Deploying Robots Successfully

By Arvind Thakur, CEO & Joint MD, NIIT Technologies

Automation is emerging as an industry mega trend with technology and business process services providers embracing these solutions to perform repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently for their clients. Robotic solutions are increasingly being evaluated to replace manually handled tasks as they deliver the following benefits:

• Accuracy: Near-perfect precision levels

• Compliance: Standards and quality tests are met with ease

• Productivity: Work 24/7 without fatigue or injuries

• Scalability: Robotic processes can be expanded to scale

• Analytics: Robotic tools throw up a host of analytics to identify bottlenecks

• Cost-efficiency: Resources can be managed optimally

Enterprises are recognizing the advantages of robotics and adopting Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is a term now used to describe software which automates tasks done by people. Even in their very basic form these Robots mimic the way humans perform the task and can be programmed to learn as they perform new tasks. Recently, ICICI Bank announced robotic processes for 200 of their operations across various functions, making them the first Indian bank to implement RPA. 

Robotic solutions are easy to manage, and they improve service delivery by providing enhanced quality, speed, governance, security, and continuity. Potential for robotic solutions are ideal in industries with high-volume transactions, but there are some good practices that can be followed to ensure their successful deployment.

Setting up a CoE for RPA

A good first step to embrace RPA is to set up an effective CoE (Center of Excellence) with the right processes and tools. This involves setting up the infrastructure (servers, databases, application software, and more) and identifying the right skills (Project Manager, Developers, Consultants) to man the facility. Putting an RPA platform in place requires managing licenses, mobilizing support, and providing the know how to:

• Drive the best RPA practices to achieve outcome-based transformation

• Providing flexibility of scale and granularity that can be modified

•  Boosting and optimizing skill development and knowledge sharing

• Providing a strong foundation for further automation of processes

Governance and oversight of the program within a firm involves setting up an Automation Committee which has representation from the business operating units, IT and the service provider. At a wealth management solutions company with whom we are involved the Automation Governance Committee determined processes to be automated, business cases to be developed, priorities, and tools to be deployed.

Strategies around RPA deployment

Successful RPA deployment begins with choosing the right technology and mapping the right processes. The CoE facilitates development of Proof of Concepts (PoC) and supports pilot runs to gain user acceptance. Thereafter the process is standardized and deployed.

A simple 4 step approach is an effective strategy for enterprise RPA deployment.

•  Transform: Achieve operational efficiency through RPA

•  Enable: Deploy RPA into real-time work environments

•  Standardize: Expand robotic footprint across various functions

•  Scale: Drive the transformation across the organization

To derive best value from RPA it’s best to have close collaboration with the automation partner. This is particularly useful when automation is deployed in core processes where a shared strategy needs to be arrived at between the provider and the client.

Meeting RPA deployment challenges

Deploying RPA and robotic integration brings its own challenges such as ensuring compliance, managing security, and being up to date with technological advancements for the firm. Additional barriers such as cultural resistance and associated hidden costs also need consideration. For the Service Provider it would often mean cannibalizing their own service as they replace manual head count with Robots. This is where evolving a shared strategy between the client and the provider becomes critical. Both need to take on the challenge to drive new business outcomes.

Organizations should not implement disjointed automation processes for the sake of short-term gains. Instead, they need to devise central and strategically focused robotics programs to meet long-term objectives. This would enable challenges to be proactively identified and appropriately mitigated for gains in the long term. To get full benefit end to end processes must be automated to the fullest extent, be it in-house or outsourced.

With an investment recovery period of 6-9 months, Companies are increasingly turning to robotics to boost their processes and augment services. Aligning with new realities and meeting changed expectations can transform business operations for the better. The ability to provide value with relatively lower risks makes RPA attractive. Moreover, the benefits of RPA go beyond lowered costs as it enhances service delivery and manageability.

Over time, effective robotic strategies are expected to enhance revenues and margins, alter pricing models, and change contract compositions for the tech world, thus heralding the next revolution for the industry.

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