An SS&C Blue Prism Legend Shares His Secrets To Building an Impactful Automation Program

We sat down with Jesse Tutt, Program Director, Intelligent Automation at Alberta Health Services (AHS) to discuss his organization's intelligent automation (IA) journey.

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In past years, AHS has won the global SS&C Blue Prism Customer Excellence award for Best Value Driver and an America’s All-Star Award for Best Newcomer. In addition, Jesse earned the SS&C Blue Prism Change Agent award last year.

This year, our panel of judges honored AHS with the SS&C Blue Prism Legend Award — our version of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Judges have noted that AHS is a true agent of change and utilizes intelligent automation in smart and innovative ways. We were honored to speak with Jesse and hear his reflections about his automation journey.


Why did you decide to explore an automation solution?

Our exploration into robotic process automation (RPA) was timely. EY, one of our partners, had just completed a comprehensive review of Alberta Health Services (AHS) when the pandemic hit. In the review, EY suggested RPA as one way to increase operational efficiencies and lower costs. Since we provide healthcare to 4.7 million Alberta residents and employ 127,000 people, the early days of the pandemic were a very busy time. Suddenly, we had to hire thousands of new staff to meet the rising clinical demand. We designed our first digital workers to assist our overwhelmed HR department.

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What steps did you take to ensure your automation program would be successful?

Though we jumped right in to develop our early HR-related automations, we knew setting up a solid foundation and ensuring good governance was important. We built our processes centered on the SS&C | Blue Prism Robotic Operating Model (ROM2) as the foundation and took in feedback from SS&C Advisory Services, EY and our internal partners.

Early on, we also established our Automation Steering & Oversight Committee (ASOC) to provide oversight and governance to the AHS's intelligent automation program. Each business department was asked to designate a person to be their “Automation Champion”. These individuals are trained on our approach to automation, act as an advocate for automation in their business unit, collect automation opportunities and work with the department leaders to prioritize and submit them to ASOC. They also attend ASOC to bring the department’s automation opportunities for ASOC prioritization alongside the department head, senior executive team leaders and the intelligent automation team leadership. Together, ASOC sets the vision for the program; builds awareness, prioritizes and approves automation opportunities; and ensures we realize the benefits from each automation.

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Another key success factor was the development of these principles, which have guided our program from the start:

  • Maintain a bias toward action: deliver value quickly and convey a sense of urgency. Within six months of deploying RPA, we delivered automations which freed capacity in the human resources department. Digital workers helped send offer letters, process position changes and send other notification letters. These efforts helped support us with hiring 10,000 new staff needed to respond to COVID-19 — including new positions like COVID-19 contact tracers, front-desk greeters, and vaccine administrators. Digital workers freed capacity for our staff scheduling team which includes over three hundred staff who schedule 47,000 clinical resources. The automations are focused on cleaning up, archiving and canceling shifts, running reports, etc.
  • Ensure business ownership: each area owns their processes. Early in our journey, we determined that automations must be owned by the business teams who manage the processes. My team and I have worked closely with all the business areas interested in RPA. We’ve introduced them to the technology and have supported them with various communications and change management activities, plus the assessment, development, ongoing support and enhancements of their automations.
  • Improve employee satisfaction: automate work people do not like doing. I love the axiom, “If you hate it, automate it.” It simplifies things for business areas who may not understand the technical capabilities of our team. If staff hate doing something, typically that means it's repetitive and high volume which fits for what we can automate.
  • Increase business efficiency: improve processes and their resiliency. We have detailed Tableau reporting/visualizations which deliver near real-time reporting on the hours of capacity have been freed per automation (we have freed over 130 years of work and counting), and other details about work queues. On the front end, our automation champions use a simple intake tool to immediately calculate if automation is a good idea and how long it will take to pay for itself (ideally in 12 months or less). This helps us pick the most impactful processes for automation. This tool is fully self-service and does not require manual effort from the Intelligent Automation team.


Once you were off and running, how did you grow your program?

Following the guidance in the ROM2 methodology and framework, and support from SS&C’s advisory services and customer success teams contributed significantly to AHS being able to stand up and mature our automation capability so quickly. We literally downloaded every single one of the 100+ ROM2 deliverables and enhanced them to work within our organization.
It may come as a surprise to some operational teams, but one other key success factors was welcoming audits of our end to end processes from:

  • internal audit,
  • information risk management,
  • privacy and
  • external vendors.

