Managing people in a time of automation

Managing people in a time of automation

As the presence of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in today’s workplaces continues to grow, the topic of job security and displacement becomes increasingly important for managers to consider.

With a widely held misconception that technology is a threat to traditional workforces, employers have an imperative to consider how RPA and AI will affect people and organizational culture when determining where and how these technologies should be used in their organizations.

Regardless of how well designed an RPA or AI strategy is, if the human side of implementing change is not a focal point of that strategy, it stands to fail. This article explores some tangible ways companies can approach change management, ensuring employee buy-in.

Automation, after all, is less about replacing employees and more about streamlining work processes. It allows an employee’s role to be redefined from a focus on mundane and repetitive tasks to one that is more complex, more value-added, and ultimately more meaningful.  Managed properly, automation can lead to a more engaged workforce.

Based on our experience designing and implementing broad-scale automation programs, we’ve identified three strategies that every organization should consider when adopting RPA and AI.

 

Prepare not just for automation, but for a cultural shift

When preparing for an automation project, managers are often tasked with developing a list of processes that AI and RPA can quickly improve. During this discovery phase managers also need to blueprint the broader impact of automation on people and culture. Such a blueprint can help to navigate the transition towards automation, identifying required changes to employee mindsets and behaviours and building an effective communication and change management plan.

By positioning automation and AI as employee allies—put in place to help alleviate staff from repetitive and mundane tasks—organizations can rally employees to become champions for technological advancement. For this to work, transparency is key. Conversations reminding employees that these technologies are tools that are supposed to work for them are fundamental to ensuring a smooth transition. Employees of all skill levels are better served when they understand how and why their work landscape is changing.

 

Encourage ongoing learning and development

In typical employee onboarding, time and resources are committed to ensuring staff are trained on the skills that are required to work effectively and efficiently. For many organizations, this is where learning and development starts and ends.  However, organizations that thrive know that ongoing learning is essential to both employee and company growth.

Automation and AI provide an excellent opportunity for organizations to re-invest in the skills and capabilities of their employees.  With the capacity that automation and AI unlock, time can be invested in training employees on more advanced skills.  Staff can be redeployed to work on more value-added activities, including customer-facing interactions and revenue-generating initiatives.  Automation and AI initiatives also require employee oversight and support, and current Subject Matter Experts are often well positioned to transition into an Automation or AI Centre of Excellence.  With a thoughtful approach to training and upskilling employees and designing new value-added roles, a transition to automation and/or AI can lead to a more rewarding work environment that motivates staff and boosts morale and engagement in the workplace.

A Burnie Group client recently illustrated how to positively engage employees while embracing automation. In addition to clearly communicating their automation strategy, our client gave employees the opportunity to be trained in automation core skills and join the automation Centre of Excellence to participate in the automation implementation.  Employees were also encouraged to identify automation opportunities in their work area, with the commitment that capacity released through RPA would be repurposed towards growth initiatives in the organization.   This approach made employees feel that they were a part of the automation transformation and resulted in a very positive attitude towards the change.

As AI and RPA become more prevalent in the workplace, employees that are equipped with future-proof skills will be less fearful of automation and better prepared to work alongside this technology.

 

Position your company as an innovator

People want to work for organizations that support and empower their employees, and automation can be a tool that enables this. An organization’s investment in technology can help position it as an innovator in its field, helping it to attract and retain top talent.

When organizations embrace innovation and build it into their “DNA” to —continuously reinvent work,  they reduce barriers to change and create an innovative culture where everyone wins.

One Burnie Group client implemented Robotic Process Automation as part of a broader strategic focus on innovation.  With innovation being core to the values of the company, RPA was viewed as a natural fit.  Rather than challenging the implementation and resisting change, employees sought ways to build RPA into their day-to-day work and leverage it to spend more of time with customers and on growth-focused initiatives.

 

Conclusion

Introducing AI and RPA into the workplace is no small undertaking. While most leaders address the effectiveness and efficiency gains that these technologies can deliver, truly successful leaders take a broader view to consider the best way to engage employees in the change.

Successful companies take the time to understand how automation can complement the work of employees and then invest in building a workplace where people and automation live in harmony.


