Last month, on our edition of The Exchange, focused on third-party risk management, Linda Tuck Chapman, a globally recognized expert on third-party risk management and President at Toronto-based Ontala Performance Solutions, defined Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as the third stage of risk management in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s going to be a huge push on reducing the reliance on people to deliver services. It just seems inevitable to me,” Tuck Chapman said at that time.
A lot has happened since then, but clearly RPA is increasingly influential in strategic roadmap conversations. Some businesses seem to be relying on RPA as a way to obtain faster results and to focus their human talent on more advanced tasks.
Guy Kirkwood, Chief Evangelist at the RPA software development company UiPath, says that in the context of COVID-19, healthcare companies, banks, and BPOs are benefiting from RPA solutions, considering the effort, availability of human talent and efficiency in the use of time.
“It is much better time spent and effort for the frontline healthcare staff to be focused on the patients rather than having to fill in forms and do the administrative work they have to do. So that’s where RPA, in particular, has been a boom to organizations that are going through the sort of cutting edge of the virus,” Kirkwood told Nearshore Americas.
“BPOs really don’t have any choice because they’ve got to meet their SLAs, and they’re finding that very difficult at the moment. So, for those types of organizations, whether or not having their people on the customer side, RPAs are a great help for that,” he added.
Chatbots, form-filling, automated verification of data, are some examples of automated technologies that some companies are finding useful at this time. However, with RPA, there’s always the latent fear that the hype will surpass what the technology is actually capable of doing.
“There’s always a danger of that, of course, but essentially what we were finding in the market as a whole pre-COVID, but it’s just accelerating now during the pandemic, every business case was predicated on job cuts, on a cost out on headcount reduction. What organizations have found is when they’ve brought automation into their organization, into their company. They find that the employee engagement goes up,” Kirkwood said.
“So, the best quote is from the chief executive of one of our customers. He said since they put automation, the mood music of our organization has changed. We now have happier employees, and we now measure our service in terms of compliments, and this is the insurance business, rather than complaints. So, this has nothing to do with technology. It’s all about culture change. And this is what RPA is allowing,” he added.
The Nearshore Take on RPA
Companies that operate from the Nearshore are also developing RPA solutions that take into account the disruptions brought on by the pandemic. One example is Auxis. Among other products, the firm has developed an RPA solution for Amerant, an American bank that needed a fast solution to distribute government funds to recipients, due to the pandemic.
“All banks in the US are receiving a huge amount of applications for this type of loan, and it is a totally different process, regarding the way the clients need to be evaluated to verify if they qualify. Obviously, the banks that will gain those clients are the ones that can process the loans as fast as possible because the funds are limited,” Fabiana Corredor, Senior Marketing Manager at Auxis, told us.
Auxis identified the steps in this process that could be automated: extracting borrower information, performing detailed load verification and underwriting checks, preparing data for submission into the SBA portal, and loan booking, after the loan has been approved.
“In two days, the Auxis team was able to design, build and stand up a robot, using UiPath technology to automate the manual extraction of these key inputs required to finalize the loan booking. This reduces the cycle time of the manual extraction from five minutes to 30 seconds per form,” Corredor said.
Kirkwood says that RPA has seen an increase that UiPath didn’t expect, and considering the current pandemic trend, they don’t expect it to be reduced after the world context goes “back to normal.”
“We expected organizations to put a hold of all spending, but actually we found that RPA has held up very well. We have achieved pretty much around the world exactly what we set out to achieve in the first quarter, in terms of revenues and billings that we had in the plan before COVID, which is just staggering considering you have many organizations are dropping up to 40%,” Kirkwood said.
As Tuck Chapman said, RPA and other forms of automation seem to be a stage in risk management for many companies. How that will continue to play out after the pandemic remains to be seen, as uncertainty regarding the full impact of the crisis in businesses continues to be the norm.