Accenture Banking Blog

Guest bloggers Richard Gillespie-Brown, Helen Bayliss and Nicholas Kitson explain how a bank’s centre of excellence can unlock customer and colleague value by overcoming hurdles to automating digital processes.

During our frequent conversations with banking clients about automating their digital processes, we’ve found that many of them are struggling to scale up from proofs of concept to enterprise-wide rollouts. This digital process automation (DPA) logjam can occur even when they’ve set up a centre of excellence (CoE), tasked with driving DPA implementations and take-up across the bank.

Overcoming the hurdles involved and empowering the CoE are imperative if banks are to seize the true value of automation for their customers and workforce.

DPA: A holistic strategy for maximum impact

Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by DPA. This is a set of activities aimed at transforming a process that operates in a legacy way (think manual task distribution, tracking and processing) into a digital process. This process will use digital workflow to drive the end-to-end process execution and combine various automation capabilities such as cognitive chatbots, robotic process automation and machine learning. Together, these transform the process operation.

When embedded successfully, DPA has the potential to deliver a significant shift in customer experience, employee engagement and operational efficiency. Now’s the time to build your Bank of the Future with DPA.

A key term here is ‘end-to-end’. Creating a robot to automate one step of a process will only deliver marginal gains. To be most effective, DPA should focus on enhancing the end-to-end customer journey, identifying improvements that can be made to the customer experience, along with opportunities to increase employee effectiveness.

To maximise the business benefits, DPA must also do something else: optimise outcomes not just along end-to-end processes, but across them. Take, for example, an agent trying to locate the correct customer account to pay money into. This task can easily be automated and reused across multiple processes, for instance by the compliance team when searching for an account that has been flagged as potentially fraudulent. Rather than recreating this automation for each process, it can be reused, thereby multiplying the return on the original investment.

This means identifying opportunities to create DPA capabilities that can be reused across multiple business processes and even spanning multiple business areas.

Understanding the hurdles

To achieve all of this, the business needs to be at the heart of the DPA effort. The CoE must look to collaborate closely with the business units to pinpoint where DPA can create the most value. The CoE also needs to look across the business for reuse opportunities—all feeding into investment decisions. But this isn’t easy, for two reasons:

  1. Achieving the right engagement with the business: Getting time with business leads can be a challenge. And the chances are they will have prioritised their budgets for the year—with process optimisation usually receiving a lower priority than keeping the lights on and other critical projects. In contrast, DPA technology tends to be a priority area for IT, which tries its best to drive business adoption. The dynamics need to switch from tech-push to business-pull.
  2. Deciding how to fund DPA: In most organisations, the money available for investment is spread across the business units. The result is that budgets are fragmented along departmental lines. This can cause problems when the returns will accrue across multiple areas of the business and go beyond immediate reductions in process costs, as with investments in reuse. In traditional budgeting, a DPA project with clear reuse opportunities will be the burden of the business unit responsible for the first implementation. While everyone would benefit from the wider value, nobody would want to front the initial cost.

Navigating these hurdles is crucial for an empowered CoE that drives value across the business.

Empowering your CoE to drive DPA at scale  

The goal of DPA is to enhance the end-to-end customer journey and increase business value. The CoE must therefore be treated as a business enabler outside of technology; it must be positioned to drive improvements across business functions from the front end through to back-end operations.

From a funding perspective we’ve seen some CoEs being asked to self-fund, using operational savings from each phase of work to pay for the next. While this can work, it encourages a focus on cost reduction and quick wins rather than more strategic, longer-term benefits like improved sales, employee retention and an enhanced customer experience. Improving operational efficiency is key—but making it the sole basis for funding can hamper the delivery longer-term and non-financial benefits that would ultimately be even more valuable.

Another critical factor to consider is the CoE governance structure, which must include a mixture of senior business and IT managers so that both perspectives are heard. This team is tasked with operationalising the board’s message and balancing short-term goals with longer-term priorities. This requires strong leadership, negotiation skills and decisiveness, as the two sets of goals often don’t align.

How can you overcome all these hurdles and empower the CoE to drive DPA at scale?

In our view, three steps are required:

  1. Get rock-solid buy-in and sponsorship from the executive committee. They need to champion the CoE’s message that value goes beyond cost reduction, and that the DPA focus should be both end-to-end and for reuse across the business
  2. Budget for large-scale delivery rather than handfuls of processes
  3. Use the DPA rollout as a vehicle to help address legacy re-platforming, as this will boost the benefits still further

When embedded successfully, DPA has the potential to deliver a significant shift in customer experience, employee engagement and operational efficiency. Now’s the time to build your bank of the future with DPA.