As businesses continue to evolve and embrace the digital age, intelligent automation has become essential to their operations. An Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence (IACoE) helps organizations streamline and optimize their automation strategy and initiatives, ensuring they are effective, efficient, scalable, and sustainable.

IACoEs can be implemented at any point in the automation journey, from organizations beginning to set up their automation program to those who have begun to see the benefits of existing intelligent automation and want to scale their initiatives to increase the ROI. However, setting up a CoE can be challenging, and many organizations need help to get it right. This article will outline some of the best practices for standing up an Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence.

1. Define your objectives, goals, and culture.

Before establishing an IACoE, it’s essential to define the objectives and goals the organization wants to achieve. This includes identifying the expected benefits, outcomes, and overall vision for the CoE. Doing so will align automation efforts with the overall business strategy and ensure value to the organization. It’s important to assess the business processes that are most critical to achieving the strategic goals; this will help maximize the benefits of intelligent automation. Both the objectives and goals will be supported by fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement for the success of the IACoE.

2. Establish the right governance structure.

The CoE should involve both business and technical roles to ensure that cross-functional collaboration is established early in the process. Once key stakeholders are identified, it’s important to establish the right governance structure. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, decision-making processes, and communication channels. There are three different types of governance models that organizations can adopt for the IACoE based on organization size and goals:

  1. Centralized: In this model, the CoE is centralized and controlled by a single team or department. This allows for a consistent approach to automation and can be more efficient regarding resource allocation and decision-making.
  2. Decentralized (Siloed): In a decentralized model, different departments or business units have their automation initiatives and teams. This can provide more flexibility and agility but may lead to inconsistent approaches and inefficiencies to automation across the organization.
  3. Federated: The CoE works closely with other departments or business units to develop and implement automation initiatives in a collaborative manner. This allows for collaboration and knowledge-sharing while still maintaining a level of central control.

Choose the right development approach.

The best development approach for automation depends on specific needs and circumstances, however, many organizations find the agile methodology is well-suited for automation development, as it is flexible, iterative, and collaborative. This involves a small team developing the product in short sprints, thus ensuring that feedback from users and stakeholders is incorporated into the solution, providing the opportunity to evaluate and enhance the solution over time continually. The additional benefits include ensuring the right people engage in the project at the right place in development, and developers can quickly respond to complex issues as they arise.

Build a toolset.

Investing in the right technology and tools is critical to the success of the IACoE. Selecting the right low-code platform, ancillary tools, and software that meet business requirements is essential to developing scalable and flexible solutions which can be integrated into other systems. Beyond the automation platform, it is essential to identify process mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and analytics and reporting tools.

Define success.

It is essential to measure the success of automation initiatives and enhance capabilities when there is room for improvement. This involves tracking KPIs and metrics, including manual hours saved, passes, skips, fails, cost savings, and process efficiency, and using this data to identify areas of improvement. By continuously enhancing automation capabilities, organizations ensure they deliver real value to the business per the overall strategy.

Evangelize employees.

Intelligent automation can significantly alter how processes are worked and employees interact with technology and peers. Employees are essential to the success of the IACoE, and fostering support across the entire organization is crucial. Encourage team members to learn how automation supports them and provide access to information to sharpen automation skills to establish automation-friendly practices and enhance collaboration on automation-related projects. By leveraging the skills and expertise of employees with a deep understanding of business processes, organizations can accelerate the development and implementation of automation solutions. Additionally, the citizen developer model can help to promote a culture of innovation and collaboration within the organization. However, providing adequate training and support to citizen developers is important to ensure their solutions are secure, scalable, and meet the organization’s overall automation strategy.

Standing up an Intelligent Automation CoE requires careful planning and execution. By following these best practices, organizations can guarantee that their automation initiatives are aligned with business objectives, deliver value, scale automation initiatives enterprise-wide, and set up for long-term success.