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The Truth about RPA Citizen Development within Banking

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With access to low code applications, anyone can build automations within a bank, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should. Citizen development has been a pervasively discussed topic within the banking process automation space, given the linear focus of banks to scale automation programs.  

Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the industry’s most widely utilized technologies to automate large-scale repetitive processes within deposit operations, loan operations, credit card processing, and other back-office functions.   

In banking, one of the most valuable and common ways to leverage RPA is to reduce risk and enhance compliance, which is true with automations related to KYC, anti-money laundering, and disclosures. Given this goal, banks should ensure that the majority of, if not all, automation efforts contribute to this objective. 

Benefits of Citizen Development 

Citizen developers are non-IT employees that use low-code platforms to build applications or, in the case of RPA citizen developers, to build automations.  

One of the benefits of leveraging citizen developers to automate day-to-day tasks is to free up developers from focusing on low-hanging fruit processes to the most complex projects within the organization.   

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This reduced burden on IT departments can be cost-effective and increase efficiency when automation is built and implemented correctly. Citizen development also leads to increased engagement with digital transformation initiatives, increases in employee satisfaction, and a stronger focus on innovation. 

Related Article: Salesforce – Automation & Lower Stress Levels 

Risks of Citizen Development 

Citizen Development has a dark side as well for banks. Given the need for banks to adhere to compliance regulations and mitigate risk, citizen developers can generate increased risk when automations are deployed without proper governance, monitoring and oversight.  

Two primary concerns with citizen development automation are governance and automation security. It is critical to establish standardized protocols for how to develop, deploy and maintain automations.  

A centralized code review procedure facilitates ease of use, eliminates redundancy, and allows for code reusability. For example, creating different versions of the same code is redundant for a bot to log into a commonly-used banking application. This code should be created once and used by all developers within the bank.   

Separate environments should be used for development, testing, and production. Users should have access to data within a low-code automation application based on role and department. They can then identify exceptions and errors in the testing environment rather than when a bot is in production. 

Best Practices for Citizen Developers 

A formalized citizen development program has a tiered risk-rating framework. Each process can be deemed low, medium, or high risk in its simplest form based on its nature, complexity, and dependencies. 

Doing so allows for an established framework that citizen developers can adhere to. It is best practice for citizen developers to focus on low-risk processes monitored carefully by an internal automation CoE (Center of Excellence).  

When citizen developers automate, it is best practice to focus on low-risk, low-complexity processes that add value without impacting operation-critical functions. Complex enterprise automations should involve pure-play developers with extensive knowledge and experience, ensuring each automation is as robust as possible.  

However, most individuals at a bank will never become citizen developers. Therefore, it can yield a more widespread impact for 100% of individuals within a bank to understand what can be automated with technologies like robotic process automation and intelligent document processing. 

Compare this to the drastically lower percentage of technically-inclined folks fit to build, execute and maintain automations on the side throughout their day jobs. 

Widespread Internal Support for Automation 

It is well-known that having leadership buy-in is key to a successful, long-term automation program. However, a bottom-up approach should not be overlooked. All employees within a bank should understand how automation works.  

One of the most common misconceptions of automation is that it is here to replace jobs. In reality, automation is inherently designed to support humans and empower people to handle their existing workload more effectively and, ultimately, do more with less.  

Widespread understanding and buy-in for automation within banks allows for collaboration and the highest-impact automation candidates to be submitted by subject matter experts, department heads, process managers, and operational executives.  

The goal is to leverage automation for mundane and repetitive tasks so that people can focus on the highest-value tasks. 

Related Article: Gartner – Top 10 Automation Mistakes 

Future of RPA within Banking  

ROI is not just about FTE (Full-Time Employee) savings. Utilizing terminology such as FTE is gradually becoming antiquated as it was primarily used as an initial approach to evaluate the effectiveness of automation programs in the most linear way possible.  

However, there’s been a shift as automation has many widespread benefits that are not as easily quantifiable, such as decreased error rates, straight-through processing, reduced need for significant monetary investments into building APIs, and improved process execution speed. 

Additionally, automation consumers are much more strategic in utilizing automation platforms without heavy licensing platform costs that tend to eat into ROI and prevent scale. There are popular options for enterprise intelligent automation platforms within banking with client-friendly pricing models such as OpenBots and Microsoft Power Automate. 

Alternative to RPA Citizen Development  

The most significant piece of value that citizen developers can provide is their knowledge of individual tasks and processes within each department of a bank. CoEs can not deliver high-impact, quality automations without having quality processes to automate.  

Not everyone has to become a full-fledged citizen developer. Banks can yield greater benefits by ensuring their employees understand how RPA works and where they can apply it to increase the adoption and widespread usage of RPA. 

Related Article: Citizen Development Challenges & Benefits 

About Gabriel Skelton 

As the Director of Banking & Mortgage Automation Solutions, Gabriel is responsible for creating pre-packaged and customized automation solutions to enable digital transformation for banks, credit unions, and mortgage lenders. 

Certified in process discovery & analysis, Gabriel specializes in pairing firms with scalable workflow automation. He has over five years of experience spanning financial services, enterprise technology, and digital transformation. 

Gabriel resides in Coral Springs, Florida, with his wife and son. 

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