It is striking how discussions around automation have changed in the past few years. As Brian Burke, Research Vice President at Gartner, said: “We have seen an evolution from process automation towards automation at the business ecosystem level.”
In July, we had our first Automation Session, when we spoke about automation on an operational and tactical level, more specifically, we talked about RPA. RPA is what Huw Williams refers to as a point solution, a technology to fix a problem or implement a new service quickly.
Today this is no longer enough in the engagement with your customers. So we organised a second Automation Session on November 5th, titled “Hyperautomation — Investing in Resilience without compromising on digital experience”. I was worried that the conversation would get too technical. The opposite was true.
Automation, and especially hyperautomation matured incredibly in the past few years, and it is must on every innovator’s horizon.
For this session, we invited Amit Kumar, Senior Director Financial Services and Huw Williams, Global Practice Lead Contact Centres, both working at UiPath, our partner for the day.
A holistic definition of hyperautomation
Amit defines hyperautomation as “an answer to automate those complex customer and employee journeys, which require machine learning, document understanding, process mining, to find the true nature of the journeys itself.”
When organisations start brainstorming about automating the employee and customer journeys, hyperautomation comes in. Hyperautomation acts as a platform, as the glue between different technologies, departments and data sets that a bank has in its organisation. It enables this bank to think in terms of journeys instead of processes and to reimagine and transform them for more resilience and better customer experience.
Huw: “Today, that customer interacts with your brand before even attempting to contact you. He does this through into the contact centre, into the middle and back office and beyond. All the tooling required to eloquently service that customer, to orchestrate that customer, is way beyond RPA. What is interesting is that RPA is the enabler to delivering that. With hyperautomation, we aim to achieve all the tooling of RPA and other capabilities to drive that end-to-end automation of our customer journey.”
How strategically important hyperautomation is, gets more evident with Amit’s example of government support for SMEs at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Many governments gave grants to the banks who distributed it to small and medium business owners. The most successful banks were the ones that were able to automate those processes.
They ended up with a lot more loans on their balance sheet, an exponential customer acquisition, and next-level resilience to serve customers in unexpected circumstances. The power of AI and automation made all this possible in just a few weeks of development time.
Amit: “Hyperautomation is necessary for banks to add in the fabric of processes to ensure that there is both scale and elasticity. This is the only way to ensure when a lockdown happens in your region, things are working, and that at least you have a viable business model out there.”
Customer-centred and business-controlled
Traditionally, automation changed the back-office, a hidden technology to reduce costs. Gone are those days. Over the years, machine learning became a lot more user friendly, just like RPA did. Amit is convinced that also hyperautomation has the ease of use similar to RPA: “The hyperautomation platform allows a business analyst or functional analyst to be able to create, get the data, train the model using that data and deploy that model to the workflow. This is how business is interacting with hyperautomation.”
Today, robots must engage with the human, the end-user, in such a way that they are empowered with more data. To avoid more complexity for employees, the robot is in charge to provide the right data at the right time.
This brings us back to the example of video banking agents at ABN AMRO: “AI will make the right information available to the employee at the right time. A machine can make suggestions, but the final decision to apply the recommendations is up to the employee: the combination of human interaction with digital convenience.”
A bank can accelerate the role of an agent while assuring compliance and recognising in a very competitive landscape that customer experience is a differentiator for many customers.
Personalisation across all customer-facing channels and events is one of the most promising use cases today, and unexplored territory for many banks, despite all the data they have available. It will allow better matching between customer demand and a bank’s services and products offering, resulting in higher revenues and better-prepared product development.
Huw: “Allowing personalisation is the differentiator and will naturally instil brand advocacy in many customers. You get back to the days where you had that branch personal contact with an intimate understanding of that customer.”
More importantly: hyperautomation has the potential to pivot the role of the contact centre from a cost centre into a profit centre, with the resilience to act on fast volume changes in the number of requests.
A continuous process in your digital transformation roadmap
Bain Consulting published a survey right after COVID-19 hit us. They came up with the fact that 90% of financial services have accelerated their automation efforts. Amit expects this to continue in the coming months and years, at an even higher speed in the next 12–24 months.
Similar to digital transformation, implementing hyperautomation is a step-by-step process. You learn from every past step which part of the business to automate next and how to do this better. Like in digital transformation, the most challenging part is the start.
What is the first journey or process you act upon? Because UiPath got this question so often, they acquired PorcessGold, a process mining organisation. It allows business users to highlight and be aware of some of the journeys and pain points that eventually become opportunities for hyperautomation.
Huw: “I have many customers who start very simply and intuitively add those fields and functions to their contact centre agent, or middle office.” This phased approach allows achieving a fast payback of your project to fund the continuous improvements and iterations to come.
Over the years, the technology stack matured, allowing organisations today to grasp the opportunities of past learnings and successes.
Huw: “One of the areas that are most interesting to us from a strategic and product perspective is the simplicity of design and build, being able to use out-of-the-box connectors and reuse components that we have already created and to be able to adapt. Not only building an automation activity but also presenting the data to an agent, to the personas within your business, what the UI could look like. Speed, design and build is such a core component of the platform.”
Your employees as the critical success factors
It is absolutely right that bots cannot do what a contact centre agent can do. People still want to talk to a human. Huw and Amit agree entirely with this. The power of hyperautomation is to augment the value of the contact centre agent, through the interaction between human and machine, just like in the example of ABN AMRO.
Studies showed that in a call centre, on average, 30% of the call time is silence because the agent is looking for things, doing things. All this is unproductive and frustrating time spent. Amit: “The people in this industry want to help customers, they want to serve them more effectively, they don’t want to apologies for slow systems and not being able to answer their questions.”
UiPath invested heavily to allow simplicity and flexibility in the design and build of a robot, to ensure that the result suits the end-user, that the robot works how they work and that it pushes data in a convenient way.
One of the advantages of making the business owner of your automation is that business talks to business when defining requirements for User Interfaces (UI), data collection and interpretation. There is less of an ‘us against them mentality’, and it creates a lot more engagement from employees to adopt a new way of working.
By involving end-users from the beginning of the project to the end, they will advocate the acceleration of adoption. They become the ones that promote to their peers how successful hyperautomation is, how it is making their life more comfortable, how they can do more with less.
Amit made the parallel with the Japanese way of evangelising continuous improvements. Hyperautomation allows a fast and agile implementation. Gamification and democratisation of the creation and sharing of new ideas will enable employee engagement to reach new heights, with endless opportunities for the organisation.
What I found so interesting about this session were the many links to other sessions we had in the past months. The main reason for this is that automation has outgrown the misconception that it is a cost-cutting technology.
We spoke about customer experience, customer delights, personalisation, fast delivery of COVID-19 support to SME, resilience, and so much more. All of that has ties with what Gartner defined as hyperautomation.
My advice to banks is to act on this and for every bank to find out how automation can help them to augment the value they can bring to their customers while keeping loyal to their brand and corporate identity.
Author: Rik Coeckelbergs – Founder and Managing Director of The Banking Scene.