The Beauty of Standardization

The principle that technology performs technology jobs and humans perform human jobs is a simple one. Virtual and human workers each have their own strengths that should be employed and valued. The difficulty lies in determining the best fit for each role and responsibility, especially when a lack of standardization is involved.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is large part of future-of-work technology. To use RPA optimally, standardization is required. The fewer steps an automated solution performs, the quicker it will run. Additionally, if a single set of instructions exists, a single solution can be built. If highly variable instances with many different requirements exist, multiple solutions must be designed and built.

What is a Standardized File?

Most clients understand that having structured data (e.g., a field-based file) that uses a good data type (text and numbers) is vital for RPA. But there’s a common misconception that having the same data on a page, regardless of position or format, is equivalent to standardization. To be fully standardized, the data must appear in exactly the same cell, field or position in every instance.

The same goes for the processes. It isn’t enough that certain actions take place. Every instance of each action must be performed in exactly the same way, in the same order, using the same rules.

What Are the Benefits of Standardization?

The following are some benefits of process standardization.

  • Simple, well-defined standard operating procedures (SOPs). When you’re using highly standardized processes, you can write simple and well-defined SOPs that exclude futile work and bad practices. Employees are less likely to develop individual workarounds. Having clear SOPs is also useful for compliance.
  • Ease of training new employees. Clear and simple rules allow quick and structured training for new employees. They also mean that when associates have learned how to interact with and process one client, they can work with all clients. This benefit is especially useful when work must be transferred from one employee to another for reasons such as annual leave or attrition.
  • Ease of adding new clients. You can take on new clients with ease, as all new clients undergo the same process. In closing the sale, clients will be aware of exactly what input they must deliver and the business can be transparent with them from the start.
  • Increased scope for RPA configuration. Any simplification and process re-engineering that occurs before RPA development will make the deployment faster (meaning the benefits will accrue sooner). The RPA solution won’t need reconfiguration for new clients, and it’s more adaptable for future process developments.

How Can Standardized Processes Help Meet Individual Client Needs?

It’s important to ensure clients feel well served and unique, and some varying requirements between clients will be inevitable. Almost all processes, however, provide opportunities for standardization. For example, legislative parts of processes tend to be common across all clients. If they are standardized and then deemed suitable for RPA, associates will have more time to spend meeting the bespoke requirements of your clients.

For example, in one of Symphony’s completed future-of-work Assessments, a process involved receiving fresh information from the customer each month. The employees would create Excel templates for each customer, but only about 30 percent of the customers submitted their details using the template. Other data arrived in a modified version of the template; a customer-created Excel file; a Word, PDF or alternate application file; or a free-form email that attached a mixture of the above. Not only was the associates’ effort wasted in creating the template, but dealing with the mixed-data input was a difficult and time-consuming task. By analyzing the business case they discovered that if the clients enforced template usage and increased their standardization levels from 0.3 to 0.6 (over all processes) before implementing RPA, their three-year ROI jumped from 300 percent to over 450 percent.

In conclusion, standardized processes should be the same in every instance. The benefits of having standard processes apply to the workflow, the employees, the clients, RPA development and finances. As such, process re-engineering to increase standardization is critical for an organization’s journey into the future of work.

Source: Symphomy-The Beauty of Standardization

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‘Proof of value’ – not proof of concept

U.S. companies eager to implement robotic process automation — software that automates how humans interact with software — are often fixated on seeing a proof of concept, said RPA technology expert David Brain. And that’s not good.

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“I feel bad going to clients and proving what’s been proven several times over,” Brain said. People will automate a simple process that might require one employee and half a spreadsheet and declare success.

 

“‘Yes, we’ve proved the concept!’ But all they’ve proved is that the technology works. What they haven’t proved is whether there is a business case for automation and will it deliver the scale of improvements the company wants to achieve,” he said. Rather than a POC, companies should insist on POV — proof of value — before embarking on RPA. “That’s the bigger challenge.”

Brain is co-founder and COO of Symphony Ventures Ltd., a consulting, implementation and managed services firm specializing in what the firm dubs “future of work technologies”– RPA technology among them. Founded three years ago, the firm has worked on RPA projects across a broad range of industries and geographies. “We’ve done deployments in five continents so far,” he said.

All work is local

The firm’s projects have also covered a diverse set of business processes. That’s because RPA is not a “process-specific solution,” Brain stressed, but rather the automation of rules-based, manual work not covered by a company’s process-specific technology systems. And that work necessarily varies from company to company.

“You can have five organizations and they each could be running the same ERP system, but the way in which these systems are configured depends on the particular company’s rules and that means there is different work that falls out manually,” Brain said.

At some companies, Symphony experts are called upon to automate the current manual process, using RPA technology to automate the work the same way employees do it. Other companies will want help on optimizing the process first before automating it.

“It really depends on what is driving the business decision,” Brain said. The nature of the work Symphony automates is always rules-based, but those rules can be extremely complex. (The firm has done projects in which it’s taken several months to capture and learn the processes that are eventually automated.)

