Skillsets for Different Purposes: How to Think About Organizing Your RPA Team from Development to Maintenance

Kicking off a robotic process automation (RPA) program is a large and complex effort, but the challenges don’t stop there. Maturing your RPA program can be as difficult as getting it off the ground. Making sure you have the right people in the right roles, starting with your developers, will be one of the biggest factors for continued program success.

“Developer” is a generic term that covers a broad range of skills and level of experience. A developer could be someone with business process experience who can create a functioning bot. Or it could be a person with significant technical programming experience but no functional design experience. You might also find developers who have self-taught their way around an application, performing minor “fixes” on existing bots or cannibalizing existing developed bot components to develop the functions of a new bot without following strong developmental practices.

Depending on your current needs, you should look at your developers through two lenses. Skills can be taught or blended, but knowing where your developers are most comfortable lets you put them in situations in which they are most likely to be set up for success. They could be:

  • Innovation Architects. These are team members to whom you can throw weird problems and they will research, test, and ultimately come up with a solution that meets the need rather than pushing to change the business process. These team members don’t get flustered when they do not have an example to follow. Often, they will throw out multiple routes to potentially accomplish an objective in case one needs to be abandoned because it’s not feasible.
  • Maintenance Engineers. By the time you have 30-50 bots, you will need to have most, if not all, of an entire FTE dedicated to keeping the bots running. Website updates, patches, pop-up ads all conspire to break the beautiful symphony of bots by inserting unforeseen changes the bots can’t process. Your maintenance engineers work in the background to keep everything ticking along. These team members are more focused on improving the efficiency of your existing suite of bots and making sure that they all run effectively and on time.

Looking at your team and their functions through this lens lets you understand where people will be most effective in their roles and how best to keep them engaged as your program grows.

Often, early in a program, you build a team of innovation architects who are excited about building something new, with new challenges and the mental acrobatics necessary to find solution to those challenges. However, as the bot count rises, the innovation architects may get bored with the maintenance activities. They may even leave your organization because they perceive that they are not continuing to grow and develop.

Similarly, a program that has too heavy a concentration of maintenance engineers will either not develop at the speed desired by management or will stagnate with development of new processes all but stopped. Even adding new resources doesn’t seem to drive additional development and the processes are all incremental improvements. Maintainers naturally resonate with “tuning” a program for high efficiency rather than building something new.

Reskilling your existing resources may be a solution to create traction, but that can cause your resources to feel too “stretched” or to revert back to previous roles or methods after a few months. Another option is to build a more robust team if you have the budget, but that may be an decision during the annual budget cycle and you are likely to need additional resources sooner to meet this year’s targets. Third party resources are a great way to add targeted help either in the short term or over the longer term. This allows you to optimize the capabilities of the team over time as needs evolve and let your team operate in their best space.

For example, offloading the maintenance activities to a firm can allow you to manage the cost of the maintenance activities for about a third the cost of hiring another FTE while leveraging your team’s internal insights into the company to identify and create the highest value solutions.

For information about how we can assist in your organization’s digital transformation and robotic process automation, contact us. We are here to help.

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