EY has been looking at implementing intelligent automation (IA) within companies, with RPA as a backbone. Here, Simon Constance , Partner, People Advisory Services, EY, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: As the RPA market matures, more intelligent and powerful RPA solutions are making inroads. How has been the uptake from clients in this transformation journey? What is the starting point for Intelligent Automation (IA) within organizations?
Simon Constance: Intelligent Automation is important, because it is not just about RPA now. That was the first wave. The best clients are now looking at end-to-end process change, looking at the whole operating model from a digital lens, and delivering bigger benefits, be that cost savings or be that improving customer experience,and that takes a suite of software, to bring them together.
RPA is the backbone. Machine Learning helps process decision making within processes, chatbots create a human interface, OCR to manage paper, and all those things come together. If you look at where the best companies in the world are today, and including where EY is, we have a very big chunk of automation implementation, which is mainly with Blue Prism,andwe’re now looking at trying to break out of task level automation. So, we are picking something that has lots of people working on it, and automating it, and now, looking at whole processes, and whole business functions. That’s the direction where I think the leading practices are going.
While meeting our clients in India, on this visit, it’s not just the GIC center leading the way. We’ve seen local banks that are very sophisticated. I think that’s the talent, and the effect of the talent in the market, moving out from multinationals and joining big local organizations.
DQ: From a talent perspective, how is EY gearing up to serve its clients better in the area of IA? Also, what is the potential for the next generation workforce in this field?
Simon Constance: In terms of talent, we now have over 1,000 professionals qualified with Blue Prism globally. There must be a big concentration of those in a number of centers in India. We complement that with skills we have in machine learning and other technologies with the Microsoft practice.
But, the other skill-sets we think arereally important here, both in India and globally, is the ability to understand how you change your business operating model, and how that change fits in the context of the business function like finance or supply chain, , telecommunications, consumer products or the government, and how that operating model needs to evolve in line with the demands that customers places on those industries. We think that skill set is as important, if not, almost more important, than the technical skills to configure the software, deploy the software and test the software.
From a talent point of view, we’re not just investing in growing technical professionals. We’re very interested in developing and growing those sectors, along withstrategic and operating model skills,tobring them together.
DQ: Can you share some examples globally where clients have adopted IA, and which are the key sectors in India for IA?
Simon Constance: The experience in India is consistent with what we see globally. The leading organizations have now reached a certain phase where they’re getting stuck. What they have been able to do is deploy lots of automation projects, that arevery specific. But they’re isolated islands. Over time, they’ve gradually built up their own expertise and centers of expertise, centers of excellence, whatever you want to call them internally. And I think the thing that most of our clients are stuck on is where to go next.
We’ve heard that story while we’ve been in India, and we hear that story globally. That’s even in leading industries like banks, and I think you must look to this operating model change. Telecommunications is a good example. We’ve been working with big telecommunications clients to automate their front office, and we’ve been using a human in the loop application trust portal.
Blue Prism, and tools, like Python, together to drive processing, and we look at bringing those together for a platform thatallows call center agents to be able to respond much more quickly to completing transactions, while customers are waiting to gather information, and action things on their accounts. So, it’s all happening very quickly. It’s saving time andimproving the customer experience.
When you look at the whole operating model of how we handle and how we deal with what the customer wants, and look at a customer journey, can you unlock new opportunities like that. That is where the future lies.
Our journey is one where we are, one of your biggest customers, if not the biggest, you know, we will have well over 1,000 robots by the end of the year, deployed. But it’s fair to say, if you go back 18 months to two years, we were stuck with some good big enough pockets of excellence. But, by joining the technologies and looking at our operating model in a different way, we’re now unlocking totally new services. The way we provide tech services now, in many parts of the world, including in India, is highly automated.
We’re also able to provide completely new services to clients that we couldn’t before. So, we’re looking at financial services, and platforms, providing legal services as a managed service powered by Intelligent Automation. All that contract processing is now being done by IA. We have banking solutions, where know your client-KYC activity is all being handled by IA. We’re now able to sell that to clients as a packaged solution in that market. We’ve been evolving.
