What does implementing RPA in the workplace actually look like? Cay Gliebe of OneSource Virtual can tell you.
The cloud-based HR and IT business process outsourcing company recently became a beta customer of Automation Anywhere's Digital Workers robotic process automation bots. The downloadable RPA bots aim to augment -- rather than automate -- human capacity across various business processes.
In this Q&A, Gliebe, OneSource Virtual's senior VP of marketing and communications, dives into her experience with implementing and managing a blended workforce of humans and bots.
Editor's note: The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
What's your approach to implementing RPA Digital Workers?
Cay Gliebe: It's threefold. First, we've already put the Digital Workers in our treasury function. We're looking at human resources and our own finance organization.
Second, while we've been doing automation for 10 years, we haven't had the next piece [of technology] that could easily migrate processes from person to robot. Now, we do, and we're looking at repetitive, technical tasks we do for customers and how we can command RPA. We already have 87 different items identified where we can begin implementing.
The third piece is to take that plan and extend it. There's an opportunity to help businesses where the barrier to entry for these Digital Workers could exceed capabilities. We're looking at [creating] a Digital Worker library where they can subscribe to the robot and apply it to scenarios within their company without having to retain all of the infrastructure to develop and design the robots.
Are your bots single use? One bot equals one program or task?
Gliebe: You don't have to limit a bot to just one thing. It's more a question of when do you need the work done and how long can you wait until you need it. If I want the bot to look at a report for me overnight while I'm at home sleeping, the robot actually can do many, many things almost 24/7.
Then, implementing RPA is about defining the work you need and when you need it delivered to be satisfied. The robot itself can run many processes. It's a question of do you need them to run concurrently or can they be sequenced based on when you need that process result completed.
What are some immediate benefits to implementing RPA that you've noticed?
Gliebe: Financial improvement in our margins for delivering services grew, because we're looking at how we do our business. With increased capacity, we can grow the number of customers without having to increase the staff. We can help with attrition because people are satisfied with the type of work that they have.
We have a lot of excitement in our company. Because we have younger workers, this is very relevant in their world, and they want to be part of what is relevant. Using RPA feels very progressive and in line with what they were thinking they would see in the world of business.
Have there been hurdles to implementing RPA Digital Workers?
Gliebe: Knowing where to start and making sure that you're setting up the right governance. You could turn RPA loose and end up with a little bit of a mess if you're not thoughtful about how you put the program into play.
There's also tension with our research and development IT teams. There's a focus on the user. RPA has a drive to make it easier for people doing the business processes. The backlog in R&D tends to be so big that the business is either frustrated with them or different technologies are used where you need real experts in the development of RPA to be able to do that type of work. You have to work with your technology team to maintain infrastructure, so you both have to get beyond ownership of the RPA.
What's the employee relationship to your Digital Workers?
Gliebe: First of all, there's tremendous excitement where some of this work feels very low value. Employees are so excited to have this work removed from their day so that they can focus on things that they thought they were hired to do at high level. We did 32 workshops across all of our different business groups, and within three weeks, we had 70 ideas submitted that people wanted taken out of their day. And the ideas just keep coming in. The more a company uses automation to help change the dynamic of their business model, the easier it often is for the employees to just take on the new.
Debates on the future of work question if RPA will eliminate jobs. Has implementing RPA affected employee retention?
Gliebe: The bigger the business, the more they're going to look to RPA to take out head count. But that's not the reality of what we've done. Any of the companies that are thinking about this need [to implement RPA] so they can keep overtime costs reduced, keep up job satisfaction for higher-level skill workers. So, now, you can start to leverage your resources in a different way.
Maybe we have a luxury not every company has, but our RPA implementation is really about enabling us to grow and making sure that we can be more efficient to handle the volumes that we're expecting to make. It's about eliminating things like overtime or ensuring that you eliminate the data errors. We're very mindful as a company to not send the work offshore. Robotics is that next big step to deliver what we need to deliver at the right cost, regionally.