Bank functions engage in digital activity and Accenture has already helped clients kick off their digital journey via Robotics. I have already shared insights on digital for Bank functions in two blog entries: what’s in it for Risk functions and what are accelerators of RPA deployment. This one addresses challenges of Robotics sustainability.
Bank functions face the challenge of rotating their data production tasks towards data intelligence and anticipation, aiming to position themselves as a service provider to business lines. Robotic Process Automation, RPA, helps reduce time to produce data within these functions and it’s a first step in digital transformation.
What is RPA? It is a technology that automates human interactions across applications and office software if data is standard and structured. It has a value where tasks are repetitive and rule-based. The leading RPA providers are Blue Prism, UI Path and Automation Anywhere. The technology results in programs performed automatically by virtual assistants.
In previous blog entries dedicated to RPA, I reached the conclusion that Robotics is cost effective if it is implemented at scale. I shared accelerators of opportunities identification and implementation. In today’s fast-moving environment, Robotics also needs to demonstrate both its adaptability and its sustainable added-value. This brings technical business and organizational challenges.
Let’s share how Robotics programs address these challenges.
First technical challenge of Robotics sustainability – maintenance of virtual assistants
Maintenance is incurred to address either process or applications’ related changes: the purpose of maintenance is to update scripts for virtual assistants to continue to operate processes they are built for.
Robotics programs should nurture relationships with Process owners to anticipate process changes and reflect these changes into virtual assistants. Monthly governance is a best practice.
Application upgrades and decommissioning also call for maintenance of virtual assistants. They are best tackled with Application owners. As soon as virtual assistants are designed, application owners must be onboard with Robotics. Application owners should then consider virtual assistants as special application users and include the robotics program in their release governance. In companies where Robotics is not mature, the Robotics Program should take ownership of a proactive communication with application owners to help develop their reflex to inform them of releases and decommissioning.
Once the trigger of maintenance is captured – either process or application modification – the Robotics program should carry out an impact analysis with the objective to conclude whether the Virtual Assistant should be updated or decommissioned (the process / application change might as well embed an automation.)
A mature Robotics program should rely on a series of assets to carry out the impact analysis:
-questionnaire based assessments of Robotics eligibility that size effort to implement.
-virtual assistants inventory displaying up-to-date underlying applications along the list of virtual assistants: this helps size the number of virtual assistants impacted by the application driven change
-library of key functionalities coded into the RPA software: this helps identifying the process steps which the code update requests.
-machines park providing agile capacity management: this helps schedule and assign virtual assistants to machines in a way that maximizes machine time utilization.
On top of appropriate governance and assets, Robotics programs should also have resources for maintenance. Based on our experience, a third original implementation effort should be budgeted for annual maintenance. Based on the process complexity mix, this equates to roughly 1 FTE (full time equivalent) for 20 virtual assistants.
Second technical challenge of Robotics sustainability – upgrade of Robotics technology
To demonstrate value in the long run, Robotics must address its own limitations and include technology add-ins in its releases. This requires the Robotics program to be aware of technological developments and listen to users’ evolving needs.
To keep abreast with leading-edge technology, Robotics programs have some options:
-network with Robotics software companies; the latter partner with complementary technologies and show case their joint solutions to address business challenges and this inspires Robotics programs
-set up hackathons: this entails organizing events that gather voluntary developers who collaborate and join their efforts to solve a business issue
-engage in design thinking workshops and address use cases together with other technologies, such as Natural Language Generation. Robotics can either feed NLG tools or use NLG output to process a workflow
To date, the most popular Robotics technology add-ins are:
-OCR (Optical Character Recognition): this helps capture information encapsulated in non-structured data such as images in pdf format (e.g. bill or a credit application form details), and automatically feed the business application
-smart token: this allows a virtual assistant to access an application that is usually accessed to by using a physical token whereas the virtual assistant has no material token.
Business challenge – ongoing demonstration that Robotics delivers value
Recalling the blog entry dedicated to Robotics deployment key success factors, a positive business case and qualitative benefits help deploy Robotics. The tracking of qualitative and quantitative benefits is ever going.
Should sponsorship authorize soft savings to start the RPA momentum and request savings materialization later, then it is paramount to select opportunities that will deliver hard savings.
Alternatively, should sponsorship press for savings materialization early, once they are materialized other solely cost avoidance or quality improvement opportunities must be selected to demonstrate soft savings and qualitative benefits.
It is fair to say that Robotics is often experienced at the occasion of efficiency programs. In this case, once target efficiency gains are met, Robotics is used to help maintain cost baseline and address growth or additional activity operations without increasing the cost baseline. As a consequence, cost avoidance is greatly represented in the Robotics business case.
Sustainability entails operating model adaptability
The more a company becomes Robotics mature, the more Robotics capabilities filter through the organization and is added to existing roles or technologies.
In a decentralized operating model, operational excellence advocates have a Business Analyst or even a Developer role. In a centralized operating model, Business Analyst and Developer roles merge.
Robotics mature companies also engage in mutualizing efforts in a few centers of excellence that serve many functions and/or many business lines. Also, Robotics Center of Excellence spread its expertise across technologies, as it has been discussed in the upgrading technical challenge.
Accenture has an extensive experience in conducting RPA projects from their early steps to industrialization. The company pioneered Robotics for its own processes and developed an ever-enriching offer to its clients across industries and geographies.