Intelligent Automation - BPM LeadersBoris Buis and Frans Stuifbergen
Aegon supports its digital distribution channels and growing demand for customer self-service capabilities through their Intelligent Automation Team (IAT): a Center of Excellence which enables digital automation and innovation.
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“Automation initiatives are not easy and, with lots of teams launching projects in different groups, we risked making the same mistakes repeatedly. Centralizing some of our experience in an automation advisory group allowed our project teams to be independent and agile, but also benefit from our knowledge.”
Boris Buis, IAT BPM Lead
The IAT was not created overnight, but rather evolved into its current form over several years. Aegon began their Appian Journey in late 2015 with an initial project within the Pensions Department - that ultimately went into production in early 2016. This success was followed shortly by a second application launched in the Life Protection Department.
At this point, “we saw more and more interest and initiatives coming-up as Appian was positioned as a target solution for our BPM space”, says Boris Buis, the IAT BPM Lead. “There was no clear platform responsibility for central activities (license management, platform upgrades, etc.), so we added a virtual Appian maintenance team to handle those activities.”
The maintenance team was successful for a time, but eventually Aegon noticed teams “reinventing the wheel over-and-over again when working with Appian”. As more teams with a greater variety of maturities began working with Appian, build quality suffered as the number of duplicative development incidents increased. Thus, in 2018, Aegon created the Appian Enablement team.
This new team was tasked with bringing Appian knowledge and practitioners into a common community. Within the DevOps space, they also introduced governance, security and provisioning across the organization.
“At this time, we had 20 applications and 10 teams working with Appian and were evolving our CI/CD pipeline. We made the business case to scale-up the Appian Enablement team to support creating reusable components, leading a community of practice to share knowledge and conduct platform onboarding and training. By this point, I believe we were already late, which, in some cases, resulted in poorly scalable applications with higher maintenance costs.”
Towards the end of 2019, Aegon also added Intelligent Automation Services to the team's profile and reorganized under the new title of Intelligent Automation Team (IAT). Boris noted that the goal was to bring these capabilities closer together under one umbrella and with a more service oriented posture, “We created a BPM-RPA framework that allows users to easily integrate our robotic workforce to their Appian processes. All technical integrations, error handling, callbacks and maintenance are taken care of.”
In the future, Aegon wants to move the IAT value proposition towards a ‘hyper-automation’ services portfolio; enabling business units to increase speed and innovation.
The IAT ensures Appian deployments are completed according to Aegon-wide CI/CD processes. Specific reporting activities include: monitoring core metrics on platform health, incident reporting, license management and automated provisioning.
The IAT works directly with business units to identify and build common automation capabilities and services: “We are currently working on an intelligent document processing solution that uses multiple automation capabilities, but is ultimately delivered as a single service. This empowers our business units with a menu of capabilities with a small investment and reduces time-to-market.”
For training, Aegon’s IAT always attempts to align participant capabilities and Aegon-specific requirements with the type of training provided. For example, the IAT created an in-house RPA training program tailored to Aegon’s specific needs: “You can’t just send people to training and expect success. You need to provide support throughout the learning journey- which should include mentoring and guidance after any formal training concludes.”
The IAT conducts regular health checks for applications within their portfolio and reviews these findings with application teams. Here, they outline future plans regarding application health management. Aegon’s IAT also tracks stakeholder satisfaction and benefits delivered by automation solutions.
The IAT works with business units to identify unmet needs and advise on new application or capability additions. Also, based on new Appian capabilities, they proactively pitch new solution ideas to business partners and help them see the art-of-the-possible: "“Having ‘Inspiring & Advising’ be part of our services portfolio enables us to work alongside the business to create smart solutions. A recent example is the creation of a self-service task framework that lets business units directly request additional information from customers or intermediaries integrated as part of the business process.”
Having success measures in place not only holds the IAT accountable for their performance, but also enables them to communicate expectations and successes to stakeholders. Aegon measures their progress every 100 days to ensure they are moving in the right direction and achieving core goals.
The results of these metrics are coupled with customer satisfaction surveys and are evaluated for continuous improvement and a drive towards increasing value.
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