Build your RPA Center of Excellence

Building your Center of Excellence to Implement RPA

Organizations from around the globe are trying to implement RPA to improve the productivity of their business operations, reduce errors, and increase data security.

However, before you implement RPA and scale your use of it across the enterprise, you need to consider important factors such as the:

  • Software infrastructure
  • Organizational objectives
  • Organizational structure
  • Resources available
  • Governance of the RPA initiative

Creating an RPA Center of Excellence can significantly improve your ability to achieve your automation goals, ensure you reap the full value of RPA, and maximize your ROI.


What is an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE)?

A CoE is a way to embed and implement RPA deeply and effectively into the organization. It enables organizations to gather, assess, and manage the necessary knowledge and capabilities needed to effectively implement RPA. By bringing together people from different disciplines, a CoE can combine learning and oversight around a specific area, driving the organizations to align multiple disciplines together.

The CoE is focused on providing training, best practices, and resources for the organization. It standardizes the rules and guidelines that govern development, thus ensuring that all projects are a driver of organizational outcomes.


Why Implement an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE)?

Many organizations are realizing that implementing RPA at scale in silos is impossible. An RPA CoE brings people from various disciplines to share knowledge, collaborate, and develop automation in a more effective and streamlined manner. The CoE is designed to drive innovation, improvement, and collaboration - it enables teams to measure, experiment, and accelerate performance.

The RPA CoE is meant to drive all the functionalities of an RPA initiative to be successful. The model should include:

  • Organization: Considering the CoE within the enterprise context will ensure that RPA properly implemented throughout the organization. The CoE will dictate internal and external roles and responsibilities that will support the RPA initiative.
  • Governance: This establishes clear RPA standards, procedures, and policies along with governing bodies, escalation paths, and segregation of duties. It ensures that compliance regulation, security requirements, and regulatory standards are met. It will decide task prioritization and the level of access for different teams and employees.
  • Technology: It’s up to the RPA CoE to choose the right automation tools for the appropriate tasks and take care of the maintenance of them. The CoE acts as the architect of the robotic operating environment. It will support RPA integration into critical areas such as IT Service Management and Configuration Management Database.
  • Processes: The RPA CoE is in charge of evaluating automation opportunities, deploying RPA into suitable environments that are stable, scalable, and secure.
  • Operations: If the implementation of RPA is successful, there are some structural changes that will have to occur. These changes which can include changing job descriptions of human roles and overall operational change management is managed by the RPA CoE.

How to Build a Center of Excellence to Implement RPA

Building an RPA CoE requires more than just a generic IT team. It requires an essential team that will support that process from implementation, management, and scaling automation company-wide. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1: Build the skills and capacity for RPA

At the core of your CoE is the Robotic Operating Team which consists of a set of clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The team is in charge of implementing and managing the automation quickly, efficiently, and safely. A good RPA CoE team structure requires the following critical roles:

  • RPA Sponsor: First you will need to identify an RPA sponsor. This person should be from the business side and they will work to establish RPA as an enterprise-wide strategic priority. They will be accountable for the overall robotics strategy.
  • RPA Champion: The RPA champion will drive the RPA implementation and adoption process across the organization and ensure a healthy automation pipeline is developed. They will lead the operational management of the digital workforce.
  • RPA Change Manager: The RPA Change Manager is essential for ensuring the implementation of RPA within the organization is easy and scalable. It is their job to create the change and communication plan that is aligned with organizational objectives. They will ensure that each impacted stakeholder is aware of the changes and is comfortable with them taking place.
  • RPA Business Analyst: This person will be the Process Subject Matter expert for business operations. They will be in charge of creating process definitions and maps for automation.
  • RPA Solution Architect: This person is in charge of defining the architecture of the RPA solution and overseeing it from end-to-end. They will assist throughout the development and implementation phases of the initiative, as well as pick the best tools.
  • RPA Developer: The RPA Developer is in charge of designing, developing, testing, and supporting the implementation of the RPA solution. They will work with the business analyst to document process details and engage the team in implementing and testing the solution.
  • RPA Infrastructure Engineer: They are in charge of the infrastructure support for server installation and troubleshooting. This engineer contributes to the completion of the solution architecture for the project and is in charge of bringing everyone on board during the implementation phase.
  • RPA Supervisor: The RPA Supervisor will manage, orchestrate, and control the digital workforce as part of the operational environment. They focus on continuously improving the operational performance of the robots and allocating the resources by using analytical tools within the automation solution.
  • RPA Service Support: This role acts as the first line of assistance for the RPA solution when in deployment.

