Robotic process automation (RPA) is used extensively in industries such as banking and e-commerce to increase efficiency and productivity, but the use of this technology is relatively new in regulated pharmaceutical environments. At AbbVie we have launched functioning bots to handle repetitive tasks for some of our regulated processes, giving time back to our teams to focus on complex, higher-value work while keeping up with an increasing load of data and reporting needs.
We are early into our RPA journey, but one of the keys to accelerating that journey has been implementing an RPA Center of Excellence(CoE).
Start by understanding the goals and challenges for your CoE
When we established our RPA CoE in 2018, our goal was to stand up an enterprise end-to-end service that supports plan/build/run phases of process automation. We focused on building a robust and secured platform positioned for enterprise growth. In addition, we built a common framework for process intake, ROI assessment and a SDLC (software development life cycle) model to support our existing controls for documentation, testing and deployment of production level solutions.
Our biggest challenge to overcome as a CoE was raising awareness internally about RPA as a technology and the services we offer, while continuing to grow demand and delivery of solutions.
Choose a CoE operating model that makes sense for your organization
To accelerate and achieve adoption, choose a CoE model that best fits your organization. AbbVie is a large, global company, so we chose a centralized CoE with federated development. This means we have one common enterprise RPA platform, a centralized demand intake FIT assessment process, development standards best practices, and most importantly, governance around automation reusable assets that enable continued automation agility.
Establish a common framework with the ability to flex and plug into various organizational structures, formats, and processes
As a CoE, we are engaged with teams from opportunity discovery all the way to solution deployment. As such, we are the “glue” that enables cross-functional sharing. Our framework is built to support continuous refinement of processes based on lessons learned in our journey.
Our CoE aims to provide the right balance of governance and standardization while giving our RPA developer community flexibility in how they support their business partners. Choosing a robust enterprise platform vendor (in our case, Blue Prism) provided a way to leverage a common platform for development and sharing of solutions across various functions.
Build architecture from the ground up with the right level of security controls, testing and documentation
An enterprise RPA platform must not only be scalable for future growth but also be secured and controlled under data center governance and IT policies. We partnered with security and other infrastructure teams to determine how bot IDs would be named and configured, who would own them, how they would be covered within the existing policies, how they would interact with target applications, how would they authenticate, and more. These are foundational building blocks of a platform before any automation can start.
Create a community, not a hierarchy, for RPA developers
A federated development model enables sharing of development best practices and lessons learned through project implementations. It also fosters a collaborative spirit as well as automation competence growth and maturity. Our RPA CoE is less about control/governance and more about the reuse of automation components. We can handle an increase in automation demand by leveraging this internal RPA development community alongside the CoE’s development pool of flex resources.
Continue the journey toward RPA maturity
Automating a business process is just one step toward gaining efficiencies from RPA. To be where we want to be, we need to continuously evaluate already automated processes for further optimizations and identify new opportunities where a digital worker can play a role. Eventually it will be normal for us to think about how digital workers can support our day-to-day activities. Our RPA CoE keeps us moving, together, toward that future.
About the author:
In her role with the AbbVie Robotic Process Automation Center of Expertise, Ana Rudman has established a framework for bot usage within AbbVie, providing guidance on how bots can be best utilized, and establishing policy on validation, implementation, support and costing.
AbbVie is a global, research and development-based biopharmaceutical company committed to developing innovative advanced therapies for some of the world's most complex and critical conditions. The company's mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to markedly improve treatments across four primary therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience. In more than 75 countries, AbbVie employees are working every day to advance health solutions for people around the world. For more information about Business Technology Solutions at AbbVie, visit us at abbvie.com/bts-careers.