SITUATION

A new executive appointed to lead the airline’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) team sought a move away from the waterfall approach to Agile and Scrum delivery. This was deemed necessary for the RPA team so it could deliver rapidly and build confidence in the concept and capability in the business.

Moreover, the automations enabled by RPA can be transient, which became pointedly obvious during the COVID-19 crisis. This airline, like others, was seriously affected and at short notice had to roll out extensive processes for refunds, rebooking and other remedial action.

Like other organisations seeking digital transformations and automation advantages, the airline had sought a suitable tool for several years, with an understanding that in the quest for getting more done with the same or reduced effort, RPA has much to offer. RPA, in particular, presents an opportunity to relieve people of repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

By creating a Centre of Excellence, the intention was to equip the RPA team to provide a range of automations, whether in front-office environments such as the contact centre, booking channels and refunds, through to the back-office internal processes of HR or maintenance management.

However, this could only be achieved by establishing a high-performance team with confidence in itself – and with the confidence of the business. With waterfall, creating successful automations was taking too long, spending up to six months for minor solutions. And with team members working in relative isolation, continuity was a challenge. If someone was on leave, work stopped. If an automation glitched, pin-pointing it was difficult. This meant the ‘internal customer’ experience was poor and stakeholders disillusioned by automations which were not fit-for-purpose or sufficiently reliable.

SOLUTION

Understanding that the issue was not with the RPA software but instead with the challenges of building a cohesive team and improved delivery methodology, the airline set about establishing a team of suitably-aligned personnel. It also brought in Assurity for a capability uplift on Agile and DevOps.

This was necessary for a team comprised of members with differing experience levels on Agile and Scrum and little experience with automation. They put Assurity in charge of the capability uplift, while the airline focused its own resources on bringing the team up to speed on RPA.

Assurity focused on resetting the team’s working practices through a three-day kickstart training exercise establishing baseline understanding and rationale for Agile practices. This was followed with establishment of a vision and purpose for the RPA team, achieving common understanding of how the team contributes to the overall success of the airline.

Additional work saw the creation of a charter setting out and embedding the Agile working rhythm and interpersonal expectations of the team around key Agile events (sprint planning, sprint review, sprint retrospective and sprint refinement).

The engagement was capped by Product Ownership training and Agile Value Management training. Across the two months of the engagement, Assurity consultants provided coaching and support dealing with issues and challenges as they arose.

RESULTS

The clearest indicator of the successful capability uplift to Agile is seen in the time taken for the delivery of automations. From months, development time has contracted down to two weeks for small processes. More complex ones can take up to six weeks, with an overall time-to-value reduction of 80 percent.

By moving to a shared development cycle with considerable role overlap and ‘bite-sized’ continuous delivery, there is continuity across multiple lines of work. There are no gaps in delivery, with single-person dependency for any given automation eliminated.

Because the RPA team has moved towards high performance – and given it has rapidly delivered automations which have helped the airline navigate the COVID crisis – today it is becoming a trusted partner to the business.

This is clear when areas in the airline need help fast. The RPA team, confident in its ability to deliver, steps up every time, leveraging new-found skills in Agile and DevOps for the rapid creation of successful and reliable automations that process work fast.

The airline’s RPA team has seen a staggering increase in productivity and responsiveness, delivering results to the business up to 300 percent faster, building confidence and achieving rapid time-to-value from automation investments”