How a company is robotised from 0 to 100
From zero or a minimal degree of automation to deploying RPA robots to perform hundreds of processes. The step by step of that transformation begins with people and their profound change of mindset.
We say from 0 to 100 as a metaphor for transformation, from nothing to a lot. But we could also talk about 0 to 120 in the case of Prosegur, an international benchmark in RPA (Robotic Process Automation). Zero was the starting point when in July 2017 the company's management commissioned Fernando Cisneros to create a high-performance centre to automate processes; the number of professionals that make up this now consolidated group adds up to 120.
"Because this is about people who are able to understand the benefit of change and spread that conviction to the others. If people want to, it works; if not, they stop it. There is no digital transformation without cultural transformation, so before you know what you are going to robotise you have to know who you are going to robotise with," explains Cisneros, corporate director of Digitalisation, Automation and Robotics.
Transformation from above
A cultural change on this scale begins at the top, which must be configured as a strategic objective that permeates from top to bottom. At Prosegur, this objective meant squaring the circle: developing an automation model as a key lever for the company's digitalisation, but without having to perform extensive and expensive re-engineering of computer systems. Fast, intense and with an optimal investment/result ratio.
They chose the near-newborn RPA because it's exactly that. Its software robots work in a computer's user interface, like a person, with the systems and applications that already exist in the company. "A highly scalable, sustainable, efficient and elastic model," says Cisneros. This is the only way the team was able to go from 0 to 300 automated processes in employee management, finance and business support to improve quality and customer service. "A lot of companies have already started to walk the RPA path, but few like Prosegur have really mature initiatives," explains the Technology & Advanced Solutions department of the specialised consultancy Everis.
Communication, organisation, tools
Cultural change has a part of emotional intelligence—empathy, proactivity, humility, total willingness to work as a team—to convince the workforce. And another of practicality: demonstrating, with results, the advantages of the project for competitiveness and, therefore, a company's growth. In this respect, it was essential to work with Human Resources to design a training and communication policy capable of conveying the benefits of RPA and the changes it entails in job profiles. "Employees are freed from tedious tasks that can be automated, become the bosses of robots and focus on generating more value," explains Cisneros. Such communication should be cross-cutting, from application and maintenance specialists to end-users.
The entire project was part of a master plan and a specific governance model. And it was consolidated with unprecedented tools, as in 2017, RPA was still in its embryonic stage. For example, a clear Quality Assurance circuit, a system for monitoring the results of each robot (with metrics for hours of work saved), or an evaluation tool in hundreds of processes to identify which specific tasks to automate.
Operation in practice
The evidence on the table showed how and how much RPA could improve quality and efficiency. They were also vital in producing the robots on a large scale and involving the various national teams. In Brazil, for example, the assessment tool inventoried around 400 automatable processes with projected results.
And Human Resources in Argentina was surprised because for the first time a deep digitalisation project did not require a huge budget from the outset, it proposed a realistic development timeframe of not years but just 10 weeks, and it also gave them the option of choosing the processes where the transformation was to begin.
Keys to RPA implementation
- • Planning. The first steps in the RPA automation journey are essential for the initiative to be transmitted in a capillary way and deliver maximum business value.
- • Communication. RPA is a technology that coexists with areas of manual operation, so it is key to train people to understand its benefits and the optimal management mechanisms.
- • Alliances. Choose advisors, partners or software suppliers aligned with the company's long-term automation strategy.
- • Governance. Lay the foundation for the governance model and organisational structure, and have management at the highest level sponsor it to scale across the company.
- • Accuracy. It is critical to select the right processes to automate, not all are suitable for maturity, complexity or organisational heterogeneity. Demand management and automation platforms.
- • Operation. The methodology must not only identify and prioritise the processes, but also define objectives and expected benefits, roadmaps of each implementation, perform robust tests of functionality and monitor the quality of the results.