ROC: The perfect catalyst for RPA
The simple bots that are destined to replace repetitive human activity are making inroads in almost all industries. A recent Gartner report suggests that RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is the fastest growing software segment. The reason for RPA adoption could be many – traditional businesses going after RPA for infrastructure and operations automation and new age businesses tapping RPA’s it’s continuous modernization capabilities. Most of the efforts are towards enabling and implementing automation processes, but many fail to recognize post-implementation pitfalls, which can crash or even stop an organization’s RPA initiative.
In large enterprises, bot production happens in Automation Factories and maintenance happens in ROCs (Robotic Operations Center). The main advantage of having an automation factory is that it will be able to provide automation across organizations with better quality, reduced cost, fewer implications and at a faster rate. Bots developed in the automation factories move to ROC, when they are in the production stage.
Get ready to scale your RPA workforce
Often, businesses start their automation with a few bots and eventually grow. Scalability and maintenance becomes a real challenge, as a bot is built with predetermined rules and mimics human activity. In this perspective, RPA is deterministic in nature. What do you do when you hit 50+ or 100+ bots? You need to ensure that bot is coded for scalability. If not, when the time comes to add one more bot to the same process, there might be a lot of rework to scale. It defeats the whole purpose of doing an RPA for the process.
Overall, checklists can ensure to meet all the relevant tasks and specifications. Having a bot checklist right from the time of bot development adds accountability. Instead of ticking items from a checklist to move the bots from production to maintenance, it is recommended to build an implementation vendor checklist to ensure the bots meet the expected standards and are easily maintainable. To scale and maintain bot operations, you need to follow four major checklists:
- Process Definition Document (PDD)
- Development Specification Document (DSD)
- Architecture (Business, Data, Security, Infrastructure, Compliance)
- Project Sign Offs
- Development environment & License handover (L3)
- Performance Metrics
- Coding Standards (ReFramework)
- Audit & Business Logs for metrics
- Failure Email Notification
- Code Reviews
- Bot Scalability Check
- Open defects
- Latest Code & Branching Strategy (L3)
Standard Operating Procedure
- Business Continuity Plan
- Application dependencies
- Well defined Support Flow
- Disaster Recovery Plan
- Stakeholder Register
- Communication Plan
- Escalation Matrix
- Hotfix Runbooks
- Coverage Plan
- Defined OLAs
- Credentials (BOT, Application)
- Define Roles and Responsibilities
- Approved Funding (Support)
- Defined OLAs
- SPOC Handover for Integrated Applications
- Required Business Reports
- Review SLA Report
- Engagement Feedback
A lot of the items mentioned in the support intake checklists span across various phases of the bot development, including the planning stage itself and have to be considered even before bot development. As a prerequisite, organizations need to carefully consider each item in the checklists and document their company’s needs.
Preventing RPA disaster with bot monitoring and maintenance
Automation is not something that you can setup once and expect to run forever. Things like process changes, updation of interfaced applications, security patches applied to one or more software applications that comes within the purview of the automation process can have an impact on the bots. Therefore, when bots come to ROC, it becomes important to maintain control of the automation activities to proactively recognize gaps, address all possible conflicts and overcome potential downtime. ROC takes up this responsibility, through multiple bot hypercare activities by setting up:
- ROC governance: provides a framework for all the activities that happen in a ROC setup
- Incident management process: describes how incidents need to be managed at various levels of support
- Problem management process: describes how to handle incidents that unfold as problems
All these processes target to improve the efficiency of the ROC team, which effectively prevents disasters. Bots need constant monitoring and maintenance throughout their lifecycle. It is recommended to have a good understanding of all the processes that happen in an ROC.
“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – having this attitude is a nosedive in RPA initiatives. While RPA CoEs (Center of Excellence) empower organizations to evolve strategically and increase business, ROCs help build a strong foundation for scaling digital workforce with effective bot maintenance and governance strategies.