Objective: Without executive support, RPA initiatives that have been successful in one department may never expand beyond that functional area. In this learning experience, we’ll look at why executive support is so important and how you can get executive buy-in if you don’t have it already.
Executive support is crucial to an RPA program’s ability to influence other functional areas and contribute to your digital transformation goals.
If your RPA practice currently has executive support – excellent! Be sure to foster those executive relationships so they consistently promote RPA initiatives with others. Keep reading as we’ll walk through some things you can do to invest in those leaders and recruit more leaders to champion RPA initiatives.
If your CoE practice currently does not have executive support – that’s OK. This learning experience will help prepare you to get leaders excited about robotic process automation and the return on investment that can be achieved.
Why Does Executive Support Matter?
Unlike most enterprise software, which is usually department-specific, RPA software can impact employees in all departments. Because RPA software can benefit many departments, it is important that someone with influence at a high level champion its use. This enables the CoE to scale more easily as more functional teams are excited about RPA’s prospects, and it ensures that the pipeline of new automation opportunities never runs dry.
What Kind of Leader Should Be an Executive Sponsor of RPA?
The answer to this depends on your company dynamics. Look for leaders who are known as influencers within your organization. These champions can be executives or other senior leaders. Your RPA CoE is benefitted by change agents within the organization that others look to for great ideas and leadership, whether formally or informally.
Some of these individuals may come from an IT background where they are experienced in communicating the benefits of software. In other cases, the most effective communicators may lead business unit teams where RPA can have a big impact getting more work done with the same staffing levels and increasing ROI.
Set a goal of presenting to 5-8 leaders (including CIO, CTO, CFO, and department heads) within your organization to communicate the goals of the RPA program and accomplishments so far. Some may want to get involved immediately, while others may want to stay in touch and get regular updates on how the program is going and how they may be able to engage in the future. If possible, encourage leaders who are already engaged in the program to join you to present to additional prospective executive sponsors. In this way, they can help tell the story of their RPA journey from a perspective different than your own. This isn’t necessarily required, but it can add credibility to your pitch.
Pro-Tip: Don’t do your very first presentation to the CIO. Warm up by presenting to some leaders you have a personal relationship with to get feedback on how you might improve your speaking points.
I’m Sold. How Do I Get Executive Support?
There’s some good news and some bad news.
The bad news first (because that’s always better right?): You will likely need to set up some meetings with people who you may not be comfortable presenting to. This means “managing up”. You want to help these individuals understand the value that RPA can deliver and help them effectively communicate that value with others. This last part is important: If they are just communicating the value of the CoE to others without buying in, or just so that you will leave them alone, it can come across as hollow.
The good news is that communicating the value of RPA should be compelling and straight forward. Now that you’ve Defined Success and Established Best Practices in previous experiences, coming up with numbers that accurately communicate time and money saved should be easy. To prepare for this conversation with such a leader who you may not know well, think about the conversation you want that leader to have with their peers: “This is why I think RPA is important and this is the evidence that what we’re doing today can continue to grow and positively impact our ROI”. What will they need to facilitate such a conversation? Give them clearly presented information demonstrating the preparation done so far by the CoE to develop standards around bot development and metrics of the time and money saved so far. Projections of money or time saved are also helpful, but not required.
Great. What Else Should be Prepared?
Glad you asked. Put yourself in the shoes of this leader before you finish preparing your presentation. What is important to this leader? What initiatives have you seen them previously get behind? What in their current role would make evangelizing RPA challenging for them? Call some of those things out in your meeting. Not only can it help them to better understand the value of scaling RPA, but it also demonstrates that you’ve put thought into their needs.
Let’s look at some common responses from leaders:
Promoting RPA looks like promoting getting rid of people, which would be unpopular.
This is a reasonable concern. However, a web-based, drag and drop development platform like Automation 360 is designed for everyone to participate in creating bots. Through free training materials available on Automation Anywhere University and learning journeys and tutorials on the Automation Anywhere Dev Portal, individuals have the opportunity to up-skill and side-skill to learn how to build and interface with Automation Anywhere bots. For some, that may be learning to automate tedious manual tasks. For others, it may be learning to identify good RPA opportunities, document processes, build a pipeline of RPA opportunities, and test bots. Research from Goldsmiths, University of London in their Augmented Human Enterprise academic study found that in workplaces where bots are working alongside humans:
- Workers are 38% more engaged than those in non-augmented competitors.
- 70% of respondents said augmentation had improved the wellbeing of their team.
- About 80% say that AI and RPA free employees from repetitive work.
I understand the potential of RPA, but I’m not in IT, so what value can I add?
While a leader may not work in IT, they will have performance, financial, and strategic goals. Leveraging RPA and communicating with other leaders on the power of automation can not only help this leader meet their goals, but also help the organization as a whole see a lift in performance and financial numbers.
Be ready to share the CoE’s vision for where RPA can go at your organization and share how an RPA platform can add value across functional areas. This is an opportunity to talk about CoE operational structures, including where you are today and where you want to go in the future. This leader can add value by sharing your vision and growth plan with other leaders internally. Additionally, the same research done by Goldsmiths, University of London found that organizations that embrace bots and AI:
- Achieve 28% higher overall performance.
- Have 31% better financial performance.
- Are 30% more likely to prioritize strategic goals.
OK I get it. This all sounds great. How can I help?
This is the moment you’ve been preparing for! You’ve found a leader who understands the vision of the CoE and is willing to help. Have specific asks prepared. For example, challenge the leader to meet with at least three other leaders to spread the word about what the CoE is trying to do and your organization’s potential to automate mundane tasks across different functional areas. Explain that you need their help championing RPA initiatives. Also ask for help making sure employees do not feel intimidated or scared about the new technology and instead feel empowered by the opportunity to upskill and learn to automate routine tasks that take them away from focus on your customers.
Have a PowerPoint slide and a couple talking points prepared for the leader so they can accurately communicate the vision of the RPA practice on your behalf. If they are excited about the prospect of RPA but haven’t yet used it within their functional area, ask them for some names of leaders within that group who you should talk to about getting them started with RPA. If there has already been some RPA momentum in this leader’s space, ask them to work with you in discussing RPA with other leaders within the organization. This can help bridge the gap between functional groups at the leadership level and expand the RPA program across teams.
What to include in a pitch deck
Create a short but informative deck for your meetings with potential executive sponsors that includes this info:
- A brief definition of RPA and an example of how it can be used
- Your CoE’s RPA wins to date
- Metrics on the time and money RPA has saved your organization so far
- An outline of what your CoE has done so far to promote consistent, scalable development practices
- Your current operating model and expansion plans
- Your vision for RPA at your organization
- Specific asks for how the leader can help you
- Optional: Projections of future savings from RPA
Leadership buy-in to RPA initiatives is crucial to providing a robust pipeline of automation opportunities and expansion to new development factories as the CoE scales. As much as the CoE has goals and a vision of expanding use of RPA across the organization to automate tedious, manual tasks, remember too that the leaders of your organization have goals for productivity and efficiency. As you seek their buy-in to help expand RPA and communicate automation benefits to other leaders, always be thinking about what you can provide that leader to help them in their efforts as well. As you help them to look good and achieve their goals, you’ll find that they will often reciprocate and help you to achieve the objectives of the growing CoE.