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Automation is all about people

In Episode 18 of our Automation Alliance Podcast Series, we chatted to Ruth Santangelo – Associate Director: Digital, Service and Automation at Optus – about her organisation’s robotic process automation (RPA) journey.
At rapidMATION, we believe that automation is all about supporting and empowering people in the workplace. We asked Ruth how this philosophy has helped her company harness the full potential of automation and deliver value from day one.
At the outset, Ruth worked with over 10 business units across the organisation, who were all “chomping at the bit” to use RPA. Early adopters included finance, supply chain networks and customer service.
With these business units, I had the opportunity to look at everything right from how to get the initial benefits from the bots through to selecting the right platform; and how to develop bots and maintain the bots we already had, so we could continue to obtain the benefits that were envisage
Ruth Santangelo
When building a business case for RPA in these functional areas, Ruth and her team focused on how RPA could lower costs, save time and accelerate processing speed. They also focused on more intangible benefits, such as enhancing the employee experience.
We have found that as people learn new RPA skills, automation frees them up to do other work that they prefer to do but didn’t have time for before
Ruth Santangelo
When everyone across the team is on board with the desired business outcomes of automation, people are motivated to get involved early, and gain value right from the beginning of the automation programme.
Some of the ways in which Optus encouraged employees to be part of the RPA journey, was by running Build-a-Bot sessions, and hosting hackathons and ‘learning fiestas’. These initiatives provide employees across the enterprise with opportunities to share their automation ideas and experience the power of RPA in action. Employees were encouraged to bring their painful, repetitive processes to the table and work with Optus’s RPA Champions to develop automation solutions.

Two essential lessons that Ruth and her team have learned along the way are

1. Let bots and humans play to their unique strengths:

When optimising a process, identify those components that are better suited to humans and those that are better suited to RPA, Ruth advises. For instance, bots can process structured data really efficiently, while humans can handle unstructured data with ease.

2. Maintenance is critical:

Once your RPA solution is in place, changes will happen upstream and downstream. It’s not realistic to ‘set and forget’ your bot unless you have a static process in an unchanging environment. Given that this is unlikely in the current volatile environment, Ruth recommends ensuring bots are well maintained and supported (through a robotics operation centre or similar), so they can continue delivering business benefits seamlessly.
Another strategic step that Optus has taken is giving its digital workers human qualities.
We get teams to name the bots and have the bots reporting to them. So, for them it’s like having a junior team member to do the work they prefer not to do
Ruth Santangelo
This inclusive and collaborative approach helps to put employees at ease and understand that automation is not there to replace human roles, but rather to make people’s jobs less burdensome and more fulfilling.
You absolutely have to take people along for the journey. This involves discussing the goals and objectives, getting their buy-in to the programme, and ensuring they understand what impact these automations are going to have on their day-to-day. People need to understand how this technology is actually going to free up their time and enable them to do more with less. We encourage our customers to conduct a full 360-degree feedback review on each bot, as they would any other member of the team. Often, that bot gets the best score, because it’s doing all the work that people don’t want to do. So, the team members absolutely love it.
Shaun Leisegang

For the full conversation, listen to our podcast here

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