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Upskilling citizen developers in accounting

by Marco van der Hoeven

Later this week the Bank of the Future/Automation in Banking will be the theme of The Banking Scene Afterwork-seminar. One of the presenters is Sidney Madison Prescott, VP Global Intelligent Automation initiative at music streaming powerhouse Spotify. Recently she also spoke about her experiences in automation and RPA at the UiPath Reboot Work Festival.

At the event she told the attendees: “We were really focused on providing automation in two different ways. The first way was through enterprise automation, our unattended bots. The second way was through our attended bots, which we achieved by upskilling resources within Spotify.”

The program started as a pilot in 2020 with the accounting team. “We were basically upskilling our accountants to build their own automations, alongside the more robust automation that our developers were producing.”


There was a wide variety of considerations from a leadership perspective, she said. “We decided to focus less on how many automations we were putting into production, and more on the business value that we were  providing.” Spotify did that by looking at the manual processing before automation, and comparing that to the time they were saving once that process was automated, over the lifespan of the bot.

“How much time are we getting back to the business, and are we able to really provide business value and metrics in a transparent way? This way we have built some incredible data visualizations and dashboards, that is really helping us to prove the value of not only the enterprise led unattended bot, but also the attended bots made by citizen developers.”


It started small. “We didn’t try to bite off more than we could chew. We started with one specific area of the business, which is accounting. We started with a pilot, to se how we could successfully upskill our employees. How do we make sure that our employees feel they are benefiting from the upscaling that they’re receiving through the program?”

“And then also, of course, how do we measure value? How do we measure success? And how do we continue to provide a pathway for our citizen developers to continue maturing out their skill set? So, it really becomes building an automation first-mindset into their development goals.”


Building automation by citizen developers was ‘surprisingly straightforward’. “We began by leveraging the UiPath resources, which was great to help us. There are hands on training, trainers, the ability for the developers to deep dive into challenges. So, I think the training is essential, making sure that you adopt robust training framework. And it has been successful for us in terms of avoiding the hiccups we thought we would incur.”

The biggest pieces of advice she can give about scaling is to make sure to clearly outline what you plan to deliver, how you plan to deliver it, and create realistic timeframes for those deliverables. “I really can’t stress that enough. When you start out your program, you want to manage the expectations, particularly in that pilot phase of make sure that everyone from if you are starting with citizen developers, that your citizen developers understand that this is going to be a journey. It is definitely a marathon, not a sprint.”

Senior leaders

It is also important to make sure senior leaders understand and are bought into the overall vision. “Realize who your stakeholders are, realize what you plan to deliver. Manage your expectations from a leadership standpoint and a stakeholder standpoint. And then finally, I would say, make sure that you are really looking at the right business metrics, rather than thinking how many bots I get into production. Really think about the value you are providing for the business stakeholders.”

Sidney Madison Prescott is a senior technology leader, keynote speaker, author, and robotics evangelist specializing in the creation of Robotic Process Automation Centers of Excellence for Fortune 500 companies. Sidney currently heads up the Global Intelligent Automation initiative at music streaming powerhouse Spotify. In addition to her enterprise technology expertise, Sidney is an executive board member for three global non-profit organizations, where she contributes valuable automation insights to enhance overall program objectives. To round out her career accolades, Sidney was also named a global recipient of the 2020 Top 50 Technology Visionaries award.

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