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Building a Centre of Excellence #1 - Best Options

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

In this series of blog posts i will share my thoughts and advice on developing in-house knowledge and capability to deliver an automation road map.

An organisation must make a conscious decision about how automation will be delivered, maintained and operationally supported throughout their life cycle. Failure to do so will slow down progress, cause frustration and likely to result in disappointing results.

Paying high prices to so called 'experts' to support and deliver your automation road map does not always guarantee good results. With a growing market and technology advancing at lighting speed do not be blinded by the hype and claims of a easy path to the promised land. Do your research, attend industry seminars, reach out to organisations that have made good progress and ask difficult questions. Research now will save costly mistakes in the future.

Without doubt, the best way to deliver an automation road map is to build in-house capability. Start small and allow the team to organically grow. At East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust we partnered with intelligent automation experts Thoughtonomy. Our first process was developed in partnership which gave the small in-house team the time and space to learn the technology, understand the principles and methodology behind automating intelligently (to achieve the lowest possible exception rates - we currently average around 1%-2% across all processes) and to ensure we met the commitments made within our business case.

Regardless of your organisation size i believe the best way is to create your own Centre of Excellence. Possibly a grandiose title but aspiring to be the best you can be isn't such a bad thing and doing so allows you to;

  • Deliver at pace - a typical automation life cycle lasts 3 to 6 weeks, from idea through to go-live.

  • Release benefits faster - delivering at pace, in manageable bite-sized chunks across a wider process ensures time savings are delivered within a few weeks of start-up.

  • Promotes positive organisation engagement - promoting AI and Automation as a supportive technology within any organisation is difficult enough but using an in-house team immediately increases your chance of gaining trust from the workforce and eliminates any potential 'them and us' scenarios. At ESNEFT staff engagement is across all levels of the organisation and new requests for bots are received daily.

  • Financial control - the cost of the technology platform and the staff are fixed each month. No hidden surprises. No need to beg for unbudgeted cash when a process needs amending or when a new opportunity has been identified.

  • Responsiveness - with the opening of the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) in Colchester on 1st October, the in-house development team were given just four weeks to deliver four complicated bot processes to ensure patients flowed from the UTC to A&E. I do not believe that any external supplier or partner could have delivered this on time. Why? Simply because they do not understand the NHS well enough to write these bot processes without a process definition document (PDD) and are not ingrained into the daily operations of the hospital to manage the development life cycle. This project incurred no additional costs above the current operating run-rate. This project will be covered as a deep-dive in future blogs.

  • Feel Good Factor - building in-house capability and delivering solutions that enhances patient care just feels so good! It is NHS staff, building NHS solutions, using tax payers money wisely and sharing with other NHS organisations. With this approach we have been able to teach our staff new skills, offer career progression and allow the team to experience things that they only ever dreamed off.

My advice is to find a technology partner who can support your initial development of processes, teach you the necessary skills and give you the knowledge and confidence to take the lead. A partnership based on being open, honest and direct will serve you well as your adventure continues.

I freely offer help and advice to any organisation who wishes to learn more, ask questions or just use me as a sounding board to validate their thinking. Please feel free to reach out via this blog or linkedin.

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