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February 23, 2016

Digitizing To Simplify and Innovate - How Robots Can Help

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:12 AM



Infosys Robotic Process Automation [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMa8Zw2B6s]

Competitive pressures have intensified to the point where the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped to just 18 years today from more than 60 years in 1958. If that rate of change continues, 75 percent of the companies in today's S&P 500 will be gone and replaced by new ones by 2030.

How to remain on that list for more than just 18 years? The key is to leverage technology to compete and stay one step ahead in this rapidly changing landscape. The most stunning example of this radical change is the shake-up expected in the automobile and transportation sector. I suspect the evolution will continue to favor services businesses over products. For example, consider the rise of Über and Lyft that use technology to change the way transportation services are delivered. Add to that the potential of self-driving cars by Tesla and Google, managed and controlled with software upgrades. The Dutch tested a self-driving bus couple of weeks ago. To stay relevant (or survive), the automobile industry is looking at unique investments. General Motors invested US$ 500 million in Lyft, and FordPass is a wonderful display of a century-old auto company's foray into mobility services.

The digital world is now governed largely by software interventions. Over the past few years, companies have taken many routes to digitize the front ends of their businesses to create seamless customer interactions. For instance, enterprises are building great mobile apps that make it easier for customers to order clothing or open a bank account. To ensure greater success with such efforts, companies may want to consider ways to digitize their back-office as well to ensure seamless experiences for customers across all touch points and engagements.

Legacy systems and processes, however, are inhibiting 'digital ready' transformations. Disconnected enterprise systems harboring only partial profiles of customers have long been the bane of efforts to transform customer journeys from end to end. For many shortsighted companies, enhancing their front-end digital experiences to keep up with industry trends and satisfy customers' demands will only complicate further their back-end technology pictures.

Robotics (or specifically Robotic Process Automation) is a game-changer that can enable both the front office and back office to leverage robots. Enterprises can accomplish their integration without worrying about the legacy inhibition to do typical high-touch, low complexity processes with drastic efficiency and accuracy. Later, when coupled with quantitative and qualitative data around the actual bottlenecks encountered during robotic processing to enable quick wins, entire processes, the user experience, and communications can be reimagined and redesigned.

Take a front office example that showcases how RPA will pan out: A front office change of adding live chat to assist customers can also provide self-service options using pre-defined special characters. A Telecom & Recharge program will help customers recharge prepaid accounts in a step-by-step manner. In a Banking & Balance program, companies can help the user get her account balance, while in an Insurance & Plan program, you can help find the right insurance plan.

Then there are back-office examples: Invoice processing in a retailer's back office involves the validation of invoices, purchase orders, and shipment records before approving the payment to vendors. Although most of the matching is done in an invoice processing system, there are many invoices that require a lot of procedural and manual matching because of complexities in the business and errors in invoices. This matching process can be massive. By translating these manual steps into a logical flow, controlled by robotic software, end-to-end process automation can be achieved.

Another example would be healthcare insurance claims. Adjudication systems can be (and usually are) highly automated up until the process hits a two-claim review criteria that require a manual review step. Were the treatments appropriate, and a logical outcome of the facts and conditions shown in the medical record? Does the claim information provide any reason to believe the services provided were not accurately reported? By combining simple business judgement rules into robotic software, this step - and thus the entire adjudication workflow - can be completely automated.

The more I think about it, the clearer it is that the times ahead call on us to achieve a simultaneous dual objective: 1.) Simplify the existing technology and processes, and 2.) use the bandwidth to innovate to achieve purposeful growth without compromise. There's tremendous opportunity in both and we are only starting out.

Comments

Good article with S&P anchor point Sanjay. I would put the survival period to be less than 10 years going forward. Earlier days the new products or services launch in a 60 year company career used to be once in 5 years or so, in current times every 6-12 months you have to introduce new offering. That is the pace at which services, companies will have to adopt. As we evolved from Industrialization (bringing world together), to Internetization (bringing information together)to robotization (reducing human intervention), true consumption of services would emerge. Very interesting times ahead.

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