What kind of RPA symphony is your shared service center running?


Wait, what is RPA symphony and why does my shared service center need it? This blog is about exactly that – the use of robotic process automation (RPA) by shared services centers, where we found two different but equally effective approaches that share a few common traits. I learned these stories on the RPA panel at the NASSCOM BPS Summit in Bangalore a couple of months ago and followed up with the speakers to learn a little more. Capturing the essence of the two practitioner experiences from global in-house centers, we have the following approaches to getting started with RPA:

The iterative jazz version

Umesh NV, Sr. Director, India Shared Services at EMC Data Storage Systems in India got started early with RPA by “seeking forgiveness rather than permission” after hearing about the potential of RPA at the previous BPM Summit. Exhibiting an impressive sense of resourcefulness, agility, and spirit of experimentation, Umesh’s team dove straight in and rapidly built their own bot based on open source technologies. They picked a small use case as the first test ground – automated notifications to renew annual maintenance contracts as and when they came up. It took EMC three months to go live, and the team used video to capture and document the journey through every step. This video helped secure stakeholder buy-in after the initial implementation, which generated $2M in revenues as a result of the automation. 

Within a short time, EMC is now working with an automation vendor to begin larger projects. Umesh picked up ambitious talent from the operations floor to train themselves to build what he calls a “rapid RPA COE”. They have 50 processes outlined already that are in various stages of initialization to institutionalization. 

The well-planned orchestra version

Aithal Sachidananda, head of Honeywell’s finance shared service center in India shared his story, that differed from EMC. His team had been looking at RPA for the last six months. The first three months were spent poring over the available research and examples in the market that could help lead the way. In particular, Aithal called out the works of HfS Research and our Intelligent Automation He then threached out to practitioners for guidance, particularly relying on the progress that Umesh and team from EMC had made.

When it comes to starting down the path of incorporating RPA into your business, there are merits in both approaches or even a hybrid version of the two. The point, both panelists agreed, is that the time to start is now, with the help of pilots and ‘roadshows’ and build on the organizational culture to define what type of ‘COE’ or competency will emerge.

Umesh’s team is retaining its “hands-on” experimental approach, including its automation vendor as a partner in the effort. They are now testing cognitive automation technologies in the areas of fraud, and know there’s a long way to go to develop scalable solutions in this emerging area, but it is their long term strategy. Honeywell has instead crafted a roadmap towards developing their own COE, and are working with their largest BPO service providers – who Aithal says are currently ahead of the game – to implement automation tools across other functional areas like HR and procurement.

We are keeping an eye on automation initiatives like these that are cropping up in offshore shared service centers across industries. A COE approach – whether it’s built in a Jazz or Orchestra way – will help in-house centers position themselves as brokers of capability within the larger organization, managing business-driven outcomes. Getting adept at different types of automation technologies in these formative days will go a long way towards internal stakeholders perceiving their in-house centers not as a pool of cost-effective resources but rather, as providers of value that deliver business outcomes.

Posted in : Robotic Process Automation


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