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Outlining the key functions of an automation center of excellence

By: Christopher M. Wells, Ph. D.
April 13, 2022 | Confessions from a data scientist leader, Intelligent Document Processing

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In recent weeks we’ve covered why it’s beneficial for companies interested in intelligent document processing technology to establish an automation center of excellence (COE) as well as how to go about building a COE. In this post, we’ll get into the main functions and responsibilities of a COE.

In short, a COE is responsible for establishing, deploying and evangelizing your intelligent document processing program. If IDP is to deliver on its promise of real, transformative change in your organization, someone has to lead the charge – and that is a key function of the COE.

 

Sourcing effective automation tools

Getting to that point requires the automation COE to build up skills, tools and credibility. One early step, then, is to source effective tools and technology to help your organization reach its automation goals.

Chances are your company has some experience with robotic process automation and perhaps tools that take a templated approach to automation. Probably you’ve discovered those tools may work well with specific use cases that involve highly structured documents and content. Many are even marketed as handling just one or two uses cases, such as invoices or email. The COE will want to find tools that work with a variety of use cases. That saves money vs. buying numerous discreet tools, and ensures the time and effort put into learning how to use a tool will apply over and over again.

Similarly, a tool that can automate processes involving not just structured but unstructured content will be far more valuable, because it will apply to far more use cases across your organization – a key criteria when it comes to scaling your automation program. (See this earlier blog post to learn why commercial realtor Cushman & Wakefield put a premium on the ability to address a variety of automation use cases when it was choosing an IPD platform.)

 

Developing an automation methodology

Another crucial function of an automation COE is to develop a methodology and framework for process automation projects. The idea is to come up with enterprise standards and guidelines, so you’re not stuck with a series of one-off automation projects that all use different tools and approaches, and don’t integrate with one another or the rest of your IT infrastructure. A sound framework will also help promote scalability of your automation program, which is key to realizing its promise and ROI.

 

Identify resources and funding model

An automation COE should also identify what resources will be required to implement automation projects, and whether they already exist in-house. To a large extent, resource amounts to people: those who will ultimately be responsible for building out automation models, monitoring results and adjusting as necessary. While the COE will certainly be intimately involved in these efforts initially, achieving scalability requires such functions be spread out more broadly.

The concept of citizen data scientists helps in that effort. Also known as citizen developers, this involves having the business people who best understand your document processes build the models to automate those processes. Such an approach promotes scalability and stands in stark contrast to having IT and data scientists build all automation models.

Like any other project, an automation effort costs money, so another COE responsibility is determining the funding model that best fits your organization. That may be a chargeback model based on time or number of users, and it may vary depending on the payment terms your automation vendors apply. The COE can also help determine how automation is funded, such as through savings or via chargebacks to business units.

 

Identify use cases, evangelize results

Funding projects is far easier if they demonstrate value. So, another key function of the COE is to identify initial use cases or proof of concept projects that can deliver value and return-on-investment in a relatively short time, meaning weeks.

Working in conjunction with the business unit, the COE should define the POC success criteria. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be 100% automation – which is probably not a reasonable goal out of the gate. Rather, if you can automate even 50% or 75% of a process, that constitutes a significant savings.

Once your success criteria are met, the next step is to evangelize the results. The COE, with the help of business units, should spread the word about the value the automation technology brings, to get other groups thinking about their own use cases.

Before long, the COE will be working with numerous use cases to expand the organization’s automation efforts. How best to work with LOBs is the subject of our next post in this COE series.

In the meantime, learn more about how the Indico Unstructured Data Platform can help you automate all sorts of document-intensive processes, including those involving unstructured data, by checking out our interactive demo or by scheduling a live demo.

 

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