From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution

While the umbrella of digital ledger technology (DLT)—technologies which distribute records or information among all those using it—can be traced to 1991, it was Bitcoin’s cryptocurrency model that demonstrated blockchain’s—a special case of DLT—potential. Since its unveiling ten years ago, it has evolved and been repurposed for tasks beyond simple currency transactions. Below, we follow key moments in blockchain’s evolution in the last decade.

1. 2008 – Satoshi Nakamoto* releases whitepaper, Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Unlike real-world transactions, Nakamoto’s proposed cryptocurrency system is independent of third-party regulators such as a central bank. Its online peer-to-peer network facilitates unchangeable and indisputable public recordkeeping. Its timestamp servers provide proof-of-work to address trust issues and enforce rarity in the digital domain. Importantly, the proposed architecture solved the “double spending” problem (since digital information can be easily reproduced, it carries the risk that digital currency can be spent twice). In practice, Bitcoin becomes the first blockchain database.

* An unidentified pseudonymous person or group of people.

 

2. 2009 – First Bitcoin transaction and the establishment of the Bitcoin Market

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Bitcoin’s currency is released (created) through “mining.” This is an incentivized process that includes compiling recent transactions into blocks and solving computationally difficult puzzles. The first member to solve the problem is rewarded with newly-released bitcoin.

Within two weeks of mining the first group of transactions (the genesis block), Nakamoto and a computer scientist named Hal Finney tested the system, with Nakamoto sending ten bitcoins to Finney.

The Bitcoin Market is established later this year. It features automated and escrowed payment-processing options, which allow individuals to exchange real-world currency for the cryptocurrency (and vice versa).

As of June 30, 2018, more than 325 million Bitcoin transactions have taken place.

 

3. 2010 – First documented goods purchase using Bitcoin

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  As cryptocurrencies cannot be used for real-world purchases, Laszlo Hanyecz and Jeremy Sturdivant trade 10,000 BTC (US$25, at the time) for two large pizzas.

On June 30, 2018, 10,000 BTC was valued at more than US$64 million.

 

4. 2014 – Experts explore blockchain’s value outside of Bitcoin

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Companies see potential in blockchain technology for non-currency-based uses and begin exploring how blockchain could be harnessed. Sectors such as healthcare, insurance, and transportation take a keen interest. Experts investigate its potential in improving the management of specific areas such as supply chain, contracts, and elections.

 

5. 2014 – R3 consortium with global financial services companies to explore distributed ledger technology

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  A group of nine global financial services firms formed a consortium with R3, blockchain technology company, to examine and implement blockchain. Two years later, the growing partnership announced Corda, a private decentralized platform for financial institutions. Unlike traditional blockchain, where all data is copied to all participants, Corda only allows verified transactions to be shared with relevant members.

 

6. 2015 – Ethereum launches

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  In late 2013, Vitalek Buterin’s releases a whitepaper that re-envisions the uses for Bitcoin’s public blockchain. While the Bitcoin platform focused on peer-to-peer transactions and tracking cryptocurrency ownership, Ethereum’s purpose centred on allowing developers to run and deploy decentralized applications.

In 2015, Buterin launches Ethereum, a blockchain-based open software platform. It features smart contracts (self-executing agreements with terms directly written into lines of code, on a platform that made activities traceable, transparent, and irreversible). It allows traditionally centralized intermediary services to be redesigned into decentralized ones. Ethereum also smooths the way to creating Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. These are fully autonomous, personless organizations, run by programming code, owned by those who hold Ether (the system’s proprietary payment token). Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum platform features a proof-of-work consensus mechanism.

 

7. 2015 – Stock Exchanges evaluate blockchain technology and the first private securities transaction using blockchain

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Chain.com used Linq, the Nasdaq’s blockchain-based solution, to complete and record a private securities transaction. At this time, The Australian Stock Exchange begins evaluating replacements for its Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (it later chose a blockchain-based system). In the following years, exchanges in Canada, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom announce various blockchain-based trading system prototypes and evaluations.

