RPA and Intelligent Automation: Why establish an Automation Center of Excellence?

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Through my various roles at IBM, I have had the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of Nordic clients on a regular basis. Common for all of them = On a quest to add value in an ever changing digital era.

Value is determined by assessing current performance, together with the future potential.

That means executives are on a never ending journey to operate efficiently in the present, while building the future and a better version of their organizations.

Thriving in the digital era has become imperative to succeed in both disciplines.

So how do companies thrive in a changing digital landscape?

In order to operate efficiently and build the future generations of themselves, the majority of the companies I meet, are leveraging a colorful palette of usual-suspect-technologies like AI, Cloud, Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation and chat bots. This, of course coupled with a mature digital core on the back of for e.g. the ERP system (This core is as many readers may know, not always geared for the 2020 version of digital transformation – but that is a different blog post).

Common for these usual-suspect-technologies is the aim to intelligently reinvent the way processes and people work, with the goal of delivering value to customers and shareholder.

Source: The human-machine interchange – How intelligent automation is reconstructing business operations 

A core part of what we at IBM do is exactly this; designing, implementing and managing intelligent and automated processes to increase business value.

In Denmark for example, we are working with the retailer Salling leveraging Robotic Process Automation (watch this video), the financial service provider Industriens Pension, leveraging AI and conversational agents (read this article) and Fødevarestyrelsen, a public institution, leveraging intelligent workflows/business process management (learn more here).

All cases are examples of using intelligent automation to make processes and people smarter and faster.

The key to success for these initiatives is to start small, create a measurable business value in production, but from the get-go have an understanding of the fact that at a given time, scalability, infrastructure, processes and organisation will become key enables of continued success and return on investment.

This is one of the reasons why we at IBM work with many clients on establishing (or re-launching) their Automation Center of Excellence.

Why are companies implementing an Automation Center of Excellence (CoE)?

First of all, it is impossible to perfectly integrate People, Processes and Technology in complete harmony.

It just will never happen, because of inherent struggles like organisational politics, the speed of which technology moves and the need for stability in core business processes and applications.

So stop aiming for the perfect state. Period.

The purpose of the Automation CoE is to get clients as close to perfect as possible by executing on the automation/digital strategy. It is the intersection of People, Processes and Technologies that make intelligent automation real.

The CoE defines the governance structure and helps identify and prioritise the pipeline. It furthermore provides the skills and technology to design, develop and manage the automations. Throughout the cycle, the CoE guides technology selection, resource management and benefits realisation at scale.

Source: IBM Automation Insider 

How does a successful CoE look?

The correct (and unredeemed) answer is: “It depends”.

The CoE can have different operating models dependant on the organisation in which it sits. This, among other things, comes down to whether the CoE should be federated (decentralised), centralised or a hybrid between the two. Furthermore, it is CRITICAL, that the CoE is connecting stakeholders from Executive Management, Business and IT. This ensures that all parties work towards a shared strategic business goal. The mutual and long term success of automation at scale depends on (near) frictionless cooperation.

To support this, HfS Research in Autumn 2019 invited IBM and 32 other automation industry experts to discuss the rules making Automation efforts a success.

Guess what? “Collaboration between IT and business” came out as Rule #1 and as Rule #3 the expert panel highlighted that “The automation strategy has to clearly connect with an overarching business strategy” (read the report).

The CoE facilitates exactly this, so why not get started right away?

IBM’s model for CoE competency areas. Source: IBM


The expert panel that created the new RPA Manifesto. Source: HfS

Additional Reading

Video: See how IBM help companies with RPA and Intelligent Automation (in Danish)

Webinar: Set your New Year’s Resolutions for a successful Automation program in 2019

Podcast: Exploring the Cognitive Enterprise with IBM’s Gene Chao

Article: Seven Features of a succesful Automation Center of Excellence

Research paper: IBM IBV: The human-machine interchange – How intelligent automation is reconstructing business operations 

Sign up for our Automation Newsletter: IBM Automation Insider

I am happy to share insights with you on how clients are succeeding with their intelligent automation initiatives, so please feel free to reach out directly to me at

Managing Consultant - Application Development, Management and Innovation, IBM

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