Proof of value: Five steps

But, whether the RPA work is of the “lift-automate-shift” or “lift-shift-automate” variety, or involves simple or complex rules, companies need to follow certain steps in order to get a “proof of value.” Here is a synopsis of Brain’s five steps for deploying RPA technology

1.Scope the transformation

“RPA is a transformational tool, not a desktop macro builder. Look for pain points within the organization and identify what needs to change. This isn’t just a cost play; rather, it has to do with mitigating the challenges of growing in a linear fashion by increasing the number of full-time employees. For some, it is about improving speed and quality to differentiate in the market. Others are attracted by the insight and analytics that come from consolidating all transactional data into one database for real-time visibility.”

2.Capture, map, measure

“The next step is to analyze the business and map processes at keystroke level. To do so, use experts in RPA, as it is important to drill into the areas where configuration will be complex. Standard operating procedures, training materials and system manuals will be great inputs, but not enough by themselves. Have the RPA experts sit with the process experts to map what really happens; afterwards, it will be easier to plot costs and service levels to the processes as a baseline.”

3.Analyze and design

“With the scope defined and mapped, identify processes and parts of processes most suitable for automation. Then calculate the time and cost to implement these, as well as the benefits of doing so. Design a target operating model (TOM), which is a graphical depiction of the business structure and processes affected by the RPA implementation; it should detail everything from stakeholders to the applications/systems used by the automation. It’s important to map not just the RPA portions but also the scope of the business to determine how to redeploy resources to drive greater business value.”

4.Plan and forecast the journey

“Consider all that is involved in the transformation and don’t underestimate the time required for change management and benefits realization. Create the implementation plan and financial model by looking at the savings and the cost avoidance that this transformation will bring over an estimated three years. Consider the cost of not only implementing RPA but maintaining the solution and updating it to take on additional tasks as needed.”

5.Gain sponsorship

“Use the business case, TOM and strategy to get support for prioritizing this transformation. The business case will justify that, usually predicting ROIs of 300% or more.”

 

Source: searchcio.techtarget.com-‘Proof of value’ – not proof of concept

How to supercharge robotic process automation

Enterprises across industries have deployed RPA with cognitive technologies to automate routine business processes such as fulfilling purchase orders. 

Robotic process automation (RPA), technology that lets software robots replicate the actions of human workers for routine tasks such as data entry, is altering the way organizations handle many of their key business and IT processes.

Advances in automation and robotics are putting a lot of jobs at risk. Here are ten jobs first in line for the robot takeover.

 

When RPA is used in conjunction with cognitive technologies, its capabilities can be significantly expanded.

“The integration of cognitive technologies with RPA makes it possible to extend automation to processes that require perception or judgment,” said David Schatsky, managing director at consulting firm Deloitte.

“With the addition of natural language processing, chatbot technology, speech recognition, and computer vision technology, for instance, bots can extract and structure information from speech audio, text, or images and pass that structured information to the next step of the process,” Schatsky said.

In another example Schatsky cited, machine learning can identify patterns and make predictions about process outcomes, helping RPA prioritize actions. “Cognitive RPA has the potential to go beyond basic automation to deliver business outcomes such as greater customer satisfaction, lower churn, and increased revenues,” he said.

In a report Schatsky authored in 2016, called “Robotic Process Automation: A Path to the Cognitive Enterprise,” he noted that enterprises are beginning to employ RPA together with cognitive technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning to automate perceptual and judgment-based tasks once reserved for humans.

The integration of cognitive technologies and RPA is extending automation to new areas and can help companies become more efficient and agile as they move down the path of becoming fully digital businesses, the report said.

Processes that require human judgment within complex scenarios, such as complex claims processing, can’t be automated through RPA alone, the report noted. It cited one RPA vendor as saying even its most mature clients automate at most 50 percent of back-office processes, and the majority of clients automate far fewer.

Cognitive RPA has the potential to go beyond basic automation to provide business outcomes such as enhanced customer satisfaction, lower churn, and increased revenues, the report said.

The Deloitte report provided an example of a leading global bank that used cognitive RPA to automate 57 percent of its payments work in the highly regulated area of foreign trade finance.

The challenges of automating this process end-to-end included: the need to work with highly unstructured data such as invoices, bills, declarations, certificates, and letters; a high daily volume of transactions that needed same-day processing; and the need to interface with multiple core systems. The solution combined traditional RPA techniques with several cognitive technologies to automate most steps in the process.

Leading RPA vendors are incorporating cognitive technologies into their offerings, and large RPA providers are partnering with vendors of cognitive technologies. For example, Blue Prism and IBM Watson have partnered to bring cognitive capabilities to customers.

Enterprises across industries such as banking, insurance, and transportation have deployed RPA with cognitive technologies to automate routine business processes such as fulfilling purchase orders and new hire on-boarding, the report said.

