Don't work hard – work smart with robots

years back a large European Insurance company was struggling with NPS (Net promoter score) as their customers were not happy. Their customer contact center did not have resources enough to address all customer queries and complaints on time and provide personalize services to each of their customers. Things just got out of hand when the CEO once found that they were sending marketing campaign letters to a person who died 2 years earlier. His widow was not happy to receive those letters... 

Later that year I got a chance to work as a transformation manager for this customer. We explored everything in our capacity to ensure that they would not make the same mistake again  starting from looking at customer master data solution to buying a comprehensive CRM platform that manages marketing and sales effectively. We started planning for a customer 360 view solution with powerful analytics capability. However, none of these projects were able to deliver any results in short term. The plan was to wait for 3 years (!) before we had all the pieces built and working seamlessly with each other to give the customer contact center a clear picture of the customer journey.  

Now, If I would be asked to work on this same issue again, I would first work on deploying a software robot to ensure that the right information is shared with contact center so that they can serve customers better. When an organization does not have time to build robust solutions or make all their systems/applications talk seamlessly to each other and there is a pressing need to address a customer or business, robotic process automation (RPA) comes very handy.  

If you have heard different stories about how long it will take for your robots to work or how soon you can scale enterprise wide, please take part of the following 4 golden rules that may help you make the right decisions when starting an RPA engagement.  

These rules may vary based on the size of your organization, complexity of your processes; however, if you are believer of ‘starting small and scale’ these rules will help: 

RULE 1: Cost reduction is not the only business case for robotics automation projects  

Many organizations assume that RPA is a way to reduce cost or to let go of employees. While it may be a vehicle for cost reduction, many RPA savvy organization use their robots for many other reasons apart from cost reduction.  

I have recently worked with a finance team who has been using robots as their enabler to get rid of boring repetitive tasks, allowing for the team to only do interesting tasks. They are also able to serve their customer better with the help of robots and they are sure to eventually increase customer and employee satisfaction with this approach. 

RULE 2: Initially, don’t invest too much of time on infrastructure and expensive tools 

Any RPA journey is like solving a jigsaw puzzle where you learn on the go. ‘What else?’ gets answered automatically when you have built your first robot.  

While there is nothing wrong in looking at bigger picture initially, showing quick results in short term has become one of the key success factors of RPA projects. Many organizations are starting with a pilot (delivered in 6 to 10 weeks’ time) and later working towards a target operating model, and an organization wide RPA program. 

RULE 3: For pilot, chose processes for automation that will help a stressed out team 

A crying baby gets the milk! Many organizations have used robots to enable and support their overwhelmed and stressed out teams. Hence, customer contact center, finance and HR processes become the obvious choice for many organizations to start their RPA journey. 

RULE 4: Mandate tangible outcomes in a 6 to 12 weeks’ timeframe  

Some organizations took more than a year to deliver their first pilot robot. If building your pilot robot(s) takes this much time, it may be something wrong in terms of prioritization of processes for automation and/or capability of the RPA team.   

You as an RPA ambassador, don’t hesitate to mandate tangible outcomes in 6 to 12 weeks. You may like to look at following few steps achieve results in 6 to 12 weeks timeframe: 

  • Break complex and none standardized processes into small subprocesses 
  • Automate subprocesses one by one 
  • Choose to keep a process semiautomated
  • If none of these above options are feasible, review other processes for automation

If you have the attitude of trying things, fail fast and move on, RPA projects will surely deliver value to your organization.