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Solace blog

28th October 2016

How do you turn a bright idea into a big idea?

For a term that is bandied about so frequently, innovation is not always done brilliantly. Why? Because it’s not enough simply to have a great idea. To be a real winner, your wizard new notion or invention has to be rolled out across the enterprise, so that the whole business can benefit.

But that’s the tricky bit – scaling up your innovation.

When ENGIE embarked on the Robotic Process Automation programme at North Tyneside Council back in 2014, we were determined that we would have the systems and structures in place so that we could to roll out the technology at scale.

A key decision was to set up a Centre of Excellence (COE). But that was the easy bit. To ensure RPA could be deployed as standard practice in multiple areas of the business, the COE had to live up to its name.

We had much to do, across, and up and down the enterprise.

– First, we sought top-level buy-in from senior executives, which was crucial to providing the momentum and backing to drive RPA adoption throughout the organisation.

– Then we developed a clear deployment strategy, so that RPA was aligned with the goals of the business and the objectives of the individual departments.

– Next, we ensured a structured approach to design, build and testing across the business – but we also wanted to remain flexible along the way.

– As well as taking a proactive approach to identifying further opportunities for automation, we insisted on a learning culture, so that the experiences of one department could be used to speed up deployment in another area.

– Building staff capability in RPA was crucial. Training was delivered by our software specialists but only after we had appraised their team of our vision, values, and priorities. Following the inaugural RPA project, we were able to carry out further RPA implementation using our in-house expertise.

– Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were put in place, which helped us acquire knowledge quickly and allowed the roll-out to be easily audited. SOPs were not set in stone though.

– Throughout the RPA programme, we constantly evaluated the automation to gauge best practice and incorporated these best practices into the SOPs to improve future deployment. Management information was also gathered to feed into the continual improvement of what we were doing.

Another term that gets bandied around freely is agility. Like innovation, it can be more of a superficial label than a genuine way of working. Being agile though requires constant practice and for us it was essential to listen, learn and adapt as the development of RPA spread enterprise-wide.

This listening and learning applied to other teams we worked with in particular ICT; we didn’t want the centre of excellence to turn into an ivory tower. During the RPA programme, the COE had established a close partnership with the ICT team under a support agreement, which detailed support and delineated responsibilities, so everyone was clear about who did what. This was critical to maintaining collaboration and cooperation between the COE and ICT as the RPA programme moved ahead.

Once we’d walked the walk, we talked the talk.

Spreading the word about the successes of RPA through internal communications helped disseminate the value of this disruptive technology across the organisation and reinforce sponsorship of it. Case studies and award submissions were also used to attract wider interest and generate new business opportunities from outside organisations

There you have it, we’ve shed a little light for you on how ENGIE’s Centre of Excellence helped a bright idea become a big, bright idea.

By Martin Ruane, Programme Director (Cities & Communities), ENGIE