Source: ZDNet-How to supercharge robotic process automation

Ten levers of successful RPA implementation

Lot has been talked about RPA as a concept, benefits and trends. RPA has become so much of a commonplace now, that any business leader from support function organization not working on it, is seen as someone who missed the bus.

RPA may sound very simple and look enticing as a quick bang for the buck initiative, but when it comes to putting BOTs in production, it requires well-orchestrated execution and strong leadership to derive the benefits out of it. While still majority of the organizations are in early adoption stages with POCs and Pilots, it is imperative to understand the on-ground challenges and essential levers to adopt to put BOTs into production.

From my point of view and experience, I have listed down top 10 levers that need to be considered to succeed in RPA implementation journey.

1. Start with a Proof of Concept: Most of business leaders now understand RPA and seem to accept it as viable technology however, they are not convinced enough to try it out in their process. Showcasing RPA through a quick working BOT POC video, triggers the enthusiasm and it is essential for getting the initial buy-in from the process owners. For POC, choose an activity which everyone in the organization understands, configure automation and screen record the BOT performing the activity as POC video. Showcasing this POC video and its impact helps in evangelizing the concept of RPA among the process owners and get them share the vision of RPA. Try implementing the POCs through multiple RPA tools, which also gives opportunity to evaluate and select the right tool that fits well with your organization’s applications landscape.

2. Identify & on-board evangelizers : RPA challenges the way in which operations team have been performing the tasks, leaders are being measured and the way processes are engineered. RPA is a transformational journey and organizations require strong leadership will, long term sponsorship and core committee to succeed in this journey. It is imperative to identify first set of functional / operational leaders who are excited about RPA , supporters of change, and on-board them into core operational committee. Initial few production live implementations should be implemented in their processes since there will be strong will and acceptance from the business. Core team should be from the organization itself and not from the outsourcing service providers – since the objective of the RPA conflicts with their interest. Organization can take help from tool agnostic independent advisory firms to shape this journey.

3. Choose processes wisely : Success of RPA projects is as good as selecting the right candidates / processes for implementation. Almost 60% of RPA projects fail or benefits does not meet the cost of implementation, owing to wrong process selection. Many a times, business leaders with limited practical RPA knowledge and heavy prejudice, choose wrong processes and end up wasting significant effort in force-fitting RPA in that process. By seeing this result, other business leaders lose trust on RPA and misconception starts spreading within organization. Choosing first set of processes is very critical, as the success of this implementation would lay precedent for adoption of RPA across other processes in organization. Process selection has to be done only after thoroughly understanding the possibilities, and very importantly limitations of RPA.

The magic lies in having robust process selection and prioritization framework. We use set of criteria under the heads of ‘Ease of implementation’ and ‘Benefits derived’ and apply quantitative rating methodology across processes to assess its RPA suitability, and prioritize them for RPA implementation

Examples of wrong processes for RPA

  • Process that involves performing activities on applications that undergo frequent changes / upgrades – not suitable for RPA as it would require re-configuration every time the application changes
  • Process that depend on regulatory changes – may not be suitable for RPA, if the regulation changes result in activity changes– this would result in re-configuration every time the activity changes
  • Process that have low volume / run few times e.g once in a quarter or annum – not suitable for RPA as it would not yield significant man-hours saving

Always perform a detailed feasibility assessment to identify and assess the scale of automatability of activities within process and baseline manual time spent on them. Choose activities that are rule based, consistent and are of high volume for RPA implementation.

4. Set the expectations low: There is a lot of hype around RPA and often times, the benefits estimated in business case are theoretical and high compared to what RPA can achieve on ground. Some business leaders come with a notion that BOTs would take over the entire process and completely replace all the human FTEs in the process, but in reality BOTs would be capable to perform only some of the activities within a process and human FTEs would need perform the rest of the activities alongside BOTs. Implementing BOTs and automating activities does not release FTEs form day 1, but gradually over a period of time because of following reasons

  • Even after robust user acceptance testing on functional and non-functional requirements, we have seen not more than 70% of the transactions pass through BOTs immediately after production go-live. This is owing to business and technical exceptions which reduces gradually through training business users in BOT usage
  • Not all the manual time spent that were earlier on automated activities are saved. Human FTEs would need to spend time on providing inputs (triggers and data) to BOTs, which was not the case pre-automation. So the net benefit will always be lesser than the time spent on automated activities.
  • Many a times, automated activities are spread out across the process and human intervention are interspersed within the automated activities. To realize benefits of FTE savings, the activities within the process need to be re-sequence so that the automated activities are grouped together

Hence, it is advisable to factor in post-production stabilization period and set the expectation low on the benefits derived out of automation. Having said this, it is always good to set the expectations low and beating it in unproven territory.

5. Have complementing tools – RPA tool need not be the only tool of choice to automate all the activities. Consider having a set of complementary tools or point solutions ready with the help of internal IT / tool team and while performing automation feasibility assessment, select the right tools based on the nature of the activity. For e.g.: Consider OCR tools for extracting data from raw files, SaaS based ETL tools for data transformation, excel macro for data computation / formatting etc. RPA being UI based tool, can work well with other tools and play orchestrator roles tool of stitching together automation of other tools. This way the scope of automation is not limited to only what RPA tool can do.

