Posted by Ram Mohan Natarajan
Effective automation is as much about good business process design as is it is about the robotics. There are multiple factors to consider, including systems use, business impact, data touch points, ROI of labor, and investment. And the ROI—from the front office and the back office—is significant. Key factors driving the global IT robotic automation market are cost benefits and improved efficiency over manual process handling, ability to leverage application software without integration, increasing adoption in finance and accounting (F&A) sector, and potential alternative to offshore outsourcing. In the front office, automation is improving experiences for customers by getting them answered fast and accurately. HGS has been able to employ automation to unlock for our clients results like reduced processing time by about 75% in some of the processes. Additionally we have improved for clients areas like quality to meet standards of more than 99.5%. Clients have typically experienced significant benefits, including:
- Reduced Average Handle Time (Speed)
- Right First Time (Quality)
- Automated process resulting in better agent productivity
- Decreased training timeline
- Increased process compliance
- Enhanced efficiency and customer experience
- Higher CSAT scores through faster resolution of the cases
7 Steps to Implementing Automation
The following seven steps will help ensure that your automation program yields the most benefit in the shortest timeframe:
- Identify opportunities to automate. To what extent does the process lend itself to automation? By their very nature, some processes are more adaptable and open to automation than others. In the example of a major global bank, automation of a wide range of processes, including Fraudulent Account Closure, Loan Application Opening and Right Of Set Off, reduced labor by more than 120 FTEs.
- Validate the opportunity. Check how adaptable the process is to being automated. If we look at most processes, we notice that they typically comprise both transaction and decisioning parts. Automation can be designed to achieve some quick wins on the transactional part which is the more time-consuming repetitive task. In one of the process that we automated, we noticed that over 90% of the effort is on the transactions that have all been completely automated, leaving the agents to only build the product in the system.
- Select a Design Model. Select the best model for your requirement. You may need to redesign the process to maximize the scope for automation. In some cases this yields additional benefits. Design the automation plan that suits the business structure. Customize the automation model to suit the process needs. As one example of customizing a model, in one of the processes HGS recently automated for product build, we split the process into three distinct subprocesses: capturing the input, building the right codes, and then updating the systems. While building the right codes is where we need the product build experts, a lot of time was also spent on capturing the input and on updating the systems. In this case, we redesigned the process using automation to capture the inputs. Then our experts built codes, and automation was used to update the systems. This result was more than a 75% increase in efficiency for this particular process.
- Develop the automation plan. It is important to deep dive into the process and identify all exception scenarios. In some processes, it is best to automate the time consuming part of the process and then build additional incremental automation. Develop the automation implementation process in phases, keeping in mind all level 3 exception scenarios. Often, it may not be prudent to automate all scenarios, and it is best to try and automate over 75% of the scenarios and let the experts handle the exceptions. Observe how your plan works and performs in each phase and then start on the next phase.
- Deploy the pilot phase. When you develop an automation plan and are ready to implement it, run a pilot project first. This allows you to observe the effectiveness and overall performance of your automation plan with an actual process in real-time. Take the results of the pilot project and make improvements accordingly. Look at the results of the pilot and then include those scenarios that need to be automated and those that can remain an exception. It is good to involve the right stakeholders to understand the long-term plan and then plan the next steps. That has been a key takeaway: collaboration and involvement of client and relevant stakeholders. Sometimes there is a difference in testing and live environment, and there could be training for roll out.
- Roll out : Besides development of automation, a plan needs to be built for training and handling contingency depending on the criticality of the process. It is good to ensure that while people are trained on the revised process there is also documents on the process before automation to handle any contingency due to change in applications, systems.Ask yourself: What is the level to which we can drive change in my process/ organization? Ascertain the number of people you need to retain in the process following automation implementation. Can current volumes be addressed with reduced staff numbers?
- Maintain your automation activity. This is often an overlooked area. Automation is not always a one-time activity. There will be changes in the process and systems and there should be a good change management process to handle any changes. Estimate the impact of change in systems or process and have a plan ready for this. At this last phase, prepare change management plan. It is critical to get all stakeholder buy in. In some systems, even a field included in a drop down may have an impact on the output, so there should be a plan to manage these.
Business Process Management (BPM) companies can provide guidance in all of these areas, and determine the level of change required. More than technology, automation is a mindset shift. There must be appropriate governance to support the new business requirements, for truly sustainable results. And BPMs that are committed to partners’ success for the long term do not sacrifice long-term customer achievements for short-term gain. Ultimately, partnership and commitment to mutual excellence lead to lasting relationships.