A new era of Process Automation Experts – Wärtsilä’s Citizen Developers
Together we’re stronger and achieve even more impressive results. And as the 185X campaign is winding down, we wanted to finish off the anniversary year by showcasing some of our awesome teams. This story is about one of them.
“We wanted to do this a bit differently and truly empower and enable our end users and process experts’ creativity in a sustainable way,” tells Vesa Mustonen, who was the Project Manager building Wärtsilä’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) set-up in 2016.
From the beginning, it was clear that Wärtsilä would build the RPA knowledge in-house. The ground-breaking idea was to have only a small core RPA team in Wärtsilä’s Information Management (IM) function. Whereas, most of the RPA experts would be selected colleagues from all over Wärtsilä with a common denominator: they needed to know the processes in their functions and constantly seek opportunities to improve them. Today, these colleagues are known as Citizen Developers, who – on top of their normal duties – do important work as part-time RPA programmers.
“The goal was to take the digital transformation to the regular employee level and empower all Wärtsilä’s businesses and functions to enter the next stage of automation,” Vesa clarifies.
Now, Vesa has six experts in the IM Process Automation team: Nishant Redekar, Mats Holmberg, David Hong, Mari Mäkinen, Joakim Kronkvist and Henrik Bäckström. They complement each other’s skills, still sharing the most important attribute: their level of commitment. “We take this personally and see value in our work. We make things happen and find a solution, no matter what the case is,” Mari summarises the team spirit.
When it comes to the RPA Community, there are currently over 100 Citizen Developers – and over 1000 Wärtsilians have been taking part in the RPA introductions and trainings. The word of mouth on success stories boosts general interest towards process automation ensuring that volunteers keep popping up. And the IM’s Process Automation team is enjoying all of this. Especially, when they see a new Citizen Developer – whose daily job is about something completely different, such as accounting, and has no deep technical experience – becoming a master of automation and using the programming tools.
“It’s rewarding to see colleagues widening their capabilities and trying new career paths. It’s also great to follow the success sharing within the community – i.e. when Citizen Developers, together with their business colleagues, manage to create successful process automation that clearly bring value to the organisation,” Mats tells. Tight collaboration like this is possible since everyone in the network is so passionate about automation.
However, Wärtsilä’s RPA journey hasn’t been a victory march all the way. As RPA is a relatively new field of expertise, there was practically no-one to turn to for advice. Still, the determined cross-business Wärtsilä team managed to figure out and build everything in-house. “This RPA Community is not stuck in any habits since we're pioneering at an uncharted territory all the time and can copy no-one. Consequently, whenever we get ideas, we throw them in knowing that the teammates are always ready to explore them,” Mari says. In addition, one can partially thank the company culture for enabling such a self-driven RPA community – as Vesa reveals, Wärtsilians are action-oriented people who like to solve things both by themselves and with their colleagues.
“The beauty of this community is that once you enable and support the collaboration – people help each other across functions naturally,” Vesa tells and lets Nishant fill in, “Now that we’ve made RPA sustainable, scalable and accessible, our core team is mainly securing that the automation platforms are running, and solutions work. We provide training and constantly develop new easy-to-use tools for our Citizen Developers who are then using those tools and doing the most critical part of developing automation.”
However, Vesa’s team is more than a platform-provider; they have been – and will continue – standing by the Citizen Developers, solving questions with them and ensuring the community stays vibrant.
In the shoes of a Citizen Developer
“The success of our Citizen Developer network lies in the volunteer approach – that’s why everyone is so happy to work on it,” believes Anton Österbro, who currently works in the RPA network full time and has given RPA training to over 40 colleagues in Wärtsilä Global Logistics Solutions during 2019. Also, Ari Luhtala in Wärtsilä Energy Business, who took the RPA trainings this year, feels the learning process was rather simple; first, he became a part-time Citizen Developer, after which he grew into the full-time role.