6. Make IT integral part of the Journey: RPA is definitely a business led program, but not keeping IT involved from the beginning of journey will lead to disappointments. Unlike other IT implementations which takes months and years, RPA takes weeks to go-live. Hence, IT should also be prepared and nimble enough to setup environment & provision BOTs infra in short notice. IT need to ensure a robust architecture in place, that would allow fungilibility of BOTs between processes and ability to scale up / down number of BOTs to manage peaks & turfs in the volume of transactions. In some organizations, we have seen IT team bringing in information security issues and protocols just before the production go-live. Hence it is important to keep the IT team apprised enough of the processes to be automated and seek sign off before making investment in configuration.

7. Have robust solutioning focus: In any successful implementations, not more than 30% of the time is spent on configuration of BOTs in RPA tool. Significant effort need to spent in understanding the processing activities at keystroke level, its variations, trigger points and non-functional requirements like work volume variations, SLA commitment . Based on this, robust ‘To-Be‘ state of the processes need to be designed bi-furcating BOT and Human activities with clear exception handling mechanism. The solution design gets refined through the implementation with constant feedback form the process team members.

What should a typical solution design contain?

  • Logics of how BOTs should be configured and take decisions during the processing
  • Human BOT interaction/ handoffs : How would data pass from Human to BOT and vice versa in terms of variables and exceptions
  • BOT estimation & scheduling: How many BOTs and how should it be scheduled to handle the work volume and meet the SLA commitment of the process
  • BOT trigger points: What event / action should qualify BOT to start the activity
  • Exception handling mechanism: Scenarios qualify to be exception and how should BOTs handle the exceptions
  • Activity standardization pre-requisite: Activities which are automatable but not standardized need to be identified and standardized before configuration, so as to make the configuration as reusable as possible

8. Follow quick win delivery methodology: RPA implementations are faster and its chances of success raises if the configuration is broken into several small incremental configuration and follow agile methodology. Following a waterfall delivery methodology and covering all the requirements at once before configuration is not possible as most of the variations, exceptions reside in the memory of process associates and are not documented well. Configuration of BOT has to be first done for ‘happy-path’ scenario (scenario with no exceptions or variations throughout), test it and incrementally add variations and exception handling with immediate testing at each step. It is imperative to have the process team members sit alongside RPA configuration team for frequent feedback and provide input on incremental configuration.

9. Track and reap benefits continuously: Ultimate benefits of RPA is derived only when manhours effort saved through automation result in reduction of FTEs. It is important to have a baseline of time effort spent on the manual activities to track the post automation benefits. Business process team should take the ownership of tracking benefit through quantifiable framework based on BOT run logs. When the BOT run process reaches stabilization and when manhours saving are realized, business team should look at redeploying / reskilling the manpower. Till the estimated benefits are realized, have a dashboard published regularly to bring in accountability and transparency in the success of the program. Some of the areas in which the measurements can be done are:

  • BOT performance: Utilization of allocated BOTs, Average handling time of BOT per Transactions, Number of technical (RPA tool related) exceptions per 100 transaction, % of transactions adhering to SLA commitment, % of transactions adhering to quality commitment
  • Manual time saved: Number of manual runs Vs BOT runs, Time saved through BOT, Number of business exceptions

10. Plan for sustainability: Once the first set of implementations have gone-live and the methodologies are tried, tested and finalized – establish a CoE to industrialize these methodologies. Design operating model, comprehensive toolkit across the implementation phases, define governance and performance tracking mechanism. Parallely, build support mechanism team to provide ongoing support to the existing automation and take care of re-configuration to accommodate process / application change. It is said that, it takes 21 days of sustained effort to imbibe a new habit, but we have seen it takes much more effort and strong leadership to imbibe the new habit of using BOTs instead of going back to manual processing. Including BOT usage as part of scorecard metric for operations team helps in bringing the cultural shift and imbibe the habit of using BOT. Organizations should start thinking about CoE very early on in the journey when selecting pilot processes for implementation, as it may take anywhere before 4 to 6 months to have fully functional CoE in place.

Source: Linkedin-Ten levers of successful RPA implementation

Why A Digital Workforce Requires a New Mindset

Whether your customers are internal or external, you will be delivering ‘outcomes’ to them. However, your business and clients evolve. Rather than simply constructing a ‘new way’ to deliver the same outcomes, it is essential that they are re-assessed to fully understand what they need to be. Essentially, delivering an outcome that customers have always had, even if in an improved way, is not as good as delivering what they actually want and need.

For example, a cruise liner might take you from Southampton to New York in 7 days, but while this is the same perceived outcome as an airline delivering you to the same destination in 6 hours, do we truly believe this is the same outcome? Furthermore, it is critical to be aware that customers’ needs will change over time, so it is essential to keep up to date with their current state of mind and expectations.

