Just Do It! And Other Takeaways From Blue Prism Pulse

Posted by Brendan Canny on 20 February 2018 in: industry news, robotic process automation, Robots-as-a-Service, RaaS, Automation, Artificial Intelligence

One thing was clear from the inaugural Blue Prism Pulse event in New York: the digital workforce is here, and, if you haven’t already, you need to dive in and get started with automation.

The community-driven event included case studies in automation from Curt Burghardt, the VP of HR Shared Services &; HR Systems for Walgreens, plus Jon Theuerkauf, BNY Mellon’s former Managing Director and Head of Performance Excellence. It was invaluable to be able to dig into real world examples of the huge cost savings being realized by both companies through the use of automation and AI. Walgreens is seeing increased efficiencies north of 70% and BNY are already saving millions of dollars per year.

Walgreens and the cost of BPO

Walgreens is seeing increased efficiencies north of 70%

Walgreens had initially looked to offshore BPO firms to get the efficiencies that it was after, but Curt and his team quickly found out that the dollar does not go as far as it used to. Many BPO companies are raising their costs in order to retain talent as competition for resources hots up. In their calculations, the Walgreens team saw the efficiencies gained through using RPA coming in at a 70% to 80% reduction in cost, compared to a 15% to 25% saving for offshore BPO.

(It’s pretty obvious which one they went with!)

Another “a-ha” moment for Walgreen’s Curt is that you don’t always have to fully automate a process end-to-end. The savings and efficiencies are up for grabs even within sub-processes. This is a useful insight for the many companies that find themselves in a state of analysis paralysis as they try to define and build out a perfect solution. Sometimes you just need to make a start and figure things out as you go along. Automation does not need you to define a perfect end state, and the savings are there to be had very quickly. As Curt put it: “If we're doing something long and stupid today a robot can do it too, just much faster”.

“Stractical” thinking from BNY Mellon

It’s definitely worth paying attention to anything BNY Mellon has to say about automation, as the financial services company has a 300-strong robotic workforce supported by COEs in both the USA and India. In his talk, Jon shared lessons learnt from their roll out. A headline was that you should spend enough time on digitizing and structuring the data that forms part of your targeted automation, as this will pay dividends in terms of speed and agility as you progress from simple systems through to RPA and AI/ML.

You don’t always have to fully automate a process end-to-end

Jon also suggested a solution to analysis paralysis. The way to navigate yourself out of getting bogged down in the sheer number of candidate processes and software platforms as you plan on a strategic level is, Jon says, to be “stractical”. Stractical thinking involves the group understanding the high-level strategy and associated long term goals, yet being able to take practical and tactical steps towards that goal. It is also essential to acknowledge that certain choices made today may be binned in the future.

But as we know, in today’s world, you need to fail fast and learn fast.

Automation and jobs

RPA is the foundation for any company’s automation strategy

During a panel conversation, Forrester Research’s Vice President and Principal Analyst, Craig Le Clair, tackled the age-old debate around how automation will affect the workforce. While most vendors and practitioners of automation typically skirt around the issue, Craig tackled it head on with the view that automation is going affect the working class, whose jobs will be the first to be lost to automation.

Blue Prism is one of the platforms utilized as part of our automation engine, and, both Shail Khiyara, Blue Prism’s Chief Marketing & Experience Officer, and Bart Peluso, Blue Prism’s Global Head of Product Marketing, reinforced that RPA is the foundation for any company’s automation strategy. They are positioning Blue Prism as the “Operating System” for automation. A good example of this is the company’s move towards integrating and partnering with best of breed AI and ML provides such as Microsoft, Google and IBM’s Watson. AI and ML are both technologies that will really help with Jon’s suggestion of focusing on structuring data before automating a process.

Sometimes you just need to make a start and figure things out as you go along

Alphabet soup?

You will note that I haven’t included any friendly names for the myriad of new TLAs that have sprung up in this space: RPA, AI, ML and so on. I was being deliberately unhelpful as I have a plan to unpack them for you soon. I have picked up in my various demonstrations of our Real Estate Automation Engine, as well as at the Pulse event, that similar questions pop up as audiences try to wrap their heads around what these terms are and how the concepts can work together.

So, instead of providing simple definitions in this blog, I have starting compiling the FAQs below, which I will tackle every week on the Open Box blog. Please feel free to connect if you have other questions, or if you’d like to see me cover these in a different order.

And to kick things off, have a look at my colleague, Matt Burnham’s article: "PropTech Cheat Sheet: All the AI Terms You Need to Know” to get a head start with some of the TLAs.

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