It is often said that robots are going to take over the world. And this, in part, is becoming true. But instead of the traditional robots that you see on TV or in films, these are software robots which primarily replicate keystrokes, completing tasks quickly and efficiently. The increased use of robots to streamline processes, known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), has become a new norm in many sectors. Rightly so, as there is a growing need for companies to be more efficient while reducing costs and risk and improving the customer journey.
At Endava, we have spent a good number of years understanding and helping companies streamline their processes using RPA. In this article, I will share some takeaways and benefits of adopting RPA, based on a concrete example from the insurance industry.
OUR APPROACH TO RPA
In 2017, we were approached by a large insurance client to develop custom RPA solutions. Like most insurance firms, our client was struggling with legacy systems: PDFs and images containing massive data tables had to be manually keyed into systems or spreadsheets, which is a tedious, error-prone process that is difficult to scale, and traditional solutions are often unhelpful.
They had used a ready-made RPA platform to automate these processes but with limited success, as that solution was not flexible enough to support changes in different business processes and parameters. Additionally, it came with high license fees and maintenance costs and with no proper delivery model.
Therefore, our client took the decision to build an internal RPA team who would be working with various business stakeholders to agree on the processes that should be automated to achieve their initial, tactical and their overarching, strategic goals. Endava was chosen as delivery partner for their custom RPA solution due to our engineering capability, a robust Agile delivery model and an in-depth understanding of the path to production.
Our team collaborated with the client’s RPA team in a workshop to assess the business case and reasons why certain processes should be automated. We agreed to automate processes which are:
- Repetitive steps
- Time-consuming steps
- High-risk tasks
- Tasks with a low-quality yield
- Tasks involving multiple people and multiple steps
Our approach was to create a simple framework which would serve as the basis to automate multiple processes in a short period of time with minimal investment – a flexible, modular, and custom-coded application.
With our custom-built automation framework as a basis, we went on to automate close to 100 processes in the span of 12 months. As a result, we were able to reduce the time and effort spent on daily operations and increase productivity by up to 80%, with a 100% success and compliance rate. Further on, the client was able to save two thirds of their process costs, which indirectly covered the development costs within 2 years’ time.
FROM TACTICAL SOLUTION TO STRATEGIC ALIGNMENT
The initiative to use custom-built RPA solutions to automate and streamline processes is a tactical solution, but we should try to align it with the overall company strategy while adding benefits in both the short and the long term. By keeping this in mind during our initial workshop with the client and as we progressed, we were able to achieve some strategic goals.
Improved customer experience: consistent accuracy, quality output, and a faster, more timely completion of tasks can help improve the customer experience. We were able to help our insurance client use custom-built RPA to transpose data from a PDF into core client databases, reducing the process time to create the claim notification form from 14 minutes to 70 seconds, and thereby the waiting time for the customer.
Cost savings: organisations are under constant pressure to reduce the effort and full-time equivalent (FTE) required to complete repetitive tasks which can be completed by a robot. For this insurance client, using RPA resulted in more than £1 million savings per year.
Increased employee satisfaction: the removal of mundane, manual tasks while simplifying processes can increase employee satisfaction levels. With our client, we were able to automate close to 100 processes, which were repetitive, time-consuming, manual tasks. One of these processes was the generation of a liability claims letter; this had been a manual task as the liability team was required to make changes to each letter from the data that they collected from their internal systems. After automating the process, these letters are now generated automatically with only a few clicks.
HOW COVID-19 ACCELERATED RPA USAGE
While companies have been using robots to automate processes for some time, this has been accelerated due to the pandemic. There are two main drivers for this: the digitalisation of processes and cost savings, all the while keeping the user experience as the core focus.
Gartner forecasts that 90% of large organisations worldwide will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022.
The adoption of RPA will increase as awareness grows among business users. In fact, by 2024, Gartner predicts that nearly half of all new RPA clients will come in through business buyers who are outside the IT organisation.
More and more organisations will be focusing on user experience by establishing digital processes with minimal human intervention. This digitalisation of processes will benefit organisations in two ways; they can save costs and allow their valuable and skilled employees to focus on more complex and business-critical tasks.
There is no doubt that robots will play an increasingly important role in the foreseeable future, but we need to make sure the right processes are being automated to achieve strategic goals. As businesses are adapting to the post-Covid era, there is a growing expectation with end users to get the best digital experience with minimal human intervention. Organisations which are under constant pressure to cut costs and reduce the dependency on the human workforce for manual tasks will need to deploy RPA in a smart and strategic way to master these challenges.