 

8. 2016 –The Linux Foundation launches Hyperledger

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  The Linux Foundation launches Hyperledger, an open-source collaborative effort created to promote cross-industry blockchain technologies. The global initiative’s objective was to coordinate and focus efforts on improving the technology’s performance and reliability so it could support global business transactions. Among its 30 founding members were ABN AMRO, ANZ Bank, Blockchain, CME Group, Deutsche Börse Group, Fujitsu Limited, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan, R3, and Wells Fargo. It is hoped Hyperledger Fabric (a blockchain framework implementation) will become the foundation of many large-scale, banking, supply chain, and digital identity systems.

 

9. 2016 – First international transaction between banks using blockchain

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  A transaction of AU$35,000 worth of cotton, shipped from China to the United States, is completed using blockchain applications. The deal takes place between the Australian and US divisions of Brighann Cotton Marketing; Wells Fargo & Co. and The Commonwealth Bank of Australia provides banking services. Blockchain is credited with streamlining the exchange by eliminating issues rooted in duplicated processing and differing time zones.

Read more about The Burnie Group’s offerings in the financial sector here.

 

10. 2017 and 2018 – Adoption in enterprise-level companies and large-scale operations

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  AIG and IBM use blockchain to manage complex international coverage for Standard Chartered Bank PLC, to develop a “smart” insurance policy. This first-of-its-kind policy used the technology to share real-time information for a main policy that was written in the United Kingdom and had three local policies in Kenya, Singapore, and the United States.

IBM, JD.com, IBM, Walmart, and Tsinghua University’s National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies announce the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance in late 2017.  Its primary goal is to achieve greater transparency across China’s food supply chain through improved food tracking, traceability, and safety.

TradeLens, a collaboration between IBM and Maersk, is unveiled in 2018 as the first industry-wide cross-border supply chain solution based on blockchain technology. It allows those in the global shipping industry to share real-time information securely. With approximately 1 million shipments daily, more than 154 million shipments are logged by mid-August 2018. At this time, 94 partners were involved in the project, including more than 20 port and terminal operators, global container carriers, customs authorities, freight forwarders, and logistics companies.

In the spring of 2018, Facebook announces an internal blockchain start-up, while Google announces partnerships with BlockApps and Digital Asset to offer customers blockchain solutions as part of Google’s Cloud Platform Marketplace. At this time, Amazon also launched AWS Blockchain templates—pre-set blockchain frameworks that support Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric.

 

In the past ten years, blockchain has gone from being one of Bitcoin’s key underpinnings to a transformative technology in its own right. With this year’s worldwide spending projected to be US$1.5 billion—double that of 2017—and could grow to US$11.7 billion in 2022, it’s clear blockchain will play an increasingly important and significant part of the business technology landscape.

 


From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution


The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and intertwined concepts such as machine learning and predictive modelling have become indispensable in modern industries. It is often estimated that by 2030, AI will contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy.  AI has the potential to transform a wide number of industries. All over the world, AI is helping people do their jobs more effectively, from doctors who diagnose sepsis in patients to scientists who track endangered animals in the wild. In this article, we explore some of the more unusual uses of AI.

Rather than creating ominous issues for humankind, AI is helping people around the world do their jobs more effectively, including doctors who diagnose sepsis in patients and scientists who track endangered animals in the wild.

Below are some of the most unusual uses of AI that provide value to our society and go beyond their traditional and widely applied usages across industries.

 

Helping People

Rescue Missions

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  AI technology is helping first responders find victims of earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.

Normally, responders need to examine aerial footage to determine where people could be stranded. However, examining a vast amount of photos and drone footage is very time and labour intensive; this is a problem as time is a critical factor for victims’ survival.

AI developed at Texas A&M University permits computer programmers to write basic algorithms that can examine extensive footage and find missing people in less than two hours.

 

Diagnosing Sepsis

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, but it is treatable if identified promptly. When not identified in time, patients can experience organ failure or even death. Today, AI algorithms that analyse electronic medical records data can help physicians diagnose sepsis an average of 24 hours earlier than previously used methods, according to the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. The AI system, called Targeted Real-Time Early Warning System (TREWScore) can also be used to monitor other conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

 

Better Surgeries and Prosthetics

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Surgical robotics today are machine learning-enabled tools that provide doctors with extended precision and control. These robots enable shortening the patients’ hospital stay, positively affecting the surgical experience, and reducing medical costs.