Managing people in a time of automation


 By: Jenya Doudareva, Senior Associate

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a relatively new technology that has already firmly claimed its spot in improving the productivity of organizations alongside tried and true methodologies such as lean and six sigma. We’ve put together a comprehensive list of  22 RPA benefits based on our many years of experience implementing RPA solutions with Financial Services, Insurance, Telecommunications and Healthcare clients.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  1. Decreased costs.  Cost savings of approximately 80-90% can be achieved when a business process performed by an FTE is replaced by a software robot.

2. Freeing up staff for higher value tasks. Automation of repetitive and time-consuming processes frees up your staff to make a more value-add contribution.  For example, when assessing an insurance claim more time can be spent in the assessment as opposed to populating the same data into 5 various systems.

3. Increased employee engagement. When staff can focus on high-value tasks they often feel more invested in the work they are completing. When implementing RPA projects, we often see staff engaging in repetitive activities e.g. copying data between 10 different systems while completing a single customer request, with RPA they can serve an additional 3 clients instead.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  4. Reduced operational risk. RPA reduces the rate of errors because robots make less mistakes. Avoiding purely human mistakes, such as those made while tired, or by deviating from the process, means a lower level of operational risk.

5. Reduced output variability. Robots are great at duplicating tasks consistently with little to no distinguishable variability. It ensures that similar tasks are handled in the same way e.g. underwriting for insurance policies is consistent across the same risk groups.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  6. Reduced paper use/waste. RPA forces digitization as it requires that companies have the data and files being manipulated by software robots in a digital form. Work that in the past may have been done partly or in full on paper, by an FTE, can now be purely electronic.

7. Driving process improvement. In an automation project you often first analyze and then simplify (where possible) the processes to be automated, creating more manageable processes (for both people and machines). For example, if you have 10 different ways to set up a new client in your system, it would make sense to streamline this process first and then automate it.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  8. Increased output. Automation allows for work to be done 24/7/365 without people fatigue, or quality variance. Often, customers want to interact with service providers outside of a 9-5 timeframe—on evenings and weekends—automation allows you to offer this level of service.

9. Higher speed and throughput. Customers receive expedited service as machines are able to process requests in real time. e.g. credit checks, etc.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  10. Improved customer experience. By deploying RPA you free up expensive and high-value resources, FTEs, from more menial and repetitive tasks and put them back on the front line assisting your customers.

11. Improved internal service levels. With RPA things like internal reports can be delivered faster and without mistakes, new employees can be set-up very quickly, and even IT issues can be enormously accelerated.

12. Defined governance structures. RPA forces companies to define clear governance structures around IT applications by forcing organizations to agree on who owns each application. Leading to a clearer definition of access rights for each application, since robots, like humans, will need to use the same access.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  13. RPA does not require substituting existing IT systems.  An RPA virtual workforce uses all the same systems your FTEs use. This is one of greatest advantages of RPA in comparison to other automation solutions. In the past, Business Process Management solutions and workflow management tools had to be integrated with each application they interacted with. RPA simply uses the existing systems in the way your FTEs would.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  14. RPA is Scaleable. Being able to easily scale up or down your operations as needed ensures that companies can make adjustments based on seasonality. In the insurance sector, for example, a virtual workforce can be ramped up in order to process snow/hail claims in the winter, flooding in the summer, etc.

15. Virtual workforces are highly secure. Managing IT security for RPA robots is very simple as they do not change roles, leave the company, or retire. They also don’t hack your data.

16. Increased expertise in core domains. By automating simple tasks, your company can develop increased expertise in your core domains, such as developing more sophisticated fraud analysis, and/or creating more accurate underwriting algorithms.

17.  RPA eliminates customer pain points. A successfully implemented virtual workforce can enhance your customer’s experience and eliminate common customer pain points. For example, traditionally when processing a loan the customer has to fill out several forms, submit required documents. These are then sent for processing, review and approvals. The overall process can take several weeks, with multiple human touch-points, after which the customer gets a feedback on the status of their loan application. With RPA, a robot can take over the complete process, reducing turnaround time to a few days or less.

