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How NTT DATA Established Enterprise Automation Governance for BCBS Health Insurance Carrier


In this blog, I look at how NTT DATA worked with a large Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) health insurance carrier to establish an enterprise governance structure for automation, and at the lessons learnt along the way.

Like many other large BCBS carriers, the company had piloted RPA initiatives, and from the somewhat frustrating results of these experiments, it had formed two conclusions:

  • An IT department-driven center of excellence delivering bots will not achieve the full potential of automation
  • Point solutions being driven within individual towers/business units are not scalable across the enterprise.

The company concluded that before it could proceed with its automation journey, it required an automation governance structure that aligned with the enterprise strategy. A business-driven (rather than IT-driven) deployment of RPA needed to coordinate the needs, requirements and deployment of RPA across the front, middle and back office functions, as well as shared and internal ancillary services.

The BCBS carrier hired a team from NTT DATA, led by Deana Rhoades, the Global Practice Lead, Healthcare Automation “to create an enterprise-wide governance structure customized to their corporate strategic objectives and organizational culture”. Within the context of the enterprise’s goals, strategy, and current workforce, the company tasked NTT DATA to create the automation strategy, the decision frameworks and the organizational structure. While the BCBS company had long before established solid objectives, frameworks and management systems for its human workforce, the company realized it needed to lay the foundation for the same kind of structure for automation (and the bots) of its “digital workforce”.

Starting in August of 2018, NTT DATA began its work creating an enterprise level governance structure for automation. It focused on scalability considerations and governance, treating bot development “almost as an afterthought”. The tactical view about how to purchase and deploy automation solutions and build bots on different platforms would flow from the enterprise’s strategic objectives and from appropriate integration of the human and the proposed digital workforces. It took two months for NTT DATA and its client to articulate the following governance model, composed of three layers:

Layer 1: Sponsorship

Champions of the RPA transformation articulated the vision and goals for the automation journey and monitored performance of the COE. Sponsors include high-level representatives of the COO, the CIO and the HR departments, coordinated by a Program Management Office (PMO). Strategic frameworks now articulate the enterprise’s objectives, categorize potential automation projects within that context, and facilitate decisions about deployment in terms of (for example):

  • Potential cost savings (prioritized over revenue)
  • User experience (prioritized over productivity).

Layer 2: Enterprise Capability Center

This team unites leaders and dedicated resources from the following functions: HR, Data and Analytics, IT, Security, Organizational Change Management, Business Process Management, and Operations. Six workgroups develop and provide expertise on the core COE capabilities. The COE subgroups cascade the automation strategy into action plans that provide capabilities across automation development teams and business units. Focus areas include:

  • Strategy and Measurement – turns strategy into executable components; owns success criteria, key performance indicators (KPIs) and objectives and key results (OKRs); quantifies the value of the COE
  • Pipeline Management – generates demand for automation at the process level among BCBS company employees, prioritizes and schedules the resulting workstreams
  • Workforce Strategy – defines needed FTE skills and gaps, owns the organizational change management (OCM) plans and provides training for BCBS company employees
  • Automation Standards – develops the standards, tools, repositories, policies and procedures that guide all automation initiatives
  • Data Strategy – maintains data management strategy, defines how automation software accesses and collects data, and how the automation efforts comply with risk and security policies
  • Virtual Workforce Monitoring – maintains a centralized command center to monitor and oversee the bots in production.

Layer 3: Automation Factory

Delivery and deployment teams work under the aegis of the leadership priorities and plans developed in layers 1 and 2 with complementary aims:

  • Demand generation – generating awareness and demand for automation within the enterprise at the level of the teams that manage specific processes. A change management team trains these teams on capabilities of RPA and helps them see the value of implementing the technology
  • Technology delivery – agile development teams automate processes using the appropriate tools and platforms, such as Blue Prism and UI Path.

For the next phase of work, NTT DATA has begun to create a complementary hybrid (or “federated”) operating model for agile delivery of bots. This hybrid model is supposed to establish the guardrails and frameworks needed by individual business units that have the skills and the desire to build their own bots. The hybrid model is expected to augment the centralized enterprise governance model by 2020.

The human response?

With NTT DATA, the BCBS company has worked to communicate with various business units and with their leaders to resolve their questions and any potential anxiety about the use of bots. During the BCBS company’s prior work with another IT consulting firm, it had developed its own home-grown automation tools. The in-house deployment of an RPA platform had introduced the company to concepts and practices at a tactical level. Activities surrounding these pilots had been widely broadcast through various communication channels, including robotic roadshows, Yammer, and email.  As a result of this in-house publicity, NTT DATA reported that it met with more curiosity and less resistance than expected. NTT DATA also reported that company business units and employees had already begun to form opinions about automation through the lens of their experience with their prior RPA tool, opinions that needed to be considered if and when other development tools were introduced.

The business consequence?

NTT DATA believes that the BCBS carrier has taken a significant stride up the automation maturity curve by articulating a governance model with the following elements

  • Charter
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Leaders
  • Change management
  • Resources dedicated to organizational communication and demand generation
  • Resources dedicated to development of a broader set of intelligent automation technologies.

RPA initiatives that predate the NTT DATA-led exercise in defining automation governance now have a structure and resources available when they need to escalate issues, and have realized greater ROI. Furthermore, the BCBS carrier’s “ox in the ditch” initiatives have now been organized into six workstreams, and in future the company believes that its governance structure and measured approach will yield expected ROI and that its human and virtual workforces will complement each other efficiently.

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