Mind-controlled robotic arms and brain chip implants have begun helping paralyzed patients regain not only mobility but also sensations of touch. Machine learning and AI are further helping these technologies improve the patient experience.

 

Earth and Wildlife

Robot Bees

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Bees are indispensable to crop pollination, however, they are very susceptible to pesticides, diseases, and other environmental concerns that lead to their fragile populations dwindling. To ensure that these concerns do not lead to famine, researchers have developed a robot bee drone that incorporates artificial intelligence, GPS, and a high-resolution camera to pollinate in a manner similar to honeybees.

 

Tracking Wildlife Populations

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Applications like iNaturalist and eBirds, that collect data from vast circles of experts on the species encountered, are helping to keep track of species populations, favourable ecosystems, and migration patterns. These applications also have an important role in the better identification and protection of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

 

Wildlife Poaching Prevention

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Wildlife poaching is a global problem as species get hunted toward extinction. For example, the latest African census showed a 30 per cent decline in elephant populations between 2007 and 2014. Wildlife conservation areas have been established to protect these species from poachers, and these areas are protected by park rangers. The rangers, however, do not always have the resources to patrol the vast areas efficiently. Predictive modelling has been used and tested in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park to predict poaching threat levels. Such models can be used to generate efficient and feasible patrol routes for the park rangers.

 

Smart Agriculture

The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence  Neural networks are starting to be used to deliver smart agricultural solutions. Besides the use of both artificial and bio-sensor driven algorithms to provide a complete monitoring of the soil and crop yield, there are technologies that can be used to provide predictive analytic models to track and predict various factors and variables that could affect future yields.

For example, Berlin-based agricultural tech startup PEAT has developed a deep learning algorithm-based application called Plantix that can identify defects and nutrient deficiencies in the soil. Their algorithms correlate particular foliage patterns with certain soil defects, plant pests, and diseases.

 


The Most Unusual Uses of Artificial Intelligence


 By: Jenya Doudareva, Senior Associate

#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement

This post is based on a panel discussion held on June 4, 2018. The 90-minute session focused on panellists’ experiences shaping culture and fostering engagement in their companies. Moderated by Darshan Jain, Head Technology and Operations of The Burnie Group, Norman Bacal, author and former managing partner, Heenan Blaikie LLP delivered the keynote and the panellists were Richard Anton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at CIBC Mellon, Cathie Brow, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Communications, Revera, Christina McClung, Vice President, Human Resources and Chief of Staff, Capital One, and Rob Lokinger, President and Chief Operating Officer, AppCentrica Inc.

#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement  Many companies hire the best and the brightest to seize new opportunities and increase profits. Unfortunately, impressive résumés don’t always translate to an engaged employee base or a stimulating and innovative workplace culture. Individual contributors who once brimmed with enthusiasm and new ideas now only raise their heads to check the time. Regardless of systems put in place or reorganizations, teams struggle to get ahead.

Culture and engagement can be forgotten or an afterthought when setting and executing corporate strategies. Leaders should consider the mindsets and behaviours needed to support their company’s vision and goals.

 

How does culture fit within your corporate strategy?

You need to define the workplace culture required for teams to meet targets and create new opportunities. Whether team-centric, focused on high potentials, honed on improving shareholder value, (etc.), a culture strategy needs to be determined as well as its supporting tactics.

“You need to decide what your cultural imperative is, as part of your corporate strategy,” says Norman Bacal. “Once you understand what it is, it ought to put you in the direction of your tactics, day-to-day behaviours, and ultimately whom you recruit to your vision.”

Bacal offers three pieces of advice for leaders looking to set, change or improve corporate culture:

1. Be consistent

Policies, programs, and behaviours must align with culture vision and not vary across your organization regardless of geography or environment. Employee trust grows when words and actions align. If you, your peers, or other leaders say one thing and do another, you risk damaging your and the company’s credibility.

“Never confuse strategy with tactics. If you take those tactics and separate them from your cultural vision, they won’t work. In fact, they do the opposite of what you want and can build a level of cynicism, because you need to be consistent between your vision and execution.”

