INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MR SUDEEP AGRAWAL,
AVP and Head IT,
Several organizations take a POC route prior to making RPA decisions. What is your view about taking this route? Is this a good practice?
Currently, almost all the RPA OEMs offer SaaS solutions which allow us to start small with minimal investments. My perspective on PoC is not very positive. There are two broad reasons for that:
- It is very difficult to have a PoC close to production scenarios. It runs on the assumptions which can often be quite different from the actual production environment. There is a high possibility that one does not get a balanced view even on successful PoC. It fails in the production environment because of the same reasons – not considering all the real-time scenarios of the business environment.
- The other one is the lack of seriousness of the core team in a PoC. Since, in general, there is no major investment and governance framework in place for a PoC, it will never be considered a priority initiative.
What are some of the good practices for designing and deploying an RPA? What are some of the key business benefits of an RPA?
While there are many best practices to be adopted for successful RPA deployment, but it is important to contextualize w.r.t the business you are in. Following are the best practices one can adopt while implementing RPA in the organization:
- Start small, give a glimpse of benefit to the organization and scale up fast
- Create a roadmap – strategic as well as executable
- Touch all the business functions even when you are starting small
- Understand short term and long-term business requirement – select tools wisely
- Involve business-critical team members in the selection process
Like any other initiative which involves investment, it is important to have a documented ROI, well validated by the business which can be tracked for RPA processes. There is no single thumb rule for business benefit, and it differs based on the industry sector. Following are the most common benefits I anticipate from the RPA implementation:
- Significant reduction in risk associated with the time-bound processes
- Increased efficiency because of the capability to run processes 24 X 7
- Automatic insight on the process efficiency
- Process optimization by reducing redundancy
- With SaaS offerings along with the advance RPA solution, no separate IT infrastructure requirement
- Uniform customer experience for front-end processes
What are the critical success factors to maximize returns from RPA?
In all my experience in IT implementation projects, I find the following 3 key success factors to ensure maximum returns out of any project including RPA
- Identifying the right people: This should be done the moment you plan for an RPA implementation, to identify the fit cases & prepare a number-driven business case. I have noticed people don’t participate wholeheartedly in a project unless they are convinced of the need & it is part of their KRA. For a business-driven RPA, I would suggest them to include IT early enough since they understand technology better than anyone else in the organization. Many times I have noticed, in the journey, processes being simplified to a greater extent hence reducing the RPA complexity.
- Identify the right solution: The RPA market is flooded with diverse platforms & technology solutions so to pick the one best fit for your organization is the challenging task. For us, the critical filter criteria were the option to start small, ease of deployment, user experience, market feedback, partner ecosystem, OEM future roadmap & last but not the least TCO over the next 5 years.
- Identify the right partner: A bad partner can make an excellent solution look ordinary & the vice-versa. We do a lot of due diligence on the partner by meeting their senior management for gauging their commitment level, the technology team for their capability & review market feedback for customer experience.
What does the future of RPA hold with respect to technologies like AI, ML, NLP, Process Analytics, etc? How will these technologies align to meet the needs of business users?
As we are in the journey of moving from RPA to intelligent RPA to Digital Workforce, one of the major contributors in this evolution is the introduction of AI and ML capability. This has taken RPA to the next level not just by automating the manual processes but also by bringing human intelligence to manage unmanaged scenarios. Every 4-5 years, technology becomes obsolete with changes in internal & external dynamics, thus changing the business processes as well. Hence it is important to be agile and introduce intelligence in process automation.
The field of AI which can be relevant to RPA is Machine Learning, predictive analytics and cognitive computing. For example, it can be perfectly used in identifying any hot spots in the electric transmission line by using thermal scanning images. Using the AI capability, it can identify the hot spots and convert them into the human-compatible information using BI capability and share alerts for appropriate action. AI in RPA can be broadly utilized for the unstructured data for Aggregation -> Processing -> Presentation -> Action which can eventually lead to business benefit.
One of the most common use-cases of NLP for any industry is OCR in the Accounts Payable process. One of the major challenges in India is the variety of invoice formats and hand -written invoices. RPA in conjunction with NLP can play a major role in increasing the invoice processing efficiency by automating the entire payment cycle.
Could you share some key automation initiatives being adopted at ReNew? How have these helped drive business performance?
We are a relatively new organization and in the last few years more focus was on business growth and look out for new avenues. But considering the current business size, there is a need to bring certain automation in the processes and use current manpower for more productive work. RPA is one of the key contenders for transition of manual processes to an automatic system-based solution. We are confident it will help us in managing our operational cost & risk along with improved processes, and enhanced customer experience.