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Intelligent Robotic Process Automation: How Software Robots “Augment Humans” in Services

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. If you work in banking, finance or insurance, at a telecommunication operator or an energy provider, in a mutual fund or a local authority and you have not yet heard the acronym at a meeting, it should not be long.

For a very simple reason:

RPA is the first step on the long path of digital transformation.

Let’s see through three examples what it is precisely. You will then understand how Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is now a must have in the world of services or finance, for the benefit of both the company and its employees. Finally, we will give some perspective on what will happen to jobs in the services sector.

Bank: Onboarding a New Customer

The challenges of conquering new customers

In 2013, a large French bank launched a new online bank offer on the European market. Opening customer accounts online through a website triggers a complex process. It involves many checks, validations, and administrative steps in the back-office IT.

The onboarding process involve seven KYC regulatory verifications that required copying and pasting the name, first name and date of birth of the potential client on regulatory websites, such as the bank incident file, the stolen checkbooks file etc. In addition, there are 5 data and documents checks and 17 data processing performed by different applications. The average processing time for a new customer was 25 minutes.

Intelligent RPA solution

The employees of this bank are now assisted by software robots who automatically carry out all the control tasks: these software bots launch via the Internet many third-party applications. They ensure the quality of data, the consistency of information and the eligibility of subscribers.

In addition, creating a context-based banner on the desktop made it easier to master the process. It was easier to learn, resulting in fewer errors. Employee performance was boosted by a significant reduction in the number of clicks and application switching. Robots helps the operator’s decisions, while taking over the unpleasant and redundant tasks.

The average processing time of a new custoemr is reduced to 5 minutes, by robots designed in a few weeks and deployed on 200 PCs!

Finance Share Service Centers: Automating Financial Operations

The challenge of processing hundreds of account receivables per day

In a finance shared service center, accountants have to process hundreds of accounts receivables per day. Via email, they receive information about payments by customers. They read the information, in order to reconcile it with the invoices sent to the customers. They carefully check the consistency of the customer name, purchase order date and amount, invoice date and amount, payment date amount etc. Then accountants have to record the transaction by entering the account receivable in the accounting software.

If you imagine that a company receives 200 payments per day, with 5 minutes to process a payment from end to end, these tedious and repetitive tasks consume 1000 minutes per day, the equivalent of 2 full time employees. Those qualified employees could better use their skills in more value-added financial activities. How to improve both company efficiency?

Intelligent RPA solution

Accountants are now used by an unattended robot combining various Intelligent RPA technologies. Working autonomously this robot is able to open an accountant mailbox, parse the incoming emails, identify emails related to payments, by analyzing emails object and content, and for each payment-related email, open the notification of payment, in a joined PDF file. Then, thanks to advanced Machine Learning capabilities, the intelligent RPA bot extracts all the data needed, and logs the information in the accounting system of company’s ERP, for instance S/4HANA.

This whole process is done in a few seconds.

With Intelligent RPA we improve the business process from having accountants to spend their full time on entering data into the ERP systems to only having accountants to check 10 minutes per day if everything was entered correctly after the bot has done his job.

Energy: Managing a Customer’s Claim about a Bill

The challenges of claims management

At a major energy provider, processing claims from customers who receive their bill is a real issue. Indeed, to the complexity of the bill that includes a subscription, consumption according to various tariffs, taxes etc. is added seasonal summer / winter effect. Many customers do not understand their bill, the amount often seems too high, and they call their supplier for explanations.

To process a client’s request, it is necessary to retrieve a hundred of information from a dozen applications and then enter them into a rule engine that will analyze them to decide if the customer’s claim is admissible or not, and of the action to be taken.

Such a process was too long to be done during a phone call from the customer. The customer adviser was to take note of the complaint, to inform the client that he would call him back after analyzing his request. This created great frustration among clients, who did not have an immediate and accurate response to their request for information.

Intelligent RPA solution

Customer advisors are now assisted by robots: these software bots automatically retrieve all the information giving the context of the client who is on the phone, launch the business data analysis engine and immediately present the response to the advisor. He can either explain to the client why his complaint is not admissible or indicate that it is accepted and explain the commercial gesture that will be done immediately.

Now, 90% of customer complaints are processed in minutes, from the very first call!

Intelligent RPA – an “Exoskeleton” for Employees

One can find such in all areas of service industries. In large enterprises, employees working on PCs spend a lot of time interacting with the different applications of the IT: in order to carry out their mission, they are forced to copy and paste data from one application to another, or even to manually re-enter information. Robotic process automation, or RPA, is implementing “software robots” to make these tedious, non-value-added tasks as easy as possible. And Artificial Intelligence technologies, such as machine learning and conversational capabilities, allow RPA to go further: it allows RPA bot to better handle unstructured data and documents, and to interact with users in a more simple way.

Today, an exoskeleton allows a construction worker to effortlessly carry heavy loads from one place to another on the job site, or to a caregiver working in a hospital to relieve the sick person without back pain.

Similarly, Robotic Process Automation makes available to all tertiary workers a set of robots that will ease their workload by allowing them to devote more time to tasks that leverage their intelligence and sense of human relationship.

Some Perspective

As we have seen, automation now affects not only industry but services. According to some research from OECD, the share of workers at high risk by OECD countries, i.e. the share of workers whose automatability is at least 70%, ranges from 6% in Korea and Estonia to 12% in Germany and Austria.

Source: Arntz, M., T. Gregory and U. Zierahn (2016), “The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlz9h56dvq7-en

So only a few jobs could disappear, but many will change: the idea that emerges is that automation does not destroy jobs, but rather takes over tasks within a job. As a result, the job is transformed, incorporating new tasks, which provides greater added value than those delegated to the robot.

This measured position is what the economist Michel Volle expresses in his works on iconomics. In a blog post, he states that “taxing robots would be a historic mistake” because

Iconomics introduces a new being, the ‘augmented human being’, with unparalleled faculties and capable of previously impossible actions. The future belongs neither to absolute automation nor to the maintenance of obsolete forms of employment, but rather to the symbiosis of human beings and computer automata. To achieve success, we must be aware of their difference and perceive what we each can do better than the other in order to reasonably articulate them. Seeing in the robot a human worker equivalent and taxing it accordingly would inhibit it and delay the contributions of this symbiosis.”

Clearly, Intelligent RPA bots are not destroying jobs, but rather, they are improving the working conditions of the employees they assist. Those employees can focus more time on tasks that are truly interesting for them and that leverage their intelligence and their sense of human relationships.

Learn More

For more information on the upcoming SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, please visit our  web page.

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