Set-up a CoE organisation for SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation

Today’s office workers spend a lot of time moving between different applications. They often have to reenter or copy and paste the same data – such as a customer’s name and address details – from one application to another to complete a specific task. Such manual work is laborious, time-consuming, and prone to error. Robotic process automation (RPA) uses software robots to emulate human users and automate – as far as possible – these tedious, mundane tasks. Automation improves the user experience for both employees and customers. RPA boosts productivity and can typically free up between 15% and 30% of an employee’s time to focus on tasks that deliver greater value to the organization and improve the customer experience. Companies which use SAP Intelligent RPA (RPA platform of SAP) achieve business benefits and show significant ROI (Return on Investment). More details are provided in SAP Intelligent RPA use cases document.

Simple and nonintrusive adoption of advanced technology in an employee’s day-to-day tasks enhances employee well-being and satisfaction. It can also make an important contribution to a company’s change management as it seeks to accelerate its digital transformation.

The companies who start their RPA journey face a choice between two types of RPA: Attended and Unattended.

Attended means partially automated process, where robots are co-working with humans. Employee shares some part of the process or scenario with robot and usually triggers it by himself.

Unattended RPA is a fully automated process, where robots are working autonomously with human supervision only such as monitoring of tasks and review of the results. These robots are usually triggered automatically, either by some event or using a schedule.

However, the fact that you are reading this article means you have already done your first steps with RPA. It doesn’t matter if you bought licenses, finished your PoC (Proof of Concept) or already have a number of departments in your organization which are taking advantages of this technology – you have a question: What is next?

Before going to the next steps let’s see how the RPA projects look like. Below you could find the typical 12- step roadmap for RPA technology at companies:

Once all the steps define a proper and consistent way to leverage this powerful technology, the practice shows that many companies neglect some of the steps or put them in some chaotical order. Also, one of the typical pictures which may be seen is having different approaches inside the companies, for example when finance and procurement departments start these projects separately. Although they implement solution and even succeed in specific conditions, getting their own practices and retrospectives, organizations may suffer due to inconsistency and chaos. Finally, the succeed projects in such setup look like great luck. With a recent survey by EY, finding that 30-50% of initial RPA projects fail to realize their expected returns. Another study conducted by Deloitte says that only three percent of organizations had managed to scale RPA to a level of 50 or more robots. Why does it happen?

In fact, failure to achieve expected outcomes from RPA initiatives are most often due to factors outside of the chosen RPA platform. Through the number of failures reasons, the following could be found: Lack of RPA strategy, Insufficient change management, not proper understanding of the automated process, disorganized and siloed implementations and unrealistic expectations.

These reasons could be covered separately by paying more attention to them and using some checkbox to support decisions, but the more clear and proper way is to setup a right governance structure and responsibility. And this is the time to announce Centre of Excellence or CoE.

Before discussion about the RPA CoE and any RPA specific let’s understand what CoE is. Gartner defines a COE as a physical or virtual center of knowledge concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value. This definition can be broken down into four key elements. These elements are: focusing on a tight scope defined around a specific capability, defining the location for CoE, optimization and leveraging resources internal to the organization and finally delivering incremental value to the organization.

According to SAP, a Center of Excellence combines business and IT talents with industry best practices to drive and achieve continued value from investments in SAP technologies. It’s essentially a team of highly skilled individuals and experts that is the acknowledged source of knowledge within an organization. Centers of Excellence are tasked with keeping SAP investments on course, so they continue to meet business objectives.

.The focus areas for a Center of Excellence are the following:

Provide thought leadership, direction and governance for the subject specific initiatives

Enable continuous improvement and benefit realization culture in organization

Establish and promote best practices

Trend analysis and R&D to provide valuable recommendations Manage the initiatives and use-cases, both as incoming flow (e.g.

which comes from different organization units or vendors) and inside flow (use-cases identification and prioritization)

Define business cases and support value management approach for ongoing initiatives

Facilitate buy-in for automation projects from all relevant stakeholders and establish change management practices Support, education and employee enablement

Optimize the organization or subject area by centralizing resources with high-demand and unique knowledge or skills and streamlining their contributions across a wide range of areas

Improve daily operations through the identification, development and support of reusable assets

Reduce delivery times, development, and maintenance costs by increasing efficiencies and leveraging reusable assets

Identify and reduce duplication of effort across initiatives within the subject area or organization-wide

There is a number of ways how Centers of Excellence can add value to organizations across all business units due to their specialized subject matter expertise and operational agility. The five major ways in which COEs provide value are below:

Support business strategy of an organization: COEs prime function is to define a single enterprise-wide approach and a roadmap of initiatives by aligning the strategic goals and IT objectives and providing a holistic approach to manage these activities.

Increased efficiency in resources usage: COEs can widen the reach subject-related capabilities and streamline access to them across the organization due to centralization of scarce, high- demand capabilities like knowledge, skills and experiences

Increased delivery speed: COEs can eliminate bottlenecks by streamlining access to critical capabilities and reuse of experienced  activities and assets. This increases speed of delivery, development, and maintenance of critical business processes

Optimized costs: COEs eliminate inefficient practices and decrease costs by defining business cases for activities and streamlining processes, creating reusable assets, reducing redundancy and providing value-based approach

Increased quality of services and products: COEs enable uniformity of service and product delivery, along with tight, end- to-end customer experiences due to standardization and usage of best practices across the organization

The general role of a CoE for a subject specific area, such as automation, is based on the following pillars, which are detailed below:


An RPA CoE has a wide range of benefits that can vastly improve a business capability. However, building an automation CoE that matches organization’s goals perfectly is no easy task. Implementing the CoE throughout the organization also requires a significant effort. While establishing a COE requires time and effort, the payback can be significant.