Step 2: Articulating an effective governance model

A good governance process goes a long way, and the sooner it’s set up in the automation transformation the better.

The governance process is in charge of assessing RPA opportunities and prioritizing automation activities. It establishes the templates and guidelines for assessment, design, development, deployment, demand pipeline, and change management. It is within the governance process where the protocol to effectively manage change and de-risk operations are established. This ensures that decisions are made quickly, effectively, and evenly across the organization. In addition, governance involves assigning roles to ensure strong collaboration and communication between business, IT, and compliance teams.

In order to effectively carry out impact assessments and highlight areas for business improvement, the governance process outlines the performance and productivity metrics.

Build a governance framework to overcome cultural barriers and manage change


While the implementation of RPA is usually business-driven, it’s important to get IT involved as early on as possible. But the business and IT cultures are inherently different, in fact, CIOs repeatedly cite business-IT alignment to be one of their top barriers to digital initiative progress.

Read This: How RPA Fosters an Improved Business-IT Relationship

To overcome cultural barriers ensure your governance framework is set up to facilitate change, work with your CoE leaders to:

  • Agree on a set of responsibilities that embeds prioritization and decision-making elements: By separating responsibilities from job roles, job titles, and personalities, you are effectively neutralizing many of the political challenges that are associated with governance. It becomes easier to define clear responsibilities and processes that enable rapid organizational evolution as development velocity and demand increases.
  • Embed the automation strategy into the existing governance mechanisms: Demonstrate to executives how automation supports the goals of the organization by sharing and embedding the CoE’s charter and objectives with established governance frameworks such as a senior executive committee that oversees the implementation strategy and technology.
  • Establish an automation governance board: Because the CoE has ownership of the top-level vision and strategy for the automation roadmap, it’s important to include stakeholders that will be directly affected by RPA as sponsors for the initiative. The governance board will review all proposed automation efforts, assess strategic business benefits, and prioritize initiatives.
  • Develop an enterprise automation roadmap: The enterprise automation roadmap is a document that is maintained over time to capture all opportunities for automation. It's best to have this document created and saved in a digital manner and stored in a centralized repository to ensure all stakeholders can ensure they are working off of the latest version and working towards achieving the organizational objectives.

Step 3: Enable CoE and prepare for scale-up

Many automation initiatives start by implementing RPA for use cases that are “quick win” opportunities. However, focusing the CoE around the low hanging fruit can lead to several challenges in the long run, hindering your ability to fully scale across the organization. To position your CoE for long-term success:

  • Start with one project - but plan for many: Give your CoE one project in the beginning that works to solve a real business project. Use this as a baseline for future projects, and eventually large-scale RPA. You need to make sure to manage both resources and expectations for the inevitable requests when you open the opportunity of RPA up to the rest of the organization.
  • Embed learning along the way: It’s important to reflect on what worked well and what could’ve been better, regardless of which stage you are in your automation journey. Formalize the practice of conducting “after-action reviews” and “before-action reviews” as you’re developing your CoE to ensure lessons are learned and that the organizational culture shifts to believe in continuous innovation and iterative work.
  • Manage the complexity of technical debt: For a CoE to help an organization achieve its RPA goals, then it must also manage the technology’s underlying complexities. This means that it’s up to members of the CoE to control the source code, manage versioning challenges, and the dynamic credentials for bots to access existing systems.
  • Expect the role and operating model of the CoE to evolve over time: As people become comfortable in their operational areas they can start to take on more responsibility. As time goes on, the roles, expectations, and job descriptions will likely evolve in tandem with the automation journey.
  • Guide the CoE to explore hyperautomation: As the CoE matures, it should seek opportunities to augment business processes and achieve end-to-end process automation.


Key Recommendations to Implement an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE)

A CoE has a wide range of benefits that can significantly improve your business’s ability to scale automation, but neither is an easy task. Here are some key recommendations to remember as you build your RPA Center of Excellence:

  1. Treat RPA as an enterprise capability
  2. Focus on developing your RPA skills
  3. Establish a mature communication plan