Suncor Energy's Robotics Journey with Robert Lye


Robert Lye presented a session at Driven 2019 on Suncor Energy's Robotics Journey. Watch a summary below:


Krista White: Thanks Robert for sitting down with me today. So today in your session, here at Driven, you spoke about how RPA is really driving the digital transformation at Suncor. Can you give us a bit of a summary of your session?

Robert Lye: Sure. Yeah. So in late 2017, we had a very enthusiastic vice president that went to our IT department and said that, "I'm doing RPA whether you're on board or not", and that happened to be in supply chain management, which was the area that I was in. And it really was a catalyst for the organization to recognize that digital transformation was upon us and that we had to approach things differently. And so from that we did an experiment, that experiment around invoice processing was some quarters first digital capability introduction. We established what is referred to as a digital excellence network, which was a model off of our technical excellence networks at Suncor.

Robert Lye: And from there it really sparked an understanding of what the value was, what the effort was going to be, and then that team, which is a collection of business leaders, really set in motion the work to enable and interact or integrate RPA into the organization, getting the ideation to occur, assess, and then in September we started a bot factory where we are designing and building. And from there now we find our ourselves in a place where after finally feeling a little stable, that what other digital enablers do we need to be looking at in order to drive much more value.

Krista White: Nice. So you mentioned that you guys started in 2017, I mean, you guys have seen the good, the bad, the ugly, everything RPA, what I advice would you give someone who was starting today?

Robert Lye: So, think about experimenting, right? And whether it's a design thinking sprints or an agile sprint, just be in or create the space for the organization to learn and innovate. And from our experiment in supply chain, it gave us the idea that there was an opportunity, but the reality is that technology is the easy part and the harder part is actually getting the support of the organization, actually taking away some of the angst that people will feel because they don't understand what a digital capability or RPA is doing. And what we've found, and I'll admit it was maybe a little bit of a unconscious benefit as we tried to figure out how to fund it from POC into a program, was the fact that standing up governance and vision, understanding how you're going to assess the opportunities to identify which ones you want to go is very critical.

Robert Lye: We've seen in talking with many other companies where they have started with a POC and then from there tried to immediately operationalize. And from doing that they get to a point of scale where all of a sudden it's like, oh, just a minute we need to figure out how we're going to steward this, we need to figure out how we're actually going to govern this. And what we were able to do, while the funding was being figured out, we set up that governance through the den and from there, when we actually went live, I call it our internal public offering of RPA, we were able to adapt very quickly with respect to engage in the organization, completing the assessments, prioritizing what opportunities we wanted to move forward with, with RPA. And by the end of 2018, we had 10 automation events which were put in place by building or developing over 20 bots.

Krista White: Nice. Well, thanks for sitting down with us and sharing your story here at Driven. You can catch some more stories and more live from Driven here on this channel when you subscribe.