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Scaling, Sustaining Automation Success: Insights from Our Automation Experts

Earlier this year, HGS released a white paper on this year’s top 10 trends in customer service. In this blog, we dissect CX Trend No. 9, Robotic process automation (RPA), transforms both the back office and front office, highlighting tools and tactics designed to drive the right answer, fast, for your customers—to ultimately result in a higher CSAT and NPS score for your business.

Effective automation is as much about good business process design as is it is about the robotics. Here at HGS, we’ve dedicated a blog series to how intelligent automation can drive cost benefits and improved efficiency over manual process handling, leverage application software without integration, increase adoption in finance and accounting (F&A), and provide a potential alternative to offshore outsourcing. Our spring blog post “There’s No Time to Lose: Get Moving on Your Automation Journey” was highly successful, with significant engagement from the business community, as was our webinar, “What’s New in CX Automation.” HGS has employed automation to unlock for our clients results such as a 75% reduction in processing time for some processes. Here HGS’s own Deputy General Manager Business Transformation Reetha Menon and General Manager – Business Transformation Saurabh Mittal share those essential insights that help guide today’s businesses to achieving real outcomes with intelligent automation.

Reetha Menon

Reetha Menon
General Manager - Business Transformation

Saurabh Mittal

Saurabh Mittal
General Manager - Business Transformation

HGS: How can businesses support themselves in their automation needs without over relying on IT?

Reetha: When the enterprise level of organizations engage robotic process automation (RPA), they usually end up using IT as the backbone. And in most cases, automation is not possible without IT support. However, increasingly we see more collaboration between business and IT with a common set of objectives and end goals.

This blended approach combines IT’s security guidance and detailed technical expertise with the overall business needs and objectives.

Saurabh: Today’s newer automation opportunities enable the business to drive change faster without being completely reliant on IT.

As technology evolves daily, it’s key that solutions are innovated by both technology and business users. That way, business users can deploy and use these solutions themselves, rather than always being dependent on IT.

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HGS: Can you talk about the need for constant innovation? How does that play into the sustainability of automation ROI, with focus on emerging technologies, like cognitive tools, machine learning, and AI?

Reetha: If you look at mid- or small-segment business lines, automation’s greatest impact is in two areas: HR and Finance and Accounting. There are organizations that focus more on these domains/functions within their organization, so manual intervention is really high, in these cases. And there, the goal is to minimize manual intervention and bring efficiency.

From a sustainability point of view, there are differences in simple RPA with structured data and digital sources of data, like PDFs and Excel. What happens when images come into the mix, with unstructured data? In these cases, that could be a bottleneck for RPA. For example, in Finance and Accounting, any organization dealing with accounts payable or receivables have a large number of invoice images coming from clients and vendors. RPA does have limitations, and that’s where machine learning and cognitive capabilities come in. These platform-based solutions have an edge with unstructured data. For example, these solutions can look at patterns across thousands of vendors and pick the right requirement to determine consistencies to be expanded on.  

Saurabh: It’s all about the tools working together. In some cases, what may start as a simple RPA application can scale to multiple areas of process improvement—sometimes transcending automation. This calls for the disrupters—the newer technologies or advanced technologies—which can cater to that need. We have to constantly innovate and bring these new solutions to answer to the complexities and the new process delivery. Whether the answer is cognitive, machine learning, or AI, it differs case by case. In this area, IT will typically take precedence and lead a bit more. The business carries responsibility to explain the complexity of change to IT, which supports by finding a solution to deploy and sustain value.

HGS: What are some mistakes businesses have made that negatively affected sustainability of automation ROI?

Reetha: It’s important to earn the confidence of the business. You need to get buy-in from all stakeholders, especially in organizations where team members fear for their job security. Mapping the right RPA journey, requires the right subject matter experts to have input into building the solution. You need that buy in because if there is discomfort with sharing information, then your solution might not be functional. Without transparency from all team members at the start, the resulting RPA solution may have gaps and add time and inefficiencies that derail results.

Saurabh:  Without a doubt, the enterprise strategy, from top down, has to be aligned to ensure sustainability. Without this alignment, initiatives don’t get the scale to be replicated across the organization. Initial ROI often dies down without that full launch and momentum. If there isn’t support from all areas of the organization, automation won’t evolve optimally.

HGS: How can business process outsourcers (BPOs) help orchestrate automation sustainability?

Reetha: BPOs bring the agnostic technology knowledge, and best practices across multiple platforms. They also bring customer care and domain knowledge expertise. This combination is really important to ensure the process is optimized and designed for automation to yield the best results.

Saurabh: I would add that there is a need for BPOs that can earn the buy-in of the organization. That means they understand alignment to company vision. The right BPO partner will roadmap a journey that meets the long-term goals of their client. BPOs, in particular, are already invested in innovation on behalf of their clients, and they can leverage familiarity and learnings as well as certain incentives like gainsharing. The right model can incentivize BPOs to introduce, incubate, and sustain automation ROI for their client partners.

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