18. Impact is delivered quickly. From the moment when robots are in place – a matter of weeks – organizations start seeing benefits. The Burnie Group’s typical implementation timeline for RPA projects is approximately 8 weeks.

22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)  19. Improved capacity for SLA analysis. RPA solutions allow management to know the progress of SLAs in real time. Dashboards tracking the output of your virtual workforce address a frequent problem of operations and back-office managers – understanding where his/her team stands and how volumes are evolving.

20. High-quality processes and output. Similar to a recipe being created by a five-star cook, a robot’s decision making logic is designed by your best SMEs, ensuring high-quality output. Your SME transfer knowledge of best practices with the RPA team ensuring your virtual workforce is performing at the highest standard.

21. Better record keeping. Robots always document what they’ve done, not only leaving a clear audit and control track, but also allowing for easy recovery after unexpected shutdowns.

22. Being an innovator. RPA is a cutting edge technology that is dramatically changing back-office operations enabling greater innovation by freeing up human labour to focus on idea-generating.

While RPA has many benefits, there continues to be a clear need for humans in the workforce. The question is no longer which jobs will be replaced, but rather, what work will be redefined, and how? In the future, most processes will consist of a mix of human and machine labour. Nothing will be fully automated. Even at the most highly automated production plant you will see there are still humans working.

Automation allows for traditional jobs to become more fluid, ensuring more effective human labour. With freedom from high-volume, low complexity administrative work, humans can continue to drive and innovate in areas such as customer service, expertise-based tasks, the development of new products, etc.

This article is just a glance into the world of RPA topics – should you be interested in exploring RPA opportunities in your industries or want to understand how to apply or deploy RPA in your organization, please contact us for a free no-obligation discussion. We look forward to hearing from you.

 


22 Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)


Sources:
image: https://teachingphysics.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/tate-error-t-shirt-ben-newman.gif

7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Robotic Process Automation

7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a relatively new technology that allows companies to drive significant efficiencies by enabling software robots to execute repetitive and often clerical activities normally performed by humans.

Efficiency is not the only benefit of RPA – it also allows for increased process quality, and eliminates errors that may result from manual work.

Furthermore, the use of RPA technology typically results in increased customer satisfaction, both internally and externally. For example, loan application processing times can be reduced from days to hours via automation, resulting in happier customers. And staff, who are often wary at the beginning of an RPA implementation, become supportive of the technology once it relieves them from dull, repetitive work, and allows them to focus on more interesting and challenging projects.

The path to reaping the benefits of RPA, however, can be riddled with many obstacles. If you are considering introducing RPA to your organization, these are seven common mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1: Not engaging senior leadership

Every successful project begins with strong leadership. RPA initiatives are no exception, and we recommend securing strong leadership from both the business and IT sides of your organization.

Business leaders will champion the effort, build a business case, and ensure that necessary resources are available (e.g. investments, subject matter experts, etc.)

IT leaders must be involved early on because RPA relies both on IT infrastructure (e.g. servers) and access to various IT applications. IT leaders can help to quickly resolve any unexpected challenges along the way, such as issues with IT security policies, or IT infrastructure upgrades, etc.

Want additional support for your initiative? Engage with the Audit and Risk leaders within your organization. They will quickly grasp all the benefits that RPA offers them, such as auditable processes, reduction in operational risk (due to reduction in manual work), and improved security.

Mistake #2: Not choosing the right processes

It is easy to get into the trap of automating small and simple tasks that nobody wants to touch. The real benefits of RPA, however, lie in the end-to-end automation of processes that tie up significant human resources.

Examples of such processes are: credit decisions in banking, underwriting decisions in insurance, processing of account changes, or setting up new customers across various industries.

In order to generate tangible benefits from your RPA project, you need to think big. Ask yourself if the impact of your automation project can be measured through one of these KPIs:

  • Revenue generation
  • Cost reduction/efficiency increases
  • Quality improvements
  • Positive impact on audit, risk, and compliance

As an example, a global bank used RPA to reduce its loan processing times from several weeks to two hours, resulting in dramatic efficiency improvements and significant customer satisfaction uplifts.

