By Saurabh Mittal, Deputy General Manager, Business Transformation
In today’s age, machines are our new best friend, and it’s a connection that is constantly evolving. Especially in the BPO sector, where there is a lot of focus on customer experience, businesses welcome anything that makes engagement/delivery processes easier, faster, personalized, and cheaper. In that context, robotic process automation (RPA) is generating a lot of buzz across industries.
Across today’s organizations, there is intense focus and interest to get started on the journey of process automation without big IT spends and waiting years to get onto the IT priority list. RPA is the new way of operating and delivering results effectively and efficiently. According to a 2016 Deloitte research study on global outsourcing perspectives, with a focus on RPA, 43 percent of organizations surveyed look toward innovation to reduce cost of delivery.
While most businesses are thinking about making strides in the space, they struggle to understand the starting and end points of the technology. There is confusion about multiple technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA), and lack of clarity regarding how to kick-start the journey and achieve ROI.
To ensure the success of your RPA deployment and realize tangible business benefits, here are the five tenets of successful RPA deployment:
- Tenet 1: Organizational Readiness
RPA is not a standalone platform/tool/solution that can be deployed by a function, based on the budget available for the year as a project. Rather, RPA is a strategy that requires a:
- well-thought-out plan,
- organizational structure for support,
- technology/ platform to enable its deployment,
- trusted partner for success, and most importantly,
- enterprise-wide change management strategy.
Here’s an example scenario:
HGS is working with a leading US financial services organization as a partner for RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) institutionalization and deployment. The client organization started the journey by creating the right structure within the company, ensuring that the organization adopts RPA as a strategy, and not as just a project/ point solution. Today, the CoE for the client has 30+ full-time RPA specialists working on the chosen platform and covering all the business lines of the organization. The centralized RPA team is working with multiple business stakeholders (directors of business lines) and all the enterprise teams such as IT, service design, change management, infrastructure, and networks. RPA has been institutionalized as an enterprise capability within the client’s organization.
- Tenet 2: Process Excellence
As Bill Gates said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
As the name suggests, RPA is all about the process. Therefore, when implementing RPA, the first thing to do is to study the focal process in detail. Assess the upstream and downstream of the process, what we really do in the process and why, the value-add steps, and how the data moves and is used across the organization. Isolating the process optimizes efficiency, even before automating it. We at HGS call it the “re-engineered for automation” focus. Domain and delivery experience is the key here, since every process nuance and exception needs to be assessed before designing the automation solution. If not done right, there can be a direct impact on the ROI generated from the program.
- Tenet 3: Design for Automation
Automation can be applied to any process. But the design of automation differs significantly. A process can be fully automated in ideal state. But that doesn’t mean we should be aiming to fully automate every process we pick. Automation design should consider multiple factors such as:
- Stability of process
- Size and scale of delivery
- Number of potential failure points
- Merge or decoupling opportunity
- Time to deploy
- Number of exception scenarios
Overautomating a process can have a huge impact on total cost of automation delivery due to high maintenance requirements. Conversely, underautomation leads to lower realized ROI on investments, with underused bots. According to Deloitte, while an outsourcing provider may deploy onshore and offshore resources at different price points post-build, a robot can cost 10 to 20 percent of the cost of an onshore full-time employee in high-cost locations.
At HGS, we differentiate ourselves with design for automation thinking and deployment that maximizes the value of RPA deployments for our clients.
- Tenet 4: Platform As Enabler
Today many technology providers deploy RPA—and there are a range of platform differentiators. Choosing the right platform is one of the key steps in the overall success of RPA deployment. The ease of use, architecture, stability, support, and hosting requirements are some of the key areas to assess before finalizing the tool. It is also important to discuss the organizational design and set-up architecture with platform teams to understand if there are key dependencies, limitations, and exceptions to consider, in order to avoid any surprises later. This also helps in finalizing platform costs. HGS works with multiple leading RPA platforms in the market to cater to the varying needs of our clients.
- Tenet 5: Change Management Readiness
Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” As briefly touched upon in the first tenet, RPA does require a focused change management process. An ever-evolving process landscape warrants multiple changes due to many triggers related to systems, applications, process, policies, data, etc. Thus, ensuring bots are managed both in knowledge and skills as well as their manner of delivery is the key task of any RPA deployment. So how does one do it without disturbing the overall harmony? The answer lies in anticipating and projecting the impact and quantifying it to acceptable range before finalizing the design for automation.
In summary, the RPA space is rapidly evolving with new innovations and technology features. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are being tested at great lengths, merging the entire spectrum of analytics and process automation. RPA is already moving into being a cognitive RPA space through machine learning and NLP concepts. Organizations need to start on the journey understanding that there are BPO resources there to help—with the sharpened expertise and focus on optimizing ROI with the right deployment framework.