Although RPA can bring plenty of benefits to organizations, including the elimination of errors, compliance improvements, 24×7 processing, and cost reductions, it is no surprise that implementing RPA will require investment in both time and effort. Some organizations choose to do this themselves, in which case it takes longer and requires more internal effort, or they choose to bring in external specialists, which can cost more but get things done quicker and with greater surety. Either way, the organization has spent time and money to get to those RPA benefits RPA: so why, then, do many of those same organizations neglect to put in place the appropriate support and maintenance arrangements to ensure that their investments are safeguarded and the benefits fully realized?
A good advisor will, of course, make sure that you have the appropriate support arrangements in place, but more often than not the focus of an internal team is on the implementation, with the ongoing running of the services forgotten completely or only considered when it is too late.
So what are the key things to consider about the ongoing support of your RPA implementations? Here are a few that we would recommend any organization look at before you have even started the implementation phase of the work.
Remember the Business Case
Build the support and maintenance costs into the overall business case from the start. Just considering the build costs is short-sighted and disingenuous, and will either lead to cost over-runs or process failure. See a success story example here.
Align with the current organization
Think about how the various support and maintenance elements fit into your existing capabilities. For example, if you already have an IT Service Desk in place that takes and logs incidents, then it probably makes sense to use that. If you don’t then you will likely need to set one up. The second line support is where most of the action takes place so that will probably require new skills to be brought in, or the use of a specialist provider (see Outsourcing point below). The third line support will be provided by the RPA software vendors, so make sure you have these arrangements in place and that they align with your organization’s capability. Many organizations build Centres of Excellence for RPA, and, if that is the case, the support capability (at least the second line support) should probably sit within this. For organizations that have built many RPA processes, or at least have the ambition to, then a Robotic Operations Centre (ROC) could be the way to go – this is analogous to a Network Operations Centre which acts as the centralized monitoring center for the technology.
Don’t forget the processes
Many people think that supporting RPA is simply about making sure the technology works. But RPA is rather unique in that it is intrinsically linked to the processes that it has automated. For example, a robot could stop working because it wasn’t configured correctly and has hit an exception, but it might crash because the process has changed due to some regulatory requirements. So, an RPA support capability must consider the business processes just as much as the technology itself. That means the support organization must be kept completely in the Change Management loop, so as many requirements as possible can be identified proactively, whether these are changes to the underlying systems or changes to the processes themselves. It is important to ensure that the services that are provided allow not only for the reactive fixing but the proactive changes, patching, and upgrades as well.
Manage those service levels
Just like any IT support capability, an RPA one should be run on agreed service level agreements (SLAs). These will generally be between the ‘business’ and the RPA support organization, and will include measures such as ‘time to respond’, ‘time to resolve’ and ‘aged backlog’. Importantly, the SLAs must reflect the criticality of the business processes that they are supporting – some business-critical processes will require an almost immediate response, whilst others can wait a few days before being fixed.
Where to put the resources
Just as with the RPA implementation services, the support ones can be managed in-house or outsourced. The benefits of outsourcing are well known, but with the relative immaturity of RPA technology compared to ‘traditional’ IT, the high rate of change of the RPA vendors’ software, and the need to consider the business processes alongside the technology, an outsourced solution can often be the best and least riskiest approach. Organizations should also consider where the support resources should physically be based – some will undoubtedly be required on-site, but the majority can be situated remotely and even offshore. You just need to make sure that there is appropriate access to the various systems available to the team.
These, in our view, are some of the key aspects that organizations need to consider when thinking about how to support their RPA implementations. The crucial thing though is to do this early, and ideally before the implementation work has even started. If you’d like to find out more about how Roboyo can help you organize and set up your RPA support capability then please do get in touch.