Mistake #3: Automating broken processes

Though RPA can, in most cases, automate existing processes, it is recommended that you look critically at processes before automating them and streamline where possible. This results in simpler, cleaner decision logic for RPA bots, shorter RPA testing cycles and easier maintenance of automation solutions.

For example, if you plan to automate an onboarding process for new customers, but there are currently 20 different ways your organization can onboard them, it makes sense to determine which is the most effective and reliable process, and then automating that process.

Mistake #4: Not investing enough time to test your bots

RPA bots can handle various tasks so long as they are programmed to manage them. Taking the time to define the different parameters involved in each process and programming your robots to handle each of them will save you a lot of time in the future. The idea being that your expert staff should only have to deal with exceptional cases that your robots cannot process. In order to achieve this, you need to rely on extensive testing to ensure that the robots know their part of the work.

Don’t forget to involve your SMEs when defining these testing scenarios. It is an iterative approach, and there are sure to be scenarios that nobody in your organization anticipated in the development phase, so be sure to allow sufficient time for testing.

Mistake #5: Not showing benefits early on

If there is one thing that will motivate your leadership to continue investing in RPA, it is seeing benefits early on.

Our RPA deployment experience shows that 8-12 weeks is enough time to automate a select group of processes and push them live, allowing you to show tangible benefits within a 3-month period.

A quick demonstration of benefits will strengthen the position of the RPA sponsor in the organization, and encourage other business areas to get involved in your automation transformation. They will be eager to leverage this new technology to drive benefits in their areas.

If, however, you fail to demonstrate the benefits quickly, the position of the RPA sponsor will be weakened over time.

Mistake #6: Failing to communicate changes to your staff

The introduction of RPA in most organizations can also have a significant impact on people, often staff is unsure if, or how, they will be impacted by this initiative which leads to great uncertainty. When the implication of an RPA implementation to human resources is not anticipated as part of an automation project, it can lead to increased turnover, as staff, motivated by fear of losing their jobs, start seeking alternative opportunities.

It is crucial that the introduction of RPA is combined with carefully drafted ongoing communication to staff ensuring they are aware of how they will be affected. This communication can vary from organization to organization, but we recommend something along the lines of the following narrative:

“RPA is not about reducing the number of people. Our objective is to focus our staff on important, client-facing activities, boosting client satisfaction, and eliminating manual, non-value adding activities.”

Or

“Our organization has aggressive growth plans and we need to complement our staff with automation to ensure we are able to cope with our growing volume of clients.”

Mistake #7: Failing to scale up

Many organizations find it easy to deploy the first RPA robot, but are less successful in scaling up their efforts beyond that.

As discussed earlier, the true benefits of an RPA implementation can be reaped only if you automate the right set of processes. In addition, the scaling up of your RPA means the creation of an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE) that will handle numerous tasks and capabilities, such as:

  • Bundling RPA expertise in the organization (e.g. own a library of RPA objects)
  • Provide training for new RPA users (e.g. other business areas)
  • Oversee RPA technology infrastructure
  • Own relationship with RPA provider and 3rd party RPA experts
  • Own methodology for choosing candidate processes for RPA

Putting an RPA CoE in place will ensure that your organization is always self-developing and that it will be able to provide viable solutions for growing RPA benefits.

 

We hope these insights will allow you to avoid some of these more common mistakes when introducing RPA in your organization.

If you are considering bringing RPA into your organization, work with a partner who will ensure you to keep your project efficient and on track, in addition to helping you build your internal capabilities as required.

As a pioneer in North American RPA, The Burnie Group will help you develop the right strategy, identify the right programs, and implement your first RPA processes. Ensuring that your Robotic Process Automation can grow quickly, become a core capability, and help you to differentiate your organization from your competitors.

 

 


7 mistakes to avoid when implementing Robotic Process Automation


Sources:
image: https://teachingphysics.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/tate-error-t-shirt-ben-newman.gif

What can RPA do for your business?

On this blog we’ve explored what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is and delved into some of the benefits available to businesses who employ it. There’s no denying that software robotics, and workforce process automation is set to be one of the biggest technological disruptors of the next decade.  Almost half the activities that an individual is paid to perform can be automated. Specific processes automated by RPA typically see higher levels of automation and reduce operating costs by > 80%.