Determine the Root Cause of The Problem

Many problems are usually identifiable, particularly when processes are well-known and understood. What is often less clear is the cause, or indeed the resolution. Consider the problem “too many errors are made ” or “customers find the turnaround too slow”. These are the symptoms of the problem; only by investigating the process, hierarchy, complexity of rules and clients’ needs can the root cause be properly identified and resolved.

As businesses grow they become complicated by the multitude of stakeholders, processes and, of course, beloved systems. This combination ends up driving how your operators work and constrains your business. When looking for process improvements, it is common to focus on how to work within the limitations we are ‘bound by’ rather than thinking through the outcomes that are required. Focusing on and addressing the root cause of the problem will allow you to build processes from the foundation up rather than from the symptom down. Be aware, there will be many limiting factors placed in your way, so always be mindful of the outcome you truly seek.

Cut Futile and Frustrating Work

With the mentality of building upwards, you consider first only what is necessary, then the things that add benefit. Anything outside this should be cut. There is no point in having a smooth-running process that adds no real worth to the business.

Cutting futile work is vital to the Future of Work mindset. As technology advances and businesses become more automated, customers will rightfully expect faster results with minimum fuss. Futile work takes up valuable resources (both human and virtual) and slows down cycle time. It also makes things unnecessarily complicated, thus providing more room for error and further exceptions for your team to handle. Streamlined businesses (no matter how complex) have flexibility and stability that allow you to develop with the changing technological landscape and changing client demands.

An important consideration is that while technology appears to give us ‘quick fixes’, it is important to avoid is configuring automation for unnecessary or overly complicated work. REMEMBER: Robots are not the answer to process problems; they are amplifiers, able to perform processes with great speed, accuracy, and agility if given the means to do so. Any unnecessary or overly complex work reduces their efficiency and potentially the benefits to your business.

Align Processes and Goals With Client Demand

As you re-structure your processes, you should absolutely seize the opportunity to do so with your client goals as well as your own objectives. Only with this 360˚ view can you determine which tasks are necessary and whether they add value to your overall business. The idea is to get the maximum alignment possible between processes, goals and demands so that they can be managed within your core business structure. Any outliers are exceptions and should be minimised to improve the fluidity and efficiency of the end-to-end process. This is shown in the diagram below:

A great example of this comes from one of our largest global clients. They wanted to introduce RPA to many of their processes, so began the initiative under a process improvement team. This meant they could look holistically at global processes, streamline systems and implement technology to align with their corporate goals and demands. It is imperative to note that they utilised (dare I say ‘leveraged’?) Future of Work technology, rather than being driven by it. RPA can absolutely assist in removing the requirement for humans to perform mundane work, but without looking at the end-to-end process, you cannot properly identify process steps that can be completely accelerated or in many instances removed completely.

Example: Is the Best Customer Service, No Customer Service?

Often seen as a beacon for challenging traditional customer service models, Amazon has revolutionized the experience of shopping online. It may be fair to suggest that it has transformed the expectations of shopping in its entirety. The ability to make an instant purchase even if delivery comes later satisfies the human need to consume and when coupled with the fact that you can browse and buy from your own home, all without having to fight trains, traffic, and parking restrictions. Furthermore, the marketplace is extended way beyond your local high-street to a global distribution network.

It really exemplifies the Martini (another brand creator) concept: anytime, anyplace, anywhere. No matter where consumers are globally, so long as they benefit from the new utility: Wi-Fi, they can be shopping. With the explosion of online payments/billing to support the marketplace, customers find shopping online quick, intuitive and satisfying. The staple preserve of physical shops has been ‘what if something goes wrong? Customers are understandably concerned that their garments won’t fit, that they won’t be allowed a refund, that their product will be faulty. The strongest e-commerce companies trust their customers first (complex algorithms tell them that most customers are honest and rapidly weed out the fraudulent ones). All of this processing and calculation is managed in the digital cloud.

While any retailers make returns onerous, returning a product through Amazon is as smooth and intuitive as purchasing. The returns process has been carefully engineered with customer experience (outcome) at its heart. All returns are managed within the Returns Support Center, and are tailored to the customer’s method of purchase and immediate needs. It is entirely fuss-free and easy. When customers have questions, the process moves into the exception path. Immediately, staff are available and ready to support, thus driving up customer and, in fact, employee experience.

Summary

There are great examples of leveraging automation technology to perform the work to which it is best suited: high volume, rules based and transactional. Work that does not fit that profile is deemed high value, judgemental work and should be where we focus our human workforce. Humans can intervene where rules do not exist or customers do not accept the rules. With the correct application of strong process rules and governance, human and virtual employees can work together in a seamless and fluid process in which the client is king! At Symphony, we believe this is the key to a successful future of work. Determining the root of the problem, cutting futile and frustrating work and aligning business processes and goals with client demand must be the first steps in a business transformation. The solution to this transformation is the combination of people, processes and technology, because only upon a foundation of well-defined and streamlined processes can a robotic solution excel.

