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Service Delivery Automation: Advice to Ensure a Successful Implementation

March 5, 2018

An interview with Raveendran Jepegnanam, Head of RRD Global Outsourcing's Delivery Automation

Service Delivery Automation: Advice to Ensure a Successful Implementation

How would you describe the current state of Service Delivery Automation (SDA) and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) in the industry today?

Automation is still a rapidly evolving technology but it has reached a point where it is effectively producing substantial productivity improvements. Many "low hanging fruit" opportunities have been realized, but the technology is still improving by leaps and bounds. We are continuing to see additional new opportunities coming into focus. Moving forward, I expect the industry to see ongoing waves of new implementations as improved versions of automation tools broaden the scope of potential candidate processes that can be automated.

The current potential for automation should be understood within the context of the business world's overall migration from analog to digital technology. As the world increasingly leaves behind paper based functions and accepts the fully digital office, more and more opportunities for automation will become viable. And once systems and offices become fully digital, we will see ever more expansive instances in which we can link formerly disparate processes together into end-to-end automated cohesive functions.

As a legacy pioneer and leader in global Business Process Outsourcing, does RRD have a unique perspective and approach in incorporating automation and robotics in our suite of services?

Our expertise and legacy history in business process outsourcing has given us a tremendous advantage in implementing automation successfully. Many people mistakenly see automation as an IT project but that is really just a small portion of the range of skills required for a productive and sustainable automation initiative.

First, we have deep experience in mapping out complicated work functions and boiling them down to segmented categorical action items. We have a sharp eye for seeing what is truly strategic and judgment dependent and what can be guided by objective guidelines. While this step sounds simple, at first glance it can be surprisingly challenging for those new to deep process mapping and engineering.

Our process experience also has given us great insight into foreseeing the likelihood of process exceptions that can be a small headache for outsourcing but a truly deep challenge for automation. We also have insight into what changes may be required upstream and downstream, in regards to human and system-based steps, to maximize the potential scope of automation for a particular process.

Basically, our operational and outsourcing expertise allows us to implement automation from a holistic vantage point, which goes far beyond just IT know how.

Before embarking on an automation engagement you are very mindful to first proceed with a process assessment to develop recommendations for overall process transformation. Can you explain why?

It is very important to perform a full context assessment of the process and of the overall operational environment. The more we know and understand up front the more we can implement a really transformative solution as opposed to settling for a small patch fix. If you restrict your view to just the inputs for one particular process, you may end up needing to rework steps later on to enable a more comprehensive solution.

Before diving in with automation, we want to fully digitize as many analog steps as possible. This step can often expand the scope of automation far beyond what was originally envisioned.

The initial process assessment can also reveal opportunities for process improvements that have nothing to do with automation. In some instances, we find that the optimal solution is a tri-fold effort of global sourcing, process improvement and automation implemented concurrently.

Through an overall assessment, we gain a deeper view of all the strategic, systems, functions and compliance issues we should be taking into account for creating a long-term road map for ongoing process maturation, optimal sourcing, and automation.

What typical gain have you seen from process transformation and automation?

For a large organization, from a holistic perspective, we have seen gains typically ranging from 30% to 40% reduction in manual processing steps. But on an individual process basis gains can range from 10% to 90% depending on the process maturity, degree of digitization, frequency of exceptions, and the presence of true judgment dependant action items. Obviously results will vary widely on a case by case basis.

For companies first exploring the possibility of securing operational gains via automation, what key pieces of advice do you have to offer?

It is important to start this effort with the right process for a proof of concept. If one starts with the wrong process, the automation gains may be lackluster and end up undermining the client's motivation for seeking out additional targets for automation.

When clients come to us with a target process already identified we often encourage them to take a step back to vet the process identification conversation. Sometimes it takes an experienced automation practitioner to identify what is and what is not a good candidate for automation.

Furthermore, we encourage clients to build a strong governance and change management team to oversee an automation initiative from beginning to end. Automation introduces deep changes to organizations both operationally and culturally so it is important to embark on this process with broad sponsorship, deep thinking and collegial transparency. Change can be challenging.

What is the biggest unforeseen challenge clients typically encounter when searching out opportunities for an automation implementation?

Often clients do not foresee to what extent additional automation gains can be produced through enhancements to existing systems such as an altered interface, an additional plug in or some other digital enhancement. Sometimes a small system tweak can make a big difference in the overall outcome of an automation effort.

Also, it is important to dedicate adequate time and effort to up front due diligence and process identification effort. The old adage of 'measure twice and cut once' has never been more appropriate and true.

[End of Interview]

Does your organization need help evaluating its options for an automation solution to optimize a particular process? We invite you to participate in our complimentary Strategic Outsourcing Assessment. Our subject matter experts will review your request and provide options based on your unique requirements.

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