Cockpit Trouble – how to do it better – part 1

Why some IPA programs soar, while others crash and burn

By Shaun Dawson, CEO at Robiquity, Inc

I started flying sailplanes several years ago, and there is something that happens to be almost every time I go out flying that I am often reminded of during the apocalypse we are going through.

You see, I am generally a pretty good pilot (ask Daniel Dines, which is a fun story), but compared to people who have really mastered the craft, I am a below average glider pilot. Flying a glider is all about finding and exploiting sources of lift, which are different hour by hour and location by location, and it is an art that is honed by hours and hours in the sky.

The thing that happens to me while flying gliders that I’m reminded of often these days is that however good of a power pilot I might be, in gliders I often feel like I’m struggling to keep the plane in the sky, even that I’m fighting against nature instead of cooperating with it.  Invariably, I’ll be flailing at the controls, trying to milk every tiny ounce of lift I can find, when I’ll witness a friend, in the same kind of plane I am in, at the same time, and nearly the same location climb effortlessly away. 

It is the difference between familiarization and mastery.

In my (comparatively) long tenure as the head of organizations in the IPA space, I have seen this same sort of thing play out dozens of times in IPA practices. Some organizations just struggle to eek out the tiniest benefit from their practice, and some just seem to succeed effortlessly. But behind every example of “effortless” execution is years of toil, mastering the tools, techniques, and best practice. Just as my powered airplane capabilities only roughly translate to flying in sailplanes, experience and capabilities in executing IT transformation projects is only partially useful in an IPA context. In many cases, your instincts lead you astray.

During this pandemic, what Phil Fersht has delightfully coined the ‘new abnormal’ means that the need for Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) technology and its ability to drive transformation faster - with fewer resources than before – will only be greater as we hunker down, then begin to emerge. One of the biggest problems for organizations when automating their business processes with IPA is how to sustain and scale up these activities. The reality is that not enough business automation projects are really progressing past infancy and merely getting the technology in house and grinding out a couple of bots does not really move the needle. You need a wholistic IPA practice that delivers consistent, repeatable results on an ongoing basis.

The people, process and structure behind IPA are more important than the technology itself. The key here is having a robust delivery methodology right from the start. These are the critical factors that determine success and failure. Below are several steps that must be undertaken to ensure that your IPA practice becomes an ongoing value generator across your operations.

Align with a vision 

For any IPA practice to have a chance to succeed, we need an explicit strategy and purpose. An IPA practice has tons of benefits, such as improving data quality, operational efficiency, process quality and employee empowerment, or enhancing stakeholder experiences by providing quicker, more accurate responses. Save cost, improve quality, blah, blah blah…  All of these are important, but they none of them are exactly flags to rally around. The vision of your IPA strategy should be aligned to wider needs of the business and should be at least somewhat inspiring. Here is one idea to get you thinking:

We elevate our personnel by enabling the business to leverage our humans for what they can do uniquely well, leaving rote, mundane, repetitive tasks to the machines. We do this by leveraging RPA and IPA technologies in a reliable, repeatable way to deliver measurable and meaningful results to the business.

It is critical to secure the backing of key stakeholders. When you encounter a roadblock getting robot IDs because HR says that they need a headshot for the parking pass they are going to issue (yes, this is a real example),  you need someone in your corner with the authority to change that process, because it hardly applies to robotic workers.   If your stakeholders see RPA as a strategic business project, they will support it – and provide the necessary financial and human resources too. IPA is always a joint endeavor between IT and the business, so both parties must be involved at the beginning. IT will support IPA on many critical fronts, such as compliance with IT security, auditability, the supporting infrastructure, its configuration, and scalability. The business provides the backlog of Opportunities, and the business framework necessary to close the value loop on the automations.

Are you struggling with your IPA journey? Consider having us do a maturity assessment to help tweak your process and provide actionable insight to align with the latest industry best practices. Read more here. Need to upskill your crew? Look at some of our training offerings here. Finally, we are expanding! Do you strive to be among the best in the world at delivering IPA value to businesses? Consider joining our team.