The Future of the Workplace: using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to Reboot Work
John Bibby is a Transformation Program Manager for Civica’s business services team in Melbourne, helping digital transformation innovation across a number of services. He recently spoke at a government innovation conference with RPA partner UiPath on a recent successful government project.
Everything we do is driven by our customers and their needs. At Civica we provide the software technology behind essential everyday services, supporting more than 3,000 major organisations around the world in a wide range of markets including government, health care and regulated markets. Our mission is to support organisations around the world to harness the potential of technology to deliver better outcomes, with our solutions creating data insights or enhancing productivity using AI or machine learning.
Technology is not just supporting change but driving it throughout all organisations, and last year alone we invested $110M in the development of our market-leading products and services.
RPA an enabler in delivering better outcomes for the public
RPA is, at its very basic level, software that automates repetitive tasks. It takes information from any user interface such as GUI screens, emails or forms, applies knowledge and rules to that information and takes the actions that you have told it to take. At a deeper level, the prize is not in the automation that is done, with RPA you can widen the services you provide and make decisions faster, to the ultimate benefit of customers.
Here are some examples of the basic tasks we have eliminated to free up staff to better serve customers: Where customer requests are received in written form, either on paper on in email, we have removed the boring tasks of transferring the information from those forms into the systems that process the requests. At its worst, these can be seen just as data entry tasks, which prevent processing staff from using their knowledge and skills to deal with the customer request itself. But even data entry is subject to human error and RPA has reduced the error rate tremendously, which itself has removed the frustrating tasks of correcting requests that have been subject to error.
One process where we applied RPA receives 50,000 requests per month and takes a processing officer six minutes to complete each one. As such, the response time to the customer was up to three days. RPA has automated 70% of these, now providing a next day response to the customer for all requests, and freeing up staff to deal with complex customer situations and to focus on further innovation.
RPA is also a business enabler, for example, automating the mining of information and presenting to a call centre operative, enabling more in-depth levels of customer service.
Happy customers mean overall happier contributors to society
Innovation has been a key driver for Civica and Innovior, our partner in this project. Even my Civica notebook states “Mission Possible: licence to disrupt”. But it is not innovation for the sake of it. We are on a digital transformation journey that focusses on the customer. The process improvement mentioned above was part of transforming a customer journey that currently takes 21 days to complete. RPA is helping is reduce that journey time to a same day service. That is a paradigm shift. It is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and practices employed in that service. If I was the customer that now got that same day service rather than previously waiting 21 days, I think I am going to be a much happier customer. As a much happier customer I am probably going to be a much happier contributor to society in general too.
Winning hearts and minds
It’s not just the end customer who becomes happier and more fulfilled, RPA has released many staff from the 9 to 5 data entry tasks 5 days a week, to now using their customer expertise on more complex customer requests, and expanding their profiles into other areas. I now have ex-processing officers who have not only mind shifted into process innovation, but who enrolled themselves on UIPath training courses. Their skillset and job role is going through that paradigm shift too.
But we understood from the start that a good level of communication was required to gain trust. So even though we approached the RPA topic with some well-planned cautious management of our stakeholders it perhaps didn’t prepare us for the low starting point in building up trust in the solution. At the beginning of one RPA I had one operations manager say to me that they would have to to check everything that the robot did every day! Which, by the, isn’t true:
- You can trust a robot to do what you have told it to do
- A robot does not get tired
- A robot does not get emotional
- A robot does not rush things, or go slow, or take short cuts
That does mean, however, that what you tell it to do has to be the right thing to do, and, make sure you tell it what not to do as well.
Our technology teams had no problems in accepting the use of RPA as long as they were provided with the detail on how they function. We knew we had to transform some people from their rigid rules-based approach to take on board change, but the teams have taken it further than that are now a self-challenging innovating team by themselves.
Ultimately, failing to plan is planning to fail
Many ask what advice would give to someone thinking of implementing RPA. RPA is quick to implement but as with most change, failing to plan is to planning to fail. Start with something that is not so complex and simpler to RPA. Deliver RPA within a framework: plan, design, build, test, rollout, support are all essential parts to success. We benefitted greatly from using a boutique RPA consultancy like Innovior to help us start our RPA journey, where the level of service and expertise was outstanding.
My main piece of advice is to go for it. RPA is an enabler, not a challenge. It has delivered more benefits and quicker than we anticipated.
If I was the customer that now got that same day service rather than previously waiting 21 days, I think I am going to be a much happier customer.