Using Agile to build a robotic process automation Center of Excellence at scale

By Cinthia Murillo

Key Points: 

  • The fast-paced nature of robotic process automation (RPA) requires agility, accuracy and flexibility within a Center of Excellence (CoE) framework
  • Using an Agile approach for implementing RPA helps maintain visibility, manage risk, and enable flexibility
  • Agile drives short development cycles that deliver viable, iterative products to the client

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Yes, today’s businesses are increasingly focused on RPA for business processes and IT applications. But what does Agile have to do with it?

How can your enterprise automation journey incorporate powerful approaches, strategic partnerships, differentiating technologies and digital skills? How can you implement RPA in a way that engages your client and helps ensure accuracy and flexibility?

Embrace an Agile approach. Agile is a set of values and principles that drive how teams manage implementations, and it’s a powerful enabler for RPA. The benefits of Agile are:

  • Constant visibility into the project throughout the RPA lifecycle
  • Highest risk managed at the project’s start, and reduced risk at subsequent stages (contrary to a traditional waterfall approach)
  • Flexibility to quickly adapt to changing environments
  • Use of short development cycles to deliver viable, iterative products

Using Agile to build large-scale Centers of Excellence (CoEs)

Clients often seek large-scale RPA implementations within automation CoE frameworks—requiring seamless orchestration between multiple moving pieces. Agile’s signature component, a scrum approach that breaks work into small iterations, is a game changer. Scrum delivers value to clients faster while capturing feedback to use in the next iteration—and helps ensure that the project’s long-term goals are being met at every step.

What does a scrum approach look like? It typically includes:

  • Establishing a common understanding of requirements and objectives
  • Defining the overall scope of the project
  • Planning necessary iterations (sprints)
  • Dividing sprints into specific requirements and accomplishments
  • Setting daily scrum meetings for real-time effective coordination
  • Hosting retrospectives at the end of each sprint

Additional Agile practices include frequent playbacks and peer reviews. And instant collaboration tools, like Slack, promote team collaboration and timely knowledge sharing.

IBM pioneers Agile to deploy automation technologies at scale

One example: IBM used Agile to manage a large RPA CoE implementation for a leading financial services group in Asia. The client benefitted from progress and feedback opportunities throughout the project –without waiting until the final stages to provide guidance. Scrums enabled collaboration through daily stand ups, backlog maintenance and other Agile rituals.

Agile teams maintained clear focus on top priorities and objectives in every step of the implementation journey. Furthermore, from a staffing perspective, IBM scaled up to organizational needs based on inventory backlog and sprint schedules, optimizing all resources when needed.

Consider these key roles for your Agile CoE

Through numerous engagements, we’ve learned to consider key roles when creating staffing plans for large-scale RPA CoE engagements. Potential roles include:

This table lists the roles that fall under four categories: project management office leadership roles, core development squad roles, deployment team roles, and maintenance team roles.

RPA Center for Excellence roles

*Based on the scope/size of the work, consider dividing the teams into squads, including: automation SMEs, process consultants, developers and a scrum master in each squad. The agile coach and PMO leadership roles can be “floaters” across the squads as needed.


Learn more about transforming your business processes with RPA.

RPA and Intelligent Automation for Business Processes


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