Source: Symphony-Why A Digital Workforce Requires a New Mindset 

Blue Prism Collaborates with Microsoft to Deliver Digital Workforce Capabilities to Global Enterprise Client

Blue Prism, a leading global Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provider, today announced it will launch its Operating System for the Digital Workforce on Microsoft Azure. Building on the certified cloud reference architecture, Microsoft and Blue Prism will jointly collaborate to add intelligent automation capabilities on Microsoft Azure and distribute to the Microsoft partner network.

Enterprises can now leverage Blue Prism’s intelligent automation platform powered by Azure Machine Learning and Microsoft AI, and benefit from leading-edge artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, analytics and cloud capabilities to help drive comprehensive digital transformation.

The joint collaboration will see Blue Prism platform increasingly optimized to run on Azure delivering unprecedented performance and scale while enabling native access to cognitive and AI services. This collaboration also includes building integrations into Azure Analytics and other partner services.

For example, in the banking sector, Microsoft, Blue Prism and Identitii have teamed-up to streamline financial transactions and address money laundering using blockchain technology. Together this solution enables banks and financial institutions to use Blue Prism to automate and audit financial transactions while Azure provides the machine learning analytics and Identitii the database capabilities. In this way, Blue Prism offers enterprise businesses a differentiated technology offering on the cloud that is able to seamlessly integrate with any system in the enterprise landscape, regardless of it’s interface, to provide a next generation digital workforce.

“Our customers and partners are changing the way they think about automation. They are looking to deploy a digital workforce that can easily integrate with their other best-in-breed AI and cognitive solutions,” said Alastair Bathgate, CEO, Blue Prism. “Working with Microsoft Azure enables this vision by providing everyone with unprecedented access and flexibility to the lastest automation capabilities, while ensuring that it is done in a sustainable, scalable way. Our digital workforce safeguards existing IT investments while enabling the next generation of enterprise-grade applications.”

Blue Prism’s Operating System for the Digital Workforce incorporates investments in over a decade of software development and includes insights from more than 400 global enterprise customers. These include leading Fortune 500 companies in highly regulated industries, including finance, insurance, utilities, telecom, healthcare, retail and manufacturing. An RPA industry leader, Blue Prism pioneered the Operating System for the Digital Workforce, coined the term RPA in 2012 and was recently acknowledged by MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 smartest companies globally.

“Today’s enterprises are always looking for new ways to make their operations faster, more secure and more efficient—which is what drives them to seek out cloud and automation solutions,” said Janet Lewis, vice president of Worldwide Financial Services at Microsoft. “Working with Blue Prism to bring their best-in-class software robots to the cloud not only delivers on that promise but enables enterprises to truly realize the digital transformation they’re working toward.”

“Organizations must include intelligent automation processing as part of their digital transformation strategy,” said Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates. “Transformation requires a well thought out roadmap. Automation needs to be aligned as part of a broader business strategy for developing differentiated service offerings. This collaboration is all about making processes run smarter digitally, so organizations can be more competitive and responsive to customer demands.”

Source: BluePrism-Blue Prism Collaborates with Microsoft to Deliver Digital Workforce Capabilities to Global Enterprise Client

Robotic process automation market poised for explosive growth

Early experiments with robotic process automation are successfully cutting costs and achieving fast ROI. That will lead to a boom in full-scale deployments. Download a free Everest Group report to learn more.

Robotic process automation (RPA) technology typically uses artificial intelligence to handle repetitive, rules-based, back-office tasks. And the market is about to experience a period of “explosive” growth, according to an Everest Group study.

The RPA market grew 64 percent to $200 million last year and is expected to grow 70 to 90 percent by 2018 because successful pilot projects are inspiring buyer confidence in the technology, the consulting and research firm reports.

Why are RPA pilot projects successful? The Everest Group report says RPA projects save money, recoup the investment in just six to nine months, and don’t require major IT architecture changes or deep integration with underlying systems.

However, there are some barriers to adoption, such as IT departments concerned about data security and loss of control. Plus, “replacing staff with robots in some sectors, such as government, could become a political minefield,” the report says.

The 25-page report also covers the following topics:

  • The business case for RPA
  • Key lessons learned by early adopters
  • International trends in RPA adoption
  • The RPA vendor landscape
  • Predictions for 2017-2019

Register now to download the complimentary Everest Group report: “Robotic Process Automation: State of the Market”

Source: CIO-Robotic process automation market poised for explosive growth

4 Gold Reasons to Take a Hard Look at Automation Today

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is more than just hype and it only makes sense to go robotic before your competitors do

If you’ve read the news or spoken to any colleagues over the last decade, chances are you already know something about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). You could be living in a cave and still have heard of it, with all the attention it has gotten recently. RPA, Automation, Robotic Automation, Robots, Bots – all are common names for a powerful business paradigm shift that is happening right before our eyes.