We have also been working in manufacturing. We have an initiative called Smart Factory, which is a product that we have with Microsoft. Itbrings together Intelligent Automation, and of course, mechanical automation, to create a straight through supply chain. We’ve got a solution there and several clients, particularly in the automotive sector.
DQ: Automation is transforming the back-office and the front office. Where do you see automation making a serious impact in the foreseeable future? Do you see other emerging technologies converging with automation to create a much bigger and significant impact in the way organizations do business? Are there any examples / trends you foresee in this area of technology convergence for business growth?
Simon Constance: From my own view is there is enough technology for us to be exploiting at the moment, Tools like Machine Learning, and platforms for humans to interact with software, platforms to allow humans to be prompted in their engagement with other humans, are still very seldomused. RPA is like us when you think about it. We are an organization of 250,000 people, and we are one of the world’s leading companies in automating ourselves.
Even the big clients, the best clients we have are in that situation and are just using basic technology like RPA, which still has a huge way to go. The growth opportunities for Blue Prism are massive. I think we have another three to five years of just exploiting existing technologies we have, before we even startthinking about anything else.
DQ: EY in India and Blue Prism recently announced their collaboration to offer RPA as a service using Microsoft Azure cloud to organizations in India. The two companies have jointly commissioned several large-scale on-premise RPA deliveries in core and support business functions across financial services, IT-ITeS, manufacturing and healthcare industries. Can you throw more light on the future here? Which are the focus sectors in India? Globally, can you share some success stories where the two companies have come together to make a greater impact?
Simon Constance: We have a global alliance, which is active in pretty much every part of the world. That means, Blue Prism is our only global strategic alliance for process automation. We do have several relationships, we work with,but this is our global strategic partner. In doing that, we’ve decided to invest together jointly in a number of solutions like banking solutions, solutions to support SAP, and solutions to provide access to intelligent automation-as-a-service. That’s whatwe’re very excited about. We’ve been offering this product now for at least 18 months to two years, and it gives our clients the ability to overcome the number of barriers they have to automation.
The first one is, after I’ve done a few pilots, building my entire infrastructure. I’ve got to recruit the talent to run the control rooms and manage this stuff. I’ve got to learn how to deal with all the fail fix processes. That takes one to two years to build that infrastructure. But if you want to fix a business problem, such as, I want to get cost out of KYC, I want to improve my customer response times.You can come to us and together, we unlock that service within a matter of weeks.
To build that operation, we have a number of global botcontrol rooms, and the main one is in India, that serves our global clients. We have a number of clients around the world, from big global consumer product companies, right up to public sector organizations. We’re investing heavily together to improve the roadmap for that platform. It’s becoming more and more intelligent every day, bringing in all those tools like ML.
We’re adapting it for sectors. If you’re in consumer products, or banking, there will be sector specific tools on that platform that you can plug into and use very quickly. We see that to be a huge growth opportunity for us together, along with Microsoft.
DQ: Everyone is talking about that automation is taking away the jobs of people? What will you say?
Simon Constance: First thing I would say is, many of our clients, and indeed in EY, we’re still growing. The global economic climate has been bumpy, but most economies are still growing. And as a result, the reality is, this is offering an opportunity, while you’re growing. So, it’s not leading to mass job reductions. However, it is inevitable that in some programs, people will find their current job exists no more. And that’s been part of human history for hundreds of years, from before the industrial revolution.
One thing that we very actively do on our projects is we don’t just implement the technology. We look about how to make the change happen. And in making the change happen, one of the first things we do is to look at what jobs will be affected. What skills do these people have? And then we look what jobs will exist after the project is completed. And then, we look at how can the people who are not going to have those jobs, move to the new jobs, and we build a transition plan. So, what skills you need to acquire, what training do you need to do to get to that new job, etc., are important.
We’ve just done a project for a client where they have removed the number of accountancy jobs. Now, we are lookingatfinding the best match for that skillset. Now, they needed to considerably bulk up the number of people that were able to work in data science within that customer facing business. And you look at the skills match, and you find accountants have quite a close skills match. Now, not every single person wanted to become a data scientist, that many people were very excited about the fact that company was going to invest in a training program for them and move them into a new job. So, I don’t think everything is rosy. I think, if this is managed with care, and the way we do, this has a positive impact.