For energy suppliers in particular, the end-to-end lifecycle of a customer is underpinned by a large number of high volume, transactional and repetitive processes. Across the UK, thousands of meter reads are obtained every day, bills are sent, and the associated data is reconciled across a number of disparate systems. Automation offers an opportunity for energy suppliers to deliver step change in efficiency and the associated customer experience quickly, cheaply and to a high standard.
When combined with a vigilant approach to process optimisation, automation techniques can be dramatic multipliers for organisational effectiveness. However, there are pitfalls in implementing specific automation approaches in isolation, including an over-reliance on a particular technology, a potential for disconnect between business owners and technology owners, and a focus on pure cost reduction rather than harnessing overall value potential. In our experience, some of the key principles to help avoid ‘robotics regrets’ include:
- Don’t automate waste: No matter how cutting edge your robotics solution, in practice one of the key drivers of automation benefits realisation, is the work invested upfront to first identify good candidate processes, and then plan how those processes may be improved prior to or in parallel with the automation transition
- Look for broad business benefits, not just near term cost cutting: some of the most compelling automation business cases are those which focus on a mix of benefit drivers rather than purely cost reduction related to the specific transactions. For example, consider the end-to-end savings, customer experience and potential revenue growth benefits which can be driven through improved speed of service and increased straight through processing. Once these opportunities are identified, deploy RPA in a targeted manner to close gaps in existing customer journeys
- Don’t forget robots need training (and re-training) too! As with any ways of working change, it is crucial to ensure that the teams responsible for implementing and sustaining automation are armed with the skills to identify where robot performance may be declining, or could be improved as market and organisational conditions change over time. As well as training and coaching for robot developers and managers, don’t forget to bring business owners and experts on the journey, to ensure continued alignment and an ongoing focus on getting the most out of the ‘non-human workforce’
- Keep an eye on the future. In our experience, few vendors offer a one-stop-shop platform for all automation use cases, and this is likely to continue to be the case as technologies evolve and become more advanced. Often to maximise the potential of RPA other complementary technologies are required, for example Information Acquisition technologies (e.g. Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision or Optical Character Recognition (OCR)), Workflow Tools, Chatbots, Cognitive Assistants, and Machine Learning. Determining how best to combine these technologies as part of holistic automation approach within your business will deliver dramatically greater benefits than applying one alone
- Use robotics to test and learn, especially where the cost of change and/or risk of regret spend is high.
When applied in practice, these principles can help you on the path to full robotics readiness, unlocking the inherent value of your robotics workforce, empowering greater creativity and operational leverage for your people, improving customer experience and satisfaction, and enabling substantial cost reduction.