Robotic automation is worth taking a hard look at not only because it is changing the world but also because it can do great things for your contact center. Just as importantly, it’s turbocharging your competitors: Nearly three quarters of companies are planning to automate labor functions or have already begun automating low-level work, according to a recent survey . Don’t wait for tomorrow – consider a few key reasons that your organization should be pursuing Robotic Process Automation today.

1. The automation wave is washing over everyone

Automation is more than just hype. Its rise in financial services, insurance, telco, healthcare, BPOs and many other industries attests to its vast and enduring capability to transform the business world as we know it. Many developers are selling RPA in various flavors to enthusiastic audiences. It’s likely that many of your customers, partners and competitors are already using these tools to automate processes and complete a range of operations in the workplace. The growth curve in this space is exponential, and it’s not too late for you to catch the wave too.

2.The money question

RPA lowers labor expenses (think dollar cost averaging, not FTE cuts) by enabling your agents and back-office teams to optimize their time doing higher-value work, rather than wasting minutes and hours on routine, mindless tasks. In a review of IT outsourcing services, researchers found that productivity and profits rose significantly in organizations that implemented automation, “Cost savings range from 26 percent to 66 percent, depending on the service tower, with 14 to 28 percentage points of these savings directly attributable to automation,” according to the report. “This higher level of savings compares with typical cost savings of 20 percent to 30 percent from traditional labor arbitrage and process improvements alone.” No matter how competent your agents, they are always susceptible to basic human error. By automating those tasks, you can reduce errors to next to zero.

3. Escape from boredom

If you were to monitor the daily work of your front- and back-office teams, you might find that they spend much of their time on simple, repetitive tasks. They are constantly copying, cutting and pasting, switching between systems and entering duplicate content into multiple applications. It’s like entering your account number three times for an IVR when trying to pay your utility bill – and then doing it over and over through the course of the day.

Take a moment to step away from your managerial concerns about profits and efficiency and look at the customer-facing, in-process employee experience. Would you want to work like that?

Automating these repetitive tasks alleviates the boredom and frustration of the day-to-day grind. In some cases, according to Forrester, the use of RPA can lead to the creation of higher-skilled positions, and 64 percent of respondents in a recent survey said their companies were using automation because it freed staff to do other tasks.

4. Scaling with ease

Fine-tuning your staffing requirements can be nearly impossible when you’re relying solely on human labor. Call traffic changes from day to day, hour to hour and even minute to minute. Bringing in team members or sending them home at a moment’s notice is not a sound business practice. It’s also difficult to hire and train skilled employees to keep up with growth.

Robots, on the other hand, can scale up or down whenever needed. There’s no risk in adding more of them, and they deploy faster than any human can. They save money, too: Robots ramp up your capacity without the normal cost associated with staffing up. Robots can also be programmed to be “multi-skilled,” which makes staffing your organization with the right employees at the right time a cakewalk. It’s a scalable way to simplify daily tasks and grow your enterprise in the long term.

These goals are frequently key benefits of automation in the contact center. Your proactive exploration and problem solving can keep your business pointed in the right direction and reassure leadership that you and your team are up to date on best practices and the newest technologies in the contact center.

Source: bwdisrupt.businessworld.in-4 Gold Reasons to Take a Hard Look at Automation Today

15 Ways Artificial Intelligence And Automation Can Help Us Get Better At Work

Even if we are not always aware of it, artificial intelligence is already a big part of our lives, having a major impact on how we live and how we work. From customer service applications to voice-powered assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, there are several examples of AI and automation tools in use today.

As technological advancements continue, AI’s role in our lives will only grow bigger. There are even concerns that AI will soon make most human-filled jobs obsolete and ultimately leave millions unemployed. And according to the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, these concerns are not entirely unfounded. In a report put together for the previous U.S. administration, the subcommittee suggests that up to 47% of jobs risk becoming irrelevant because of technological advancement and that 83% of jobs that pay under $20 an hour will most likely be automated within the next few years.

Whether that prediction comes true or not, the fact remains that widespread AI adoption can have multiple benefits for a business and its employees, such as higher quality work, improved reliability, increased and consistent output. Automation of routine tasks can actually help workers spend more time on creative tasks that provide enhanced value to the company and its customers. Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members discuss ways in which artificial intelligence and automation can actually help workers become better at their jobs in the next few years.

Artificial intelligence is going to continuing changing agency professionals' daily workflow.All photos courtesy of Forbes Agency Council members.

Artificial intelligence is going to continuing changing agency professionals’ daily workflow.

1. Give Deeper Insights

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will transform the job of PR professionals. Tasks such as news monitoring, researching, reporting and building media lists will no longer need to be done manually. AI and predictive analytics will give PR professionals deeper insights into market trends and movements. The combination will help free up mind space so PR can think more strategically, creatively and high-level.   – Chi ZhaoHokku PR

2. Replace Day-To-Day Low-Level Cognitive Tasks

AI, automation and machine learning will impact day-to-day tasks considerably in the next five years. The main focus will be on low-level cognitive tasks: scheduling calendar invites, routinely ordering food, determining emails to answer/review/delete based on facts. They’ll also be working their way into aiding high-level cognitive tasks: identifying connections, analyzing correlation and assessing conclusions.   – Alan MorteThree Ventures Technology, Inc.

