RPA Foundations: Communication and Engagement.

25th August 2020

Mark Barrett

Solving problems and increasing productivity with automation. We specialise in workforce led process improvements releasing time for more rewarding work

Invested in RPA, what’s next?

The business case stacked up, you are deploying the first licenses of your RPA solution, and work has started on your first priority process. Word has got out and the wider organisation has heard about this new tool that will free staff from boring and repetitive tasks, improving quality of work, productivity, and customer value.

So what’s next?

  • How do you manage the requests to use this new tool, that is now seen as the answer to so many problems?
  • When will you be ready to start on processes 2, 3, 4, and the many more that are being put forward?
  • How can you manage this while your team is learning and forming?

These are all common questions when scaling the use of RPA. The Centre of Excellence model is one framework that helps to define the roles and functions you need. Robotic operating models go a step further providing methodologies covering the core layers of activity that are required for effective automation operations and scale. But these tend to form and develop along the automation journey and shouldn’t hold you back from gaining the rapid benefits achievable from RPA that will go on to fund your maturing capability.

So, what can you do now that will help set expectations and build the foundations of good process governance and scale, while minimising the strain on resources?

With the accelerating adoption of RPA, we are being asked these questions more frequently. So we thought it would be worth sharing our simple three-step process that can help at this pivotal time.

  • Step one: communication, and expectation setting.
  • Step two: engagement, and ideas capture.
  • Step three: feedback, and repeat.

Step 1. Understanding of what RPA is and what it can deliver can vary greatly. It is worth putting together and sharing a short overview of RPA, with the context of how it is intended to be used in your organisation to communicate your vision and set expectations.

This should include what RPA is capable of and what its limitations are. This is a great time to endorse the message that RPA is about making work better and more productive by automating repetitive boring tasks. Include the vision statement and some of the benefits you expect to achieve for staff and customers (patients in the NHS), and how RPA will support this. Include the roadmap and mechanism for people to engage the automation initiative while setting expectations on timescales and capacity. Produced as a template this can be rapidly shared as an email, an article in an internal newsletter, or as a page on an internal site.

Step 2. An important part of early engagement and managing the interest is having a clear timescale for when ideas will be discussed. This can include dates for activities where people can come together to discuss their ideas for automation, either in virtual or physical sessions (subject to safe working). Setting a date for this type of engagement sets expectations on when you expect to be ready to engage and helps structure the enthusiastic stream of requests into a more manageable pipeline.

The target dates for this activity should be included in your communication and planned for as part of your project activities. Utilise partners, suppliers, and vendors to assist where needed, as it’s in everybody’s interest for your organisation to rapidly benefit and scale your automation initiative. Try to keep sessions small to make sure everybody gets time and has a voice. We have found that between 5 and 12 people work well as you need to be able to immediately evolve and feedback on ideas in the session. This is also an opportunity to educate and enable people to start self-governing their process ideas and selection.

Step 3. At this point, time has been invested in understanding the automation initiative and opportunity, resulting in lots of great ideas and automation candidates. You now have a selection of processes that will deliver real value and make work more rewarding and productive for many. You are also likely to have a pipeline of processes for future automation, and some that are a great idea in principle, but the business case doesn’t yet stack up. Now is the time to feedback and thank everyone for their contribution. It is also the time to work out how to deal with processes that can’t be accommodated by the automation initiative but do need to be recognised and addressed by other means.

We like to focus on three main feedback points here, but you may find more as you evolve.

1.     For ideas and processes that deliver a compelling business case within your technical and resource capability, you can start engaging the stakeholders. Deliver the reasons why their processes have been selected so they can share this with colleagues and peers.

2.     Where processes have a compelling case but fall out of your immediate capacity to deliver, feedback the reasons why the process has been selected as well as the timescales. It is useful to explain how you manage the pipeline with your reasons and constraints, so your audience can better understand the need to wait.

3.     Not all processes will be viable, but these need to be recognised and addressed. Feedback on why the automation initiative can’t accommodate these with guidance on how the initiative will record and raise these for review. This can help avoid negative feelings and deliver an ongoing positive perception of how the organisation is recognising and managing ideas for improvement.

It doesn’t need to take a lot of effort to create templates for these activities and to run the sessions. Leverage the resources around you to help with the initial production of content and running of engagement workshops. Very quickly this input and feedback loop can help to accelerate your automation initiative, providing valuable funding for scale from increased productivity and efficiencies.

Here at Automation Outcomes, we have helped many organisations through this exciting and potentially challenging phase in RPA deployment and scale. If you would like any further detail on this topic or other areas of assistance , contact us for an informal conversation. Alternatively, look out for and attend one of the virtual events or round tables promoted on LinkedIn that we support, to discuss your questions or experiences with experts and peers.

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