Humanize Bots to maximize the benefits

Video Blog (vlog) – Humanize Bots to maximize the benefits

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has caught the attention of CXOs who are grappling with the  business impact induced by the COVID pandemic.   It is no longer a luxury but a business imperative to bring in automation in order to save time & costs, gain efficiency and provide more work-life balance to employees by allowing them to focus on higher value tasks while the bots take care of the mundane, repetitive tasks.

This frenzy has led many organizations to take the plunge into automation with most of them being at some stage of either piloting RPA or having deployed a few bots in production. It all seems very lucrative and thus very high expectations are set from the onset about the success the bots will bring for the company. But then, reality strikes, and most companies see that the outcomes aren’t really what they had expected. There are issues in scaling the bots beyond the initial few, issues with maintenance and frequent modifications required for handling different scenarios and paths for the same process, and updates required when the IT systems undergo a change. This results in a long and steep learning path for the companies that brings with it the frustration and a misdirected agony towards the usefulness of RPA.

But is it really the bots that are to be blamed for the problems being faced by such companies? Why is it that RPA is working like a charm for some companies while others are struggling to crack the code? 

It has to do with the way the successful companies look at (read as: treat) bots.

By humanizing bots and incorporating the following practices, companies can  derive maximum value from the investments made in RPA.

Treat them as  digital employees and name them

The premise of ‘Virtual Workforce’ is based on treating bots as digital employees. It is only natural to think so about bots. After all, the bots work 24×7, doing tasks that are   repetitive and mundane for humans. But treating them as employees and naming them gives them more mind space and top of the mind recall during change management. When employees name their digital assistants, they think of bots more like junior team members who report to them and help them with their daily tasks.

Give time and team to maintain the bots and look after them 

Just like humans, bots can also fall sick and have breakdowns. What’s important to note is that just like humans, there is a reason behind their falling sick. In most cases, the reason tends to be associated with change management aspects. When there is a process change in the traditional world (where people are managing the processes), documentation upgrades and training are part of the change management plan. This helps the operations teams to manage the changed processes effectively. But this is often not the case with automated processes. By thinking of bots like people, the team thinks about them during change management and caters to their needs just like the needs of people being impacted by the change. This makes sure that they are looked after, and the team keeps getting the benefits they originally got by keeping the bots working.

Build resilience into the bots

Processes can break for several reasons, whether being done by humans or bots. It could be due to bad data, unavailable source/target application, network connectivity, or any number of other reasons. Just like humans take alternate routes or steps to resolve the issue and move forward, so should the bots be able to. But bots won’t do this until they are trained  on it. Many a times, bot designers and developers consider only the ‘happy path’ while building the bots. When creating or training the bots, the ‘unhappy paths’ or ‘exception scenarios’ should also be considered, and the bot should be trained on what to do if such a scenario occurs. This not only keeps the bots running more efficiently, but also reduces maintenance and support efforts when they hit the ‘unhappy path’ because there are proactive actions built into the bots to handle such situations.

Manage the performance of bots like it’s done for people

People performance management is one of the most important aspect that is taken up in every organization. We pay a lot of attention and effort to make sure our people have the right toolset and mindset to perform at their best possible levels. Seldom does it ever happen for the bots deployed in the organization. By making sure that there are people assigned to monitor and manage the performance of the bots, we can make sure that the bots are performing at their best possible levels. With the new age automation platform, this is quite easy as they come with built-in performance dashboards and bots that monitor the performance of process bots and run diagnostics to make sure the overall performance is at expected levels. In addition, staff in the different business units with live bots can also access real-time dashboards that display the performance of the bots deployed in their unit.

Measure the success by number of automated process

Another common practice in organizations implementing automation is to measure the success of the program by the number of bots deployed. We often come across news flash about how an organization successfully deployed 100 RPA bots in 6 months’ time. Ideally, this should not be the measure of success. The true measure of success should be the number of processes automated by the bots. Don’t think about how many bots are deployed. Think instead, about how many processes can be run with a bot. When humanizing it, think of how many tasks or jobs a person can do in a day, then expand that across the bots running 24×7 and think of how many tasks can the bot do.

Conclusion

Initially it might seem a bit far fetched to think of a bot as a human and to take into consideration of the bot when thinking of process optimization. The business units need to work in collaboration with IT to make sure the bots are set up in a way that maximizes return on their investment. 

While looking at optimizing a process, planning for it with the bot in mind is different from planning for it with a human in mind. When optimizing a process with a human in mind, we would look to reduce the number of steps. When optimizing a process with a bot in mind, the more important factor should be the efficiency the bot brings, even if it means having a greater number of steps. 

Remember, the bot doesn’t mind doing more steps in a process since it’s executing them at a much faster pace than human. If the overall efficiency of the process improves, then that is a  trade-off that we should be in favor of. 

In short, giving bots names gives them a profile that has top of the mind recall and makes sure they are considered during the change management process. Also, when designing the bots, building fail safe mechanism by considering exception scenarios goes a long way to keep them running. Performance management for bots, just like for humans makes sure the company is getting its targeted  ROI and like humans, focus on how many processes the bot can handle rather than how many bots the company has.

Making the above mentioned psychological / behavioral changes to our outlook towards RPA bots can go a long way in improving the efficiency the bots bring while making sure the company is getting back the  ROI on the RPA initiative.

At ITC Infotech, we take this psychological approach and have embedded it into the DNA of the company’s approach to RPA. That is the reason why we have embarked on a journey to provide every employee (~9500) with a personalized digital buddy  that will make their life easier. And we have been able to successfully deploy close to 20 digital personas for various functional roles to help people in their daily work. Talk to us if you’d like to know how ITC Infotech can help make digital workforce a reality for your company.


References:

  1. Everest Group – RPA Annual Report 2018 –  https://www2.everestgrp.com/Files/previews/Everest%20Group%20-%20Robotic%20Process%20Automation%20(RPA)%20Annual%20Report%202018%20-%20CA.pdf
  2. The Future Digital Work Force: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1807-17752019000100300
  3. Gartner’s 2019 Predictions for RPA Offerings – http://public.brighttalk.com/resource/core/216172/nov28_fkaramouzis_avilla_sstoudt-hansen_469614.pdf
  4. Optus brings bot needs into IT change planning – https://www.itnews.com.au/news/optus-brings-bot-needs-into-it-change-planning-552940?eid=1&edate=20200909&utm_source=20200909_AM&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=daily_newsletter

Author:

Tanmay Prakash
Senior Principal Consultant, 
Business Consulting Group, ITC Infotech


 

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