Welcome to ‘Fulfilling the promise of intelligent process automation’. Part 1: Beyond a virtual workforce
By Peter Clarke, Solutions Director, Virtual Operations
Every day I see Intelligent Process Automation (IPA – the combination of RPA and AI and other automation technologies) provide a wealth of opportunities that have yet to be fully exploited. It’s the reality that amongst those using IPA and those writing about IPA that the automation technology is being used predominantly to address tactical objectives and usually within the bounds of existing process taxonomies. Certainly there are cost and service benefits that can be gained from tactical deployments and it’s a good starting point to gain familiarity of the tool(s). But what frustrates me is how much more IPA could be used for.
Here, in the first of a three-part series called ‘Fulfilling the promise of IPA’, I look at how consolidating the automated processes into a different service delivery model could transform global operations and generate potentially huge benefits.
Access any search engine and look for “virtual workforce” and two types of responses pop up. One is about collaboration tools for projects and teams that are widely distributed; and the other is about different options for service delivery such as captive offshore centres, outsourcing partners, shared service centres, remote workers, and increasingly, the addition of robots to the workforce.
Beyond the virtual worker
IPA provides more than a different type of worker: with IPA comes an opportunity to think beyond virtual workforce and think of, yes, virtual operations (and I don’t’ just say that because our company is called it, I meant it in the ‘no-caps’ sense). Whatever technology or protocols are put in place to manage a virtual workforce, it’s still not an efficient way to work – it is hampered by, amongst other things, different time zones, diverse contractual requirements, nuances of communication in first and second languages, cultural variances and a lack of feeling connected, and not least, quite a management overhead to connect all the moving parts.
Consolidating processes in an automation hub facilitates truly virtual operations
Virtual operations can be designed to manage a company’s automated processes from a single control centre. An automation control centre can be located in the most appropriate time zone from where automated processes are scheduled, initiated, executed, monitored and reported. For follow-the sun operations this can lead to a reduction in people doing the same jobs in different time zones and reduce the real estate footprint required to house the people. Similarly, there would be no need to sustain large outsourced or captive shared service centres if operations can be conducted from one central point.
For example, for a global firm with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or other forms of digitised invoices, why send these to an offshore captive or an outsourcing partner for Accounts Payable when the invoices can be matched and authorised automatically, and monitored from an automation control centre? Only the exceptions would need to be handled manually, and because of the likely low volume of exceptions (they are “exceptions” after all), would these still need to be handled offshore?
An additional feature of such a control centre is that much of the control of the automated processes can itself be automated, only triggering human intervention for specifically defined exceptions. Our own example of this is with our recently launched 24×7 RPA Support Service where a number of the routine administration tasks have been automated.
It’s only when we start to combine the IPA initiatives in one place that we will see the opportunities for new processes and transformation enabled by IPA. I’ll explore these in my next two blogs.
In the meantime, please share below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up NEXT! Look out for:
- Part 1: Beyond a virtual workforce (above)
- Part 2: Creating new processes – COMING SOON
- Part 3: IPA enabled transformation – COMING SOON