The concept of robots in the workplace was once more akin to science fiction than reality, but today automated processes are increasingly becoming ‘business as usual’ for organisations seeking greater operational efficiencies.
In fact, a recent report by UiPath and The Economist found that over 90 percent of organisations use technology to automate processes, such as back-end tasks including data entry and data verification.
The technical term for this technology is called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is used to describe software bots that execute mundane, repetitive tasks that would be better suited for a robot than a human.
Software bots can significantly reduce processes throughout the organisation. For example, we designed a bot with our RPA partner, UiPath, to speed up and automate the data verification process. We saw a two-hour task reduced to only six minutes by using this bot. In another example, when we used a bot to automate a manual process and saw a 700 per cent increase in daily output for the same duration of work. These are incredible results and only scratch the surface of what business efficiencies RPA can achieve.
However, the biggest challenge of implementing automation throughout an organisation is engaging employees – as many people have a fear of change, or technology they aren’t familiar with. When in fact, bots and automation can complement humans and enhance employees’ roles. With this then, it’s important to help employees clearly understand the benefits of the technology and how it can increase their job satisfaction.
Here are three key insights to address this challenge head on.
Imagining robots working away behind the scenes can be a daunting prospect for many, so take the time to set the scene. It’s important to bring people on the journey with you, so they can become involved early on.
Begin by having internal conversations around robotics well before launching any major automation technology in the organisation. This will allow you to both dispel fears around the new technology and educate people on the positives of using bots.
We also found that developing a bot creates a lot of excitement and generates interest in parts of the business that aren’t directly impacted. While a manual process may have quietly existed for years, the prospect of a bot shines a whole new light on it. In our journey, we found quite a number of employees had worthwhile advice to share. So, we suggest speaking with your staff members and encouraging them to share their opinion on RPA. It’s far better to get people’s input early on rather than leave it until the 11th hour when you’re just about to deploy to production.
Bring it to life
Understanding how bots work can be challenging, especially if you’re not technologically savvy, so explore ways to make automated processes tangible for staff. For example, when we launched our first bot we created a video to show it in action. This brought the concept to life and helped people to understand exactly what it means in the context of our business.
Another way to bring it to life is to reach out to your service provider and ask them to share their insights. Our provider, UiPath, had a wealth of experience which allowed our account management team to advise us on how to convey the importance of robotics effectively. UiPath’s platform also offers a community forum of other organisations deploying bots and access to experts in RPA, which acted as a useful ecosystem for us to draw upon.
Build on your foundations
When you’re investing in robotics, there has to be an unrelenting focus to maintain the accuracy of your data, products and services, and effectively service your customers. So start small, and then build momentum once you’ve established the foundations. Adopting this stacked approach gives time to re-train staff where necessary, and then deploy them onto other tasks that add greater value for our customers.
Implementing robotics can deliver several time and cost efficiencies, and significantly improve the customer experience. However, it requires a well thought out engagement plan to be effective. Ultimately, the earlier you engage with your staff, and the more people you take on your robotics journey, the better the outcome will be.
Sarah Edwards is the Head of Client Operations, ANZ, CoreLogic.