The infographic below presents how your business can benefit from Robotic Process Automation:

What can RPA do for your business?


What can RPA do for your business?


 

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?  Imagine a different kind of workforce. A workforce that you can teach countless skills. The more it learns, the more efficient it becomes. It works without ever taking a vacation. It can easily grow with your business, and can work on different tasks perfectly matching work demand.It can be small one day or large when your business hits a spike. And it frees up your best people to really be your very best people. Meet the Software Robots – the Virtual Workforce.*

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that automates business tasks and uses a software robot to perform tasks usually performed by a person.

The primary difference between RPA and traditional automation is that RPA does not require any development or integration with existing IT applications. RPA is a technology that uses an application’s user interface (UI) to automate a process rather than a traditional Application Programming Interface (API).

Any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software. The robot accesses, reads, and writes into multiple applications in a rules based manner, mimicking what a person can do, but at greater speed and accuracy.

RPA provides dramatic improvements in accuracy and cycle time and increased productivity in transaction processing while elevating the nature of work by removing people from dull, repetitive tasks. It also provides organizations with an agile virtual workforce that is secure, consistent, reliable and scalable.

The automation of knowledge work will be this decade’s engine of growth. By freeing up human labour to provide additional capacity for more strategic work, RPA simply creates more value with less investment.

*Blue Prism

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?


 

3 RPA Myths Debunked

3 RPA Myths Debunked  With all the buzz around Robotic Process Automation (RPA) these days, most people envision R2D2 or Rosie from “The Jetsons” when they think about Robots. What many fail to realize, however, is that robots can come in both hardware and software forms, and the latter – while less discussed – are well positioned to completely disrupt the way we work. Below we explore some of the more common misconceptions about RPA:

Robots will replace humans in the workforce

Increasing numbers of businesses have begun substituting humans with automated software to perform a myriad of structured, routine administrative tasks which do not rely on human judgement. However, the jobs in question are high volume, highly repetitive and not suited to humans, who tend to make errors where robots do not.

“Robots are able to work on repetitive tasks tirelessly and continuously and in many businesses they are welcomed as valuable team members because they do the work that humans don’t want to do,” says Leslie Willcocks, Professor of Technology, Work and Globalisation within LSE’s Department of Management.

The fears around robots replacing humans need to be tempered with the reality that new jobs will arise as others are ceded to machines. RPA will free humans from repetitive tasks and let them focus on value-added work to deliver a superior customer experience. Contrary to popular belief, robotics can facilitate the rise of the knowledge worker; rather than replace them, RPA gives employees room to innovate and be creative. During previous periods of rapid technological change, technology has dramatically changed the nature of our work, and these time periods are positively correlated with periods of higher employment job growth.

RPA automates 100% of your processes

The tasks currently being automated often involve transferring huge amounts of data from multiple sources including numerous systems, email and spreadsheets to systems of record. These highly administrative tasks when automated improve a company’s efficiency dramatically. Many of these processes have used people because they evolve too quickly and are too complex and costly to have been automated with traditional solutions. RPA automation changes this, typically paying for itself in a few months, and saving >80% over the long run.

People are freed to focus on work where they bring intelligence, judgement and problem solving expertise into decision making. These are key factors in providing high-quality customer service, and employee engagement.

With fast, error-free processing of routine tasks, employees focus on important tasks that cannot be automated, providing superior customer service and satisfaction.

RPA is applicable only for IT services

RPA is traditionally seen as a tool for automating back-office processes such as service-desk, finance or procurement operations. But automation is about creating and maintaining efficiency. RPA’s capabilities to quickly integrate and be agile in complex environments push it to the middle and front office, in fact anywhere there are systems, data, and tasks to manage RPA can have a role. For years we have trusted automation to complete important tasks,such as fly planes, perform surgical procedures. RPA is now greatly extending the capabilities of service automation.


3 RPA Myths Debunked

Sources:
“Ideals of As-a-Services” Study, HfS Research 2015
http://www.thinkinfinity.co.in/will-rpa-really-replace-human-resources-at-workplace/