Even if initially, people may be afraid of the terms ‘coding’ and ‘programming’, when new Citizen Developers get into RPA, they realise that it is not out of this world. That’s what Diego Esteves, Taxation Accountant in Wärtsilä Brazil believes as he continues, “To make a good robot, one needs to learn how differently people work and complete tasks. For that reason, it’s good that in Wärtsilä, each function automates their own processes.“
Maria Lybäck, whose expertise is in Period End Closing Automation, agrees with Diego’s thinking on responsibilities and adds, “It’s a lot easier to start developing an RPA process if you have worked with the process before and know how it should be done manually.”
Even if some Citizen Developers have previous programming understanding, it is really not needed. Mariana Pinto, working in Wärtsilä’s Contract Centre in Ft. Lauderdale is one of those developers who had no previous programming experience. “Before, I didn’t think I would be capable of developing automation. But here I am, saving time and money for myself and my teammates with RPA,” Mariana tells smiling. “Especially, I enjoy the power we get with the RPA tool; we don’t need to wait for others to do the development, but we can act on it right now in our team.”
Currently, Mariana is on a job rotation getting to know the core RPA team’s work, “These two months in Finland have taught me a lot. As a Citizen Developer, I’ve understood the part where we create new solutions but not how they’re integrated into the system. Now, I’ve been doing also the integration and it helps me understand the big picture,” she tells.
Like Mariana, Samuel Di Carlo, Wärtsilä’s Quality Engineer based in Italy, started as a Citizen Developer with no previous experience. “One day, my line manager just asked if I knew anything about RPA. I replied to him saying ‘No, but tomorrow I will’ and started to see tutorials and read guides.” When Samuel became more familiar with RPA, he was able to start helping others, “Then, I discovered a new side of myself: I enjoy teaching quite a lot,” he shares.
Besides training and helping other colleagues and new Citizen Developers, the work of a Citizen Developer provides constant learning too; all the RPA experts agree that they get more than they give. “I get to use my creativity, innovate and think outside the box to find the safest and best way to automate a process,” Maria specifies continuing, “Besides, I find joy in developing myself and feel proud every time a process I created is functioning as it should.”
For Avelino Salvante Jr. in the Philippines, the Citizen Developer role has been both a learning journey and a steppingstone to turn his dear hobby into a career. As Avelino’s manager knew about his interest, he suggested that Avelino could start doing RPA full time instead of balancing between programing and his job in the Proposals Team. “So, I became a full-time Process Automation Manager. And I enjoy the new job where I get to help my colleagues by automating repetitive tasks,” he shares.
It’s also encouraging to get positive feedback from colleagues who use the RPA solutions created by the Citizen Developers. “One of my colleagues actually said that the robot is his new favourite colleague – as it does the boring work without complaining,” Anton says cheerfully.
More to come
A trend, where decisions are taken on a lower level, seems to be spreading. And according to the Wärtsilä team, RPA is supporting that change 100%; after all, RPA is empowering the functions to act on initiatives they see vital and drive value through them. “With value, we mean automating routine tasks to robots so that experts have more time to focus on tougher tasks. RPA is simply to help, not to replace, humans,” Mats specifies.
When thinking about automation, people may visualise a machine moving all the time. Whereas, David feels that modern automation is something more organic, “If you think about our bodies, for example, our moves are perfect automation. Our automation processes can be applied to that – we make the whole Wärtsilä move as one flexible body.”
While developing that body, no-one in the RPA community is expecting the development pace and RPA boom to slow down any time soon. And for Wärtsilä’s near future, the constantly increasing capabilities of the Citizen Developers will continue having a major role – especially when the question is no longer how to use applications, but how to solve problems.
For example, Anton and Avelino plan to start discovering more advanced projects related to artificial intelligence and machine learning. “It requires robots to learn more about how things work and how to handle exceptions. In addition, robots will take over a bigger part of data entries in the future. Then, Wärtsilians can focus even more on customers instead of processes,” Anton says.
Wärtsilä already has successfully working robotic processes in several areas. Still, the year 2020 is expected to be a growth year in terms of number of robotic processes; “As the software develops all the time and becomes easier to use, we can do more with it. I believe we can at least double the amount of processes in Wärtsilä Energy Business by March 2020,” Ari tells.
So, aren’t we more than ready to welcome these ‘robotic colleagues’ who enable our focus to be where it matters the most: planning the work and accomplishing more challenging tasks?