Intelligent RPA: How Software Robots “Augment Humans” In Services (Part 3)

Pierre Col

Part 3 in the 4-part “Intelligent RPA” series about the evolution of robotic process automation and its potential impact on digital transformation.

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 before you do – for a very simple reason:

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

Let’s use three examples to see what it is and understand how intelligent RPA is now a must-have in the world of services or finance and benefits companies and employees. Finally, we will get some perspective on what will happen to jobs in the services sector.

1. Banking: onboarding a new customer

During spring 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 that involves checks, validations, and administrative steps in back-office IT.

The onboarding process involves seven regulatory verifications that require copying and pasting the potential client’s full name and date of birth on regulatory websites such as the bank incident file, the stolen checkbooks file, etc. There are also five data and documents checks and 17 data-processing steps performed by different applications. The average processing time for a new customer was 25 minutes.

Intelligent RPA solution

The bank’s employees are now assisted by software robots that automatically carry out all the control tasks. These software bots launch many third-party applications, in particular, those of the Banque de France, via the Internet. They ensure the quality of data, the consistency of information, and the eligibility of subscribers.

Creating a context-based banner on the desktop also makes it easier to master the process, which results in fewer errors. Employee performance is boosted by significantly reducing the number of clicks and switching applications. Robots help the operator’s decisions while taking over unpleasant and redundant tasks.

The average file processing time is now five minutes, thanks to robots designed and deployed in a few weeks on 200 PCs.

2. Finance shared service centers: automating financial operations

In a finance shared service center, accountants have to process hundreds of accounts receivable per day. They receive information about customer payments via email. They read the information to reconcile it with invoices sent to customers. They carefully check the consistency of the customer name, purchase order date and amount, invoice date and amount, payment date amount, etc. Then they 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 five minutes to process a payment from end to end, these tedious and repetitive tasks consume 1,000 minutes per day, or the equivalent of two full-time employees. Those employees could use their skills better in more value-added financial activities.

Intelligent RPA solution

Accountants are now assisted by an unattended robot that combines intelligent RPA technologies. The robot can autonomously open an accountant’s mailbox, parse the incoming messages, identify payments-related emails by analyzing their subject and content, and, for payments-related emails, open the payment notification in a joint PDF file. Then, thanks to advanced machine learning capabilities, the intelligent RPA bot extracts all the required data and logs the information in the ERP’s accounting system.

With intelligent RPA, this whole process is done in a few seconds. The business process improves because instead of spending all of their time entering data into the ERP systems, accountants spend 10 minutes a day checking to verify that the bot entered everything correctly.

3. Energy: managing a customer’s claim about a bill

At a major energy provider, processing billing claims from customers is a real issue. Adding to the complexity, the bills include a subscription, consumption data, tariffs and taxes, and seasonal variations. Many customers do not understand their bill or think the charges seem too high, and they call the energy supplier for an explanation.

To process a client’s request, hundreds of items have to be retrieved from a dozen applications and entered into a rules engine that analyzes them to decide if the customer’s claim is admissible and what action should be taken.

In the past, this process took too long to be completed during a customer’s phone call, so the customer adviser had to note the complaint and call the customer back after analyzing the request. This frustrated customers who wanted an immediate and accurate response to their request for information.

Intelligent RPA solution

Customer advisers are now assisted by robots that automatically retrieve all pertinent information, launch the business data analysis engine, and present the response, all while the customer is on the phone. The adviser can immediately explain whether or not the complaint is admissible and, if warranted, the resolution that the company will offer.

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

RPA: an “exoskeleton” for employees in the service sector

You can find examples like this throughout the service industries. In large enterprises, employees spend a lot of time interacting with different IT applications. To carry out their work, they must copy and paste data from one application to another or even manually reenter information. RPA “software robots” make these tedious, non-value-added tasks as easy as possible. And AI technologies such as machine learning and conversational capabilities allow RPA to go further to better handle unstructured data and documents and interact with users in a simpler way.

Today, technology enables construction workers to effortlessly carry heavy loads from one place to another on the job site and hospital caregivers to transport patients safely with less risk of injury. Similarly, robotic process automation makes robots available to tertiary workers to ease their workload and allow them to devote more time to tasks that leverage their intelligence and human relationships.

Some perspective

Automation now affects not only industries but also services. According to OECD research, the share of workers whose jobs are at high risk of automatability (i.e., at least 70%) ranges from six percent in Korea and Estonia to 12% in Germany and Austria.

While only a few jobs will disappear, many will change. Automation usually does not destroy jobs but rather takes over tasks within a job. As a result, the human’s job is transformed and incorporates new tasks that provide greater value than those delegated to the robot.

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

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, visit our SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation webpage.

And please listen to the replay of our “Pathways to the Intelligent Enterprise” Webinar, featuring Phil Carter, chief analyst at IDC, and SAP’s Dan Kearnan and Ginger Gatling.

This article originally appeared on the SAP Analytics blog and is republished by permission.


Pierre Col

About Pierre Col

Pierre Col is head of communications for Intelligent Robotic Process Automation at SAP, formerly chief marketing officer for Contextor. He has an extensive 30+ years background and expertise in strategic marketing, field marketing, Web marketing, lead generation, corporate and business communications, analyst relations, investor relations for Internet, telecom and IT companies.