Doing these audits at the start of our automation journey enabled us to quickly respond to anyone causing delays in IT system access requests due to perceived privacy or risk-management concerns. With so many extensive audits under our belt, everyone now feels comfortable with the security of our automation program.

Another key element to quickly growing our program is the development of repeatable and consistent processes. To avoid rework, we’ve developed process templates in alignment with SS&C Blue Prism coding best practices to speed up development. We have also created in-depth training guides and end-to-end process documentation  “The Automation COE Way”. Object, code and query libraries for each enterprise application ensures we can reuse objects in future automations.

Can you offer a few tips to automation teams who may just be starting out, or are ready to scale their program?

  • Secure executive sponsorship: It’s key to ensure that you’ve got an executive sponsor who directly reports to the CEO (or CIO for smaller organizations). It’s also valuable to invite each of the different department heads to attend automation-related committee meetings.
  • Design a simple intake process: Our automation champions work with members of their own department to collect automation ideas, vet them with department leadership, prioritize them and submit the final ideas to the ASOC. The process of collecting one automation takes 15-20 minutes. If the ASOC approves the automation opportunity, my team allocates resources to it. This process filters out automations which do not have a good justification and ensures every automation has both business and executive sponsorship.
  • Accept lower return on investment (ROI) automations from departments who are new to automation: Sometimes, early adopters submit automation opportunities that are significant pain points but may have a poor return on investment. Almost always, these less optimal automations will “crack the seal” after showing that department the value of automation and building trust that they work. My experience is that typically after the first automation, the flood gates open and to that department submitting new automation opportunities.
  • Ensure you have documentation – a lot of it: Documenting all aspects of the process in one place is key. AHS has a single end-to-end process that's in one document which anyone can read from top to bottom and follow. It discusses everything you need to know about the background of the program and the specifics around every process. It also includes a detailed automation development process and steps for integrating human and digital workers.
  • Get support from IT Access, Privacy and Information Risk Management up front that digital workers will follow the same process as human workers when being granted access to systems: Getting IT Access to systems is the most time-consuming part of an automation. Often business or IT leaders will ask for digital workers to follow a different process than humans follow to get access setup when the human processes are well documented, have been audited and have clear governance. Digital workers log in and enter data in the exact same way as their human counterparts do so instead of reinventing the wheel it’s best to get support for every digital worker to follow the same human process which have been vetted and audited.
  • Hire Students: Every member of my team with the exception of three individuals started as students. Three times a year, I hire four computer science students from local universities. They typically spend eight months (ideal) or four months on our team learning about RPA and how to develop impactful automations. After they graduate, they often join our team in a full-time role since they know how to do the work and have experience with our processes and tools.


You have helped share the benefits of RPA with your wider community. Can you tell us more about that?

AHS has been blessed and inspired by hundreds of organizations doing amazing work in the automation space to share as much as we can. This includes 1:1 sessions, conferences, seminars, etc. to share lessons learned, processes and even code with others. I also organize the Western Canada RPA User Group, which has almost 500 automation aficionados from around the world.


What’s Next for AHS?

When we started our program, we consciously decided to focus on corporate processes. It took a year or two to get our technology site resilient and for us to build confidence that our automations were stable and secure enough to start being used in the clinical areas. Fast forward to today, where almost all of our recent automation opportunities are clinical which is exciting.


Want to Hear More Innovation Stories? Your Next Step Awaits!

Jesse will be joining us at the Customer Excellence Award ceremony on May 9, and we invite you to join us too, register now. Let's come together to honor innovation, share insights, and inspire each other towards a future of intelligent automation. We hope to see you there!


Thank you @jessetutt, for sharing your insightful journey with us! To our community audience, is there a particular part of Jesse's story that captivated and inspired you the most? 

Community Team
Community Team

What an excellent blog! Huge thanks to @jessetutt  and @RitaC  for generously sharing these insights with the community!

If I put myself in the position of an IA professional facing similar challenges, I'd be particularly drawn to the 'tips for automation teams who are just starting out or looking to scale their program' section. These nuggets of wisdom are invaluable for navigating challenges and maximizing the impact of automation initiatives. I'm looking forward to reading what value the rest of our Community got from this content!

Also, let's not forget to mark our calendars for May 9th for our Customer Excellence Awards ceremony! It's an exciting opportunity to delve deeper into these topics and connect with fellow enthusiasts. Can't wait to see you all there! 🎉