3. Act As Life’s Concierge Service

With the popularity of AlexaWatson and Einstein, consumer expectation will soon be for tech to act as concierge. Big Data companies now anticipate general real-time needs and provide info (weather, traffic, etc.) but AI’s evolution post-purchase to provide highly personalized info means it will soon anticipate my daily individual needs to recommend when, where, and how I accomplish my tasks.   – Elizabeth PostonHelios Interactive

4. Make Marketing Less Artificial And More Intelligent

AI will enable companies to develop even deeper relationships with people. Cognitive technology, such as IMB’s Watson, enable us to analyze data like unstructured text, audio, images and video. Sensing and processing personality, tone and emotion will help us make even greater personalized recommendations and help companies engage in conversations through chatbots.   – Debbie WilliamsSPROUT Content

5. Automate Customer Support

Using chatbots for automated customer support will save a lot of time. Chatbots that are available 24/7 for customers and can automatically answer your questions, provide recommendations, or direct you to the next step in your workflow can take a lot of weight off your customer support system. Furthermore, bots can gather intelligence on customer needs, engagements and emotions.   – Solomon ThimothyOneIMS

6. Put Great Minds To Good Use

We often find ourselves and our staff stuck doing mundane tasks. This realistically holds us and our teams back from unleashing our problem-solving skills and our creativity. Jumping on AI and workflow automation will help us clear our plates of tasks including sorting, organizing, responding, or reporting, and will leave us and our teams more time to be productive.   – Ahmad KarehTwistlab Marketing

7. Edit Video Content On The Fly

AI will eventually edit content that we produce in real time, developing an infinite number of variations instantaneously once published. Shots will be switched out, music and sound effects will change on the fly, all dictated by real-time user engagement and personal characteristics of the viewer. We’re already creating multiple versions of each video we create – it’s time a robot does it for us!  – Chris CarterRep Interactive

8. Create Jobs And Integrate Human Workflows Together

Artificial intelligence in the workplace will break apart established workflows, which in return will create jobs to help integrate the workflows together. The structure of the workplace will continue to change due to AI and automation. However, humans will play an integral role in making sure these worlds combine efficiently and effectively.   – Ryan PezzottiKnowzo.com

9. Free Up Time For Strategy And Storytelling

In the ad operations space, automation and programmatic platforms have grown over the past few years. This has reduced the tactical need to spend time on the nuts-and-bolts, managing every last technical detail. This will allow agencies to focus on high-value strategic work, especially creative audience targeting, analysis and storytelling.   – Dan GoldenBe Found Online

10. Inform Future Strategies

While humans will always be needed in the PR industry as relationship building is an essential component, the data that our teams can collect through AI will help to inform future strategies. This intelligence will be especially beneficial when it comes to media monitoring and ensuring that we’re able to stay abreast of competitor news and coverage.   – Jennifer HawkinsHAWKINS International Public Relations Inc.

11. Condense 40 Hours of Analysis In Four Minutes

Manual analysis of marketing efforts is time-consuming. The future of marketing efficiency is condensing tasks that normally take 40 hours into four-minute report runs. One example? Creating a social media strategy. Instead of analyzing all of the status updates that have been posted and categorizing them into a strategy, future automation tools will be able to better direct marketing efforts.   – Brett FarmiloeMarkitors

12. Keep Us Productive During The Commute

By far the most exciting application of AI and machine learning is automated driving. Being a Tesla P90D owner, I understand the value of autopilot, especially in terms of reduced driver fatigue on long trips. However, I’m most excited by the idea of fully autonomous driving, which I suspect will have a dramatic impact on productivity during one’s commute to and from work.   – Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.Do I qualify?

13. Increase Engagement

AI can help us craft customized experiences in real time to increase engagement with brands. We recently created an experience for an industry event that allowed passers-by to interact with and affect a change within a branded environment. Once inside, consumers answered five simple questions and we created custom content based on their answers. The engagement level was off the charts.   – Chris CavanaughFreeman

14. Make Routine Processes Easier

Automation, whether in a manufacturing facility or a programmatic advertising platform, exists to make routine processes easier. Advanced technologies such as AI just extend what can conceivably be automated. As an entrepreneur, I look at AI as the ultimate efficiency driver. It enables me to put the day-to-day in digital hands, freeing mine and making each day more productive.   – Julien VerdierAdyoulike

15. Give A Competitive Edge

AI implementation will allow us to simplify multi-faceted processes by replacing the manual process of sorting and identifying complex data, key insights and actionable plans. We can create strategies to help our clients gain a competitive edge over competitors by having better decision-making, improved ROI, operational efficiency and cost savings.   – Revecka JalladDivisa

Source: Forbes-15 Ways Artificial Intelligence And Automation Can Help Us Get Better At Work