Robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning and other capabilities of artificial intelligence are constantly being touted as the new technology must-haves in financial services today, allowing organisations to keep up with industry standards and make working life simpler and faster. However, the idea of these technologies has almost become more important than actual return on investment. Before embarking on a smart automation implementation, there are a number of elements organisations must consider in order to reap all the benefits.
When working on smart automation projects, business requirements and user needs should come first, and technology implementation second. However, most financial institutions tend to forget the end-user and as a result, implement layers of applications in an attempt to address particular problems as and when they occur. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to find up to 50 applications in an organisation’s infrastructure - with data flowing between them – but each application only fulfils one actual process, service or product at a time. This complicates tasks and increases the risk of failure, while limiting the control employees might have over the process.
So, when is RPA the appropriate solution? Considering that RPA is meant to emulate human execution, and the more repeatable the tasks that it is trying to automate are, the better the outcome will be. The maturity of the processes is a whole other factor, since once deployed, RPA scripts then need to be re-adjusted every time the underlying process changes. In other words, if processes are unlikely to change in the short term, the more suitable they are for automation. Also, the higher the comprised volume, the higher the return on investment will be, due to the inherent fixed development costs.
Once the appropriate candidates have been identified as eligible for automation, the right level of governance needs to then be put in place to support the implementation. For large scale financial institutions with multiple vendors implementing across different independent divisions, setting up a robust centre of excellence can help eliminate or limit misalignment and discrepancies across the programme. It can additionally ensure regular communication across the other silo departments and secure buy in-from key stakeholders during the implementation phase.
Clients often express concerns when considering RPA as an option, as it has often been associated with a reduction in workforce personnel. What is often overlooked is the benefits that robotics can offer across an organisation and to the employees in particular - who will be part of a digital workforce. In my experience, automating mundane and repetitive processes can increase job satisfaction and boosts employees’ incentive to focus on the more value-adding, managerial parts of their role. They are given more control and empowerment over key human-dependent decisions and can directly see the impact their work has on end processes.
But for this to happen, employees and stakeholders need to be assured at every stage of the implementation phase, ensuring the benefits of RPA are communicated correctly and letting them know how their roles might be reshaped as part of the digital workforce initiative.
In summary, when considering automation as an option, organisations need to focus on diagnosing the business problems they are trying to resolve first, before identifying the processes that are eligible for RPA. Setting up a centre of excellence would be a sensible follow-up step to guarantee consistent messaging and a widely agreed approach during implementation, as well as to clearly communicate the impact and benefits of automation to everyone involved. Smart automation needs to be adopted in a holistic approach – organisations need to remember it involves people and teams, not just technology platforms and back-end tools.
For more information about smart automation, please contact: Natasza Kopczynska.