Automation should be viewed as a longer term transformation technology

Automation no longer solves the front end, customer experience facing issues but also the backend issues, states Santha Subramoni Global Head, Intelligent Process Automation, TCS

Automation is equated with enhancing productivity and saving manual effort. Just like how ERP became a platform, automation and associated capabilities are becoming platforms. Major technology vendors have introduced offerings in automation. TCS has also invested heavily in the automation suite of technologies and has partnered with Automation Anywhere.

The automation and AI technologies are becoming mainstream to an extent that separate budgets are getting allocated for them. “Automation is in the top three as far as allocating technology budget is concerned,” says s Santha Subramoni, Global Head, Intelligent Process Automation, TCS. The customers in the Automation and AI LoB (including RPA) that TCS caters to spans across functions – CIO, CMO, CFO, CSRO, CHRO, COO, etc. It is targeted to achieve the set KPIs for the respective functions. For example, the CSRO has to identify and detect real time and long term risks. The real time risks comes under the RPA paradigm and AI and ML understands and deciphers the long term risks.

For a customer service function, it could be reduction of compliance, marketing spends; improving product recall, offers pushed, etc. Every customer journey has its own KPI.

For a COO, the KPI is reducing TAT in processing invoices, purchase orders – by avoiding mistakes, delays, accurate reconciliation, etc.

The role of TCS is to help enterprises achieve the outcomes. “Depending on the stakeholders, we promise outcomes to the KPIs set, which could come from transformation in operations, technology spectrum, process reengineering or augmenting capability,” says Subramoni.

In this process, Automation Anywhere is a core technology partner, be it AI/ML, rule engine, BPM, OCR, or any other technology lever required. “The bouquet of technology capabilities is implemented as a platform, which will continue to operate for the coming years,” says Subramoni.

RPA use cases and ROI
For TCS, as a trend – the processes which are seeing the maximum uptake for RPA enablement include – In BFSI – Customer onboarding, KYC, loan processing, document processing for various aspects of claims. In manufacturing – supply chain management, HR, and customer service. In pharma – compliance, FDA processes, clinical trials related data submission, pharmacovigilance, etc. Wherever the processes involve a lot of human thinking and decision making, RPA is being adopted.

When asked about how much cost reduction, the customers have been able to achieve using RPA, Subramoni, says, while cost has been reduced, it has also resulted in better customer experience. “Only fifty percent of customers are looking for cost based outcomes,” It’s not only about cost saving, it’s also about long term value add via customer retention and adding revenue.

RPA: What do CIOs and CFOs want
The crux of the questions from the CIOs is how long term relevance the technology holds –  “Is it a temporary technology, a cello tape, am i just postponing the problem or is it just going to solve the problems for the next 3-5 year horizon, how much technology debt is being incurred and will it require a reinvestment after a few years, asks CIOs,” says Subramoni. Another side of the questions are around how can RPA save money in the area of technology operations.

The CFOs are more interested about how RPA can contribute in getting accurate data, and availability of the same in real time. Whether it saves actual TCO cost and helping in avoiding future risk, for example, does RPA help in avoiding maverick spend in procure to pay process. Thus the CFO questions are around risk, cost reduction (TCO) and revenue generation.

The most common reason that CXOs are looking forward, to adopt RPA is to solve the longest pending inefficiency or a long pending pebble in the shoe. “There are problems, which have been overlooked for a long time because of the capability absence in the current technology. The CXOs want these to be addressed and they find the answer in RPA,” says Subramoni. For example the clinical data submission in a pharma company. The data has to be submitted to the approving authority in a particular format. This has been a tedious process for many years however to simplify it, companies would have to invest heavily in technology. With RPA, it can be done at a reasonable cost, however cost saving is just one part of solving the problem. It is more about providing visibility and efficiency.

In BFSI, a combination of RPA and OCR can solve the long TAT of processing claims, the proposals for which comes in various formats. In banking, currently, the KYC applications involve emails, images, papers, etc, which RPA can streamline by converting the data from them into the required formats and compiling them for the necessary processing.

RPA: Essentials for success
The rationale for implementing RPA is the key to success. The why part is very essential. Is it to solve a near term or long term problem ? Will it give a new capability ? the extent of the investment should be decided upon accordingly. “A lot of CIOs make the mistake of viewing RPA as means to solve near term problem solving technology. It is not. The view is changing. It’s been viewed as a longer term transformation technology. It no longer solves the front end, customer experience facing issues but also the backend issues,” states Subramoni.

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