2. Recognize the importance of your front-line staff on a regular basis

#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement  It’s easy to focus attention on only senior management or those with “star” quality. In fact, it’s the public’s or client’s first point of contact—receptionists, service agents, or call centre employees—who can be the linchpin to your organization’s success. They are often your company’s face and voice and some of your most valuable employees. Telling them you recognize this signals you understand their role and you appreciate what they do.

“I’d arrive in the morning and say to the receptionist, ‘You’re the most important person in this firm.’ If you say that once to somebody, they won’t believe you; if you say that to them on a regular basis, they begin to believe it.”

3. Walk the halls

It’s unlikely your staff will proactively tell you what’s happening or their collective mood. The best way to know these is to step outside your office and talk to employees. Have informal chats—saying “hello” and finding out how they’re doing or how their family is will help build goodwill and trust. Ask your leaders to do the same.

“It’s the small things you may consider completely insignificant to your life that have a huge impact on other people’s lives.”

Engaging your employees while building corporate culture

We know a strong corporate culture can be a competitive advantage when attracting employees or securing clients. When a company decides to define or redefine their culture, change doesn’t occur overnight: it takes time to learn and develop traits and behaviours. While organizations can launch campaigns focused on ethics, teamwork, or client-centric service, successful shifts often happen when leaders commit to and model desired behaviours and attitudes.

Who are engaged employees?

Engaged employees go above and beyond so the company realizes its corporate vision and strategies. Working isn’t “just a job” or a paycheque. They are front and centre when needed most. As individuals, they proactively update their skillset to be part of the organization’s future. They are active problem solvers and offer ideas to help shape the company.

“I really think engagement has to do with people’s passion and enthusiasm. We have a really great vision for our company that touches everybody. Employees need to feel connected—if they aren’t, they’re not going to be able to deliver the service we expect from them.”

~ Cathie Brow, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Communications, Revera

How do you build employee engagement?

Smart strategies and tactics build, maintain, and grow engagement over time. They are rolled out at the corporate level and supported by leaders.

Corporate tactics

Your corporate values should be defined, so everyone understands what they are and how to bring them life. You need to ensure all levels, especially C-suite and other senior leaders, walk the talk. Otherwise, employees will see the disconnection and may assume a double standard.

Find different ways to involve employees in corporate programs. Corporate Social Responsibility projects (such as Habitat for Humanity builds, sorting food bank donations, or registering teams for a charity bike ride) or internal problem-solving competitions for specific issues (ranging from hackathons to projects resolving client pain points) are more than team-building exercises: They reinforce company values and allow staff to participate in corporate projects in fun, meaningful, and non-financial ways.

Take the time to listen to your employees and don’t immediately jump to prescribing remedies. Instead, ask your employees for their ideas and implement solutions that need little lead-time (before putting into place more complex ideas). This way, you signal you hear your staff. Similarly, staff input when setting up a formal recognition program is important—don’t assume a gala or dinner with the CEO would appeal to the majority.

“Alignment around the right goals and cultural imperators yields great benefits. It carries through when people interact with each other and with customers. We founded our company on four principles that really defined our culture. They’re used to make our hiring decisions, evaluate people and make sure we have the right approach within our organization.”

~ Rob Lokinger, President and Chief Operating Officer, AppCentrica Inc.

Individual leaders’ tactics

Your behaviour, attitude, and presence go a long way in shaping corporate culture. Sit with your team to get a feel for their day-to-day environment and issues. Be seen. Have informal chats with specialists and coordinators as well as more senior staff at their desks or in the cafeteria. Encourage peers and people leaders under you to do the same.

Trust in leadership is essential. Employees want to see the genuine you. Façades won’t gain their trust and may make you harder to follow. Your actions need to be consistent, and you must deliver on your commitments.

Celebrate team wins, but also find ways that are personal to you to congratulate or acknowledge staff accomplishments. Equally crucial is being there and supporting your staff in challenging times.

“My role is about fostering the kind of culture and principles we want. It’s about how I handle myself every single day, and also how I expect my management team to handle themselves. I am a firm believer that if I display those characteristics, those traits across the organization, that’s when people start to buy into that idea that it’s not more than a one-off that’s quickly forgotten.”

