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Take Pressure off Your Team with Robotic Process Automation
By Ian Brennan, Director, Laya Healthcare
As Director of IT with Laya healthcare, I was able to benefit from the Blue Prism RPA technology procured by our parent AIG AI team. When I, along with a team in Laya healthcare reviewed it, we immediately recognised the potential that RPA held. We got licenses for 10 Digital Workers and set about training this workforce. As several of us were science fiction fans, we named them after famous authors, so it became normal for us to see Isaac Asimov logged into a system and transacting away.
Every business has a back-office function, often built up over years of business development, acquisitions, legislative demands, and compliance requirements. With finite time and budgets, CIOs make judgment calls on what gets engineered as a solution and what goes into the technical debt bucket. All too often, that technical debt list never gets addressed and piles up as manual or semi-manual practices that are just accepted.
In Laya healthcare, I formed a small team composed of people who, when faced with these kinds of problems, wanted to quickly implement a solution to free up team time and reduce risk. We needed someone to help the business teams document their candidate tasks for automation and we allocated two team members to get trained on the RPA process and to implement the automation.
One clear decision I made at the outset was that, we would lead with business projects and leave the IT tasks to the back of the queue.
RPA is one technology that it’s essential we don’t ignore because it’s not exciting enough
I had often seen other IT automation implementations prioritise their own ‘toil’ and focus heavily on IT in the first instance and leave far more beneficial business tasks to later in the project. But looking at a business—where is the greatest opportunity to implement RPA? —to me, every single time, it will be found around the business tasks.
In theory it was simple. Sell the benefits of RPA to the managers, get them to document their processes, prioritise them based on hours saved by the business in automation or risk avoidance, and watch the work roll in. The reality was that lots of managers adopted a wait and see approach, some were so busy with their day job they hadn’t time to identify tasks, never mind document them for assessment, and finally candidate tasks were often not documented to a level of detail required to hit high automation targets.
Highlighting the successes and those early adopters gave credibility to the process and celebrated those who were brave in stepping up. The first great outcome was that the productivity of the digital workforce was a minimum of two to three times higher than a normal team member. This shows how often we are interrupted and how powerful RPA truly is. The second was the accuracy of 100 percent; if a digital worker doesn’t know how to do something, it files it as an exception and never guesses. The last benefit we saw was that working weekends, out of hours, and round the clock was implemented with the click of the scheduler.
We now have significant numbers of automation tasks working on every major application within our business and the pipeline has a steady stream of opportunities. Now we are starting to see some of the benefits of the prior automation.
When a new task comes to the top of the queue, we always have the building blocks of the application in place and will only have to implement minimal new functionality. This re-use of common objects, so often a goal of IT development teams, is absolutely alive in RPA. Release time of task requests, has moved from months, to weeks to days.
The Digital Workforce is getting busier and busier and scheduling the many different tasks is becoming a challenge. In my opinion, this isn’t a problem, it’s the kind of challenge that makes a team celebrate how busy the scheduler now looks and is something that we’ll address and deal with.
Our future plans are to continue to drive the adoption in all areas of the business, improve our processes when core systems are upgraded and enhanced, and implement a supervisory function within our digital workforce where scheduled tasks are allocated to the remainder of the digital workforce team based on workload, business challenges and queues.
Too often CIOs can focus on the latest and greatest technology. RPA is one technology that it’s essential we don’t ignore because it’s not exciting enough. RPA will deliver enough business value to put many other projects to shame.
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