June 16, 2020

What is a Robotics Operating Center of Excellence and Why Does it Matter?

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A Center of Excellence (COE) is one of the most commonly adopted terms used by commercial and government organizations today. However, this can be a nebulous definition used to describe very different entities.

Some COE descriptions come with varied capabilities, mandates, and scope spanning from simply defining guidelines and best practices that can benefit a large organization, to controlling access to emerging technology and the resources required to leverage those capabilities.

In more practical terms, a COE is focused on capabilities that enable the adoption and use of technology to drive business value. Rather than think of them as a monolithic overseer of a function or discipline, a COE provides structure, governance, guidance, policies, standards, and guardrails for your organization. To further simplify, it is merely another program tasked with carrying out a function or delivering value to the organization.

In the context of RPA, we have adopted the term Robotic Operating Center (ROC) because it has a focus of operations and execution rather than simple standards and definitions. Standards and policies are often an important factor in helping organizations succeed with adopting and deploying new technologies. However, building on our practical view of ROCs, we see the main purpose of a formal program is to increase the odds that an organization will be successful in adopting RPA in a long-term, sustainable way.

The capability areas that should be part of the scope of a ROC fall broadly into four categories:

        • Strategy: Future state vision and strategic requirements of your program stakeholders
        • Governance: Key capabilities necessary to deliver on your program goals
        • People: Human factors influencing success and helping people affected by change to adjust to the new state
        • Operations: Operational support elements reinforcing the program and ensuring sustainability and scaling – business, IT, and RPA platform.

Expanding on these four pillars, the above illustration shows specific focus areas that are beneficial to achieving the goals of the program. While most organizations that create a formal RPA program will not have a fully defined function for each of these capabilities, they will consider them all and make choices about which focus areas are most important to their specific situation. At a minimum the COE will identify the capabilities they provide and govern with a varying degree of formality. Below is an illustration of a fully defined Robotic Center of Excellence.

One side of the capabilities spectrum might be a set of definitions and best practices to guide stakeholders, while the other could be a formal policy managing access to technology where the program controls the resources that have responsibility for handling the execution of that function within the organization. Ultimately, most commercial organizations will not need robust support for all of these capabilities, but you should consider them all and develop those focus areas that are most important to the success within your specific environment.

This table illustrates a few common challenges and obstacles many organizations face in establishing a Robotic Operating Center.

It is important not to lose sight of the overall goal of adopting RPA. Creating sufficient structure and foundation will aid your effort to unlock the massive potential transformation and the generated business value. Organizations that reach this milestone show a commitment to delivery and excellence, and a determination to improve the effectiveness of the products and services they deliver. When standing up a ROC, it is important to think differently about how RPA can benefit the organization broadly, and commit to supporting and enabling rather than simply controlling. By providing a value-added menu of capabilities that enable the organization to be successful while controlling risks, you will win the hearts and minds of your stakeholders. Provide the guardrails in an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use format, and look for any opportunity to remove friction in the governance process.


Interested in learning more about establishing a Robotic Operating Center of Excellence?

Download our guidebook for an insight on why a COE matters, the steps and key considerations necessary to establishing a world-class program, and how to maximize your business value.