Embrace the Bots

EPMOs that Welcome Robots Can Add Value and Meet Change Head-On


By Abid Mustafa

The robots are coming—now. This big tech disruption is set to invade various aspects of corporate life, delivering efficiencies and better customer experiences at the expense of some jobs. In particular, intensive manual processes involving sales and back-office operations are expected to fall victim to robots. If you're in an enterprise project management office (EPMO), beware: Because of the great deal of human labor required to create executive reports, EPMOs aren't likely to escape robotization.

Because of the great deal of human labor required to create executive reports, EPMOs aren't likely to escape robotization.

The good news is that robots will not replace all job functions. This is because robotization can be divided into two categories: robotic desktop automation (RDA) and robotic process automation (RPA). RDA is more about robots assisting humans by automating low-level tasks, leaving high-value tasks to humans.

The daily grind of most EPMOs goes into the logistics of preparing executive reports. This usually involves collecting information from a variety of sources including documents, slides, spreadsheets, emails, voicemails and conversations.

But RDA can mimic the manual task of collecting and synthesizing information into a presentation format. This allows EPMO staff more time to validate results and assess the business impact of projects. In this way, RDA can help EPMO staff improve the quality of reports prior to executive review.

RPA is altogether different—and will cause job elimination. It fully automates a process, mimicking end-to-end human behavior. Building off the above example, junior resources might gather finalized reports and aggregate the information—project updates, risks, issues and dependencies—by inputting all of it into an enterprise project management tool. Many companies have chosen to outsource this process. RPA can eliminate the need for any human resources, whether in-house or offshore, reducing costs and improving speed.

Not When, but How

The EPMO cannot afford to watch silently while change unfolds around it. Make no mistake: Some degree of robotization is inevitable. To avoid change being imposed upon them, EPMO leaders must embrace robotization to both add value and take control of the change process. There are robotics tools on the market that the EPMO staff can dabble in to produce automated processes of their own that handle high-volume, low-level tasks. By doing so, the EPMO can adroitly position itself as a change leader and assume an advisory role to oversee robotization projects across the organization. An alternative is to take a wait-and-see approach. But there's a cost to doing nothing until change is at the EPMO's doorstep. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for 11 years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.