~ Richard Anton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at CIBC Mellon

 

How do you measure culture?

#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement  Annual and biannual employee satisfaction and sentiment surveys may not be helpful because they are lagging indicators. Instead, get timely feedback by measuring employee experience after critical points in their tenure: onboarding, first three months, performance reviews (etc.). Ask questions about diversity and inclusion, and track indicators such as employee referrals and attrition rates.

“It’s hard to measure feelings, but we try. I think there’s a lot to be said about the anecdotal feedback—look at what you might measure. I think some measurements that can be found along with the survey scores. Make sure you deep dive into topics where people are feeling engaged and the various contributors, such as enablement to getting work done.”

~ Christina McClung, Vice President, Human Resources and Chief of Staff, Capital One

Working with an experienced partner can help build and improve your employee engagement. Choose a partner who can efficiently lead the project, keep it on track, and who will develop your internal capabilities. The Burnie Group will help you to set the right strategy and build the right foundation. Contact us to learn more about employee engagement.

 


#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement


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)


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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


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Case Study – Operations Excellence in the Insurance sector

A leading national insurance company reached out to the Burnie Group to deliver and implement front-line staff leadership training, and ultimately provide full-time employee cost savings. While being highly proficient at the production work of the role, front-line leaders were “siloed” in their own teams, lacked work volume forecasting methodology and reporting, and some team and departmental coordination methods.

The Burnie Group’s Operations Excellence program was implemented through weekly modules that include capacity and resource planning, performance dashboards, team huddles and coaching and feedback training.

The program leverages technology to map end-to-end processes and automatically capture the day-to-day activities of client team members. Through advanced analytics we painted a clear picture of individual, team and corporate performance, allowing for an increase in productivity while enhancing employee engagement and the customer experience.

Click the image below to read more on how The Burnie Group helped this client achieve their goals.

Case Study - Operations Excellence in the Insurance sector

The Burnie Group helps clients improve their businesses through innovative strategy and the continuous pursuit of operations excellence. We apply rigorous analysis, world-class technology and top-tier expertise to invigorate your business. As you look to embark on the RPA journey, let The Burnie Group be your guide.


Case Study - Operations Excellence in the Insurance sector


 

Case Study: Customer Journey transformation through automation at a global retail bank

The client, a global retail bank, was seeking to improve its workforce efficiency by reducing the volume of manual data entry and processing of customer data across numerous systems. This would allow the bank to increase their share in the market without increasing headcount.

With our Robotic Process Automation program the client was able to improve the speed, quality and efficiency of complex back-office operations. Through the application of deep subject matter expertise and state-of-the-art technology, attaining transformative and measurable results.

Click the image below to read more on how The Burnie Group helped this client achieve their goals.

Case Study: Customer Journey transformation through automation at a global retail bank

The Burnie Group helps clients improve their businesses through innovative strategy and the continuous pursuit of operations excellence. We apply rigorous analysis, world-class technology and top-tier expertise to invigorate your business. As you look to embark on the RPA journey, let The Burnie Group be your guide.


Case Study: Customer Journey transformation through automation at a global retail bank


 

Case Study: Multi-Location rollout of RPA at a global stock transfer and mortgage servicing company

The client was facing year-on-year cost increases and sought to drastically reduce costs across the organization in a short period of time. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) became the most effective way to achieve this and was given the direct attention and support of the global CEO.

With our Robotic Process Automation program the client was able to improve the speed, quality and efficiency of complex back-office operations. Through the application of deep subject matter expertise and state-of-the-art technology, attaining transformative and measurable results.

Click the image below to read more on how The Burnie Group helped this client achieve their goals.

Case Study: Multi-Location rollout of RPA at a global stock transfer and mortgage servicing company

The Burnie Group helps clients improve their businesses through innovative strategy and the continuous pursuit of operations excellence. We apply rigorous analysis, world-class technology and top-tier expertise to invigorate your business. As you look to embark on the RPA journey, let The Burnie Group be your guide.


Case Study: Multi-Location rollout of RPA at a global stock transfer and mortgage servicing company


 

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)?