The Coming Of COEs: Replace Manual Processes With Centers Of Excellence

Businesses are racing to deploy robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). But they have to wonder: Where’s the payoff?

Here’s where. “Organizations have been combining automation and AI technologies for a few years now to improve their business processes,” says Maureen Fleming, program vice president at IDC, according to Making intelligent automation work at scale, an article published by CIO. “AI tends to broaden the reach and impact of automation, taking on activities that cannot be performed solely through automation.”

Take AT&T. It created an “automation center of excellence (COE) to accelerate implementation,” CIO adds. “The COE has made it easier to scale IA by helping develop, deploy, and manage automation efforts throughout the business.”



In addition, the COE “also educates staffers in how to automate various processes. AT&T has trained more than 2,000 RPA developers, who created most of the company’s automation bots. Some lines of businesses have created their own automation teams, with the COE providing tools and support,” CIO continues. 

This requires taking one step at a time. AT&T “began trialing RPA in 2015 to decrease the number of repetitive tasks, such as order entry, for its service delivery group,” CIO writes. “The group was able to automate one process and then expanded the effort from there, according to Mark Austin, vice president of data science.

Consider a COE. It might make sense to start small with an IA project and scale up by involving the entire organization, AT&T’s Austin says. “A center of excellence that’s centrally funded can help people who aren’t data scientists get up to speed,” Austin continues. “Of our 3,000-plus bots, 92% of them are built in the business units, not the Chief Data Office.”

“As part of our intelligent automation program, we now have around 3,000 software bots in production, with about 75 more coming online each month,” Austin says. “What’s more, we’re now reviewing incoming bots to see if we can make them smarter with AI capabilities. We’re finding about 30% of them can be upgraded with AI.”


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