The rise of robotics in the workplace

One rapidly growing area of technology and digital transformation is robotics in the workplace, especially their use in call centres and back office support functions.

With organisations under tremendous pressure to meet the increasingly high levels of service expectation from digital customers, robotics can play a quick shift towards helping simplify and automate repeated processes allowing call centre agents to focus on customer interactions and less manual steps across different IT systems.

Most call centres rely on agents needing to operate multiple systems, toggle between various screens and applications and manually copy data between screens and completing mundane repetitive tasks. A hodgepodge of disconnected desktop and backend applications hardly serves to deliver an excellent customer and agent experience, can be prone to introducing errors and is hugely frustrating.

Robotics can help people work faster and more efficiently through the simplification and automation of business transactions and processes. Much like an ‘intelligent remote control’ that can switch on your tv, digital receiver and sound bar at the press of a single button ‘Watch TV’, so too can robotics provide that functional overlay across agent systems to automate key tasks and workflows. This type of desktop automation can accelerate productivity by optimising the way that work is performed, this leaves agents to focus on what matters most: high quality service experience our customers expect and demand.

Process Automation, where manual human intervention is not required is another arena for robotics to play. Just like desktop automation, ‘robots’ can be used to interact with disparate systems to accelerate process execution, but also, and more interestingly, act as a rapid (sometimes tactical) means of integrating systems. Linking applications, portals, websites, databases together to create new ‘composite functions’ can quickly drive operational efficiencies but there are challenges …

Where systems are rapidly changing, the robots need to change with them so that functionality is maintained or improved and as such, careful consideration to how business and technical teams align is needed. Ways of working are needed that promote agility to speed of change to solve for a dynamic and fluid desktop or application landscape, but for those companies that have embraced this, the benefits are significant.

My first encounter looking at the business case for Robotics meant sending a team member to a call centre and doing a ‘time and motion’ study to carefully record typical agent activities, which systems were accessed and in what order, and how long key activities took. From analysis of this a business case was formed and presented. More recently, robotic vendors have added advanced analytics capabilities to enable rapid ‘discovery phases’ where robotic agents watch and observe agent and system interactions over a time period and the resulting reporting output used to show valuable insights were value and efficiencies can be gained and help in the production of business case to secure investment in the technology. Reduction in process execution through robotics of between 80-99% is not surprising!

The benefits? Gartner predicted that by 2018, organisations would be able to achieve 30% cost reduction for business operations through the use of smart machines and industrialised services. With robotic vendors looking to further integrate these capabilities with predictive and adaptive decisioning models and core business process management (BPM), the rise of workplace robot is set to be significant and one that most businesses can ill-afford to ignore.

At QA Consulting we provide thought leadership and delivery support for Robotic discovery phases and implementation, and help with agile working practices and methodology to bring robotics into organisations. For more information get in touch.

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