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Robotics Process Automation: Past, Present And Future

Ramesh Mallya, Head of Technology - India, DBS Bank

Ramesh Mallya is dynamic professional with 19 plus years of experience in stakeholder management, supplier management & negotiations and application design for banking and financial services industry

Robotics has been around for over a decade but only recently its capabilities have made their way to the forefront grabbing everybody’s attention. It’s not so much about technological advances as it is about the development of ways of working among the adopters –organization wide collaboration and clear ownership between Ops and IT– that has brought about massive opportunities to reap.

Let me first explain the latter: early on, it was solely an Ops game toying with bots to automate business processes in pockets across the organization while IT looked askance at what it considered too lowbrow a technology to merit its attention. Traditional IT was focused on strategic platforms/solutions and big changes. Anything less seemed trivial. As a result, Ops was left to their own devices – a situation they wouldn’t complain about given the rigidity of IT – unless a bot broke,

or worse, an army of errant bots brought down a production system! In time we realized that this child requires both parents in equal measure.

The former is less controversial. Sooner or later, after much experimentation, common sense prevails: to get more bang for the buck, one has to look at end-to-end processes instead of bits and pieces of work in isolation.

Now that the world is unanimous about the great potential of robotics, there are some ground rules to adhere to so as to maintain sustainable advantage. Good governance is key which begins by asking some tough questions and doing the basics well. For starters: Are we automating an inefficient process? Is there an alternative solution? Have we involved all the key stakeholders in decision-making? Does the business case stack up? Is the automation lifecycle defined? Is the proposal aligned to Business and IT roadmaps?

Some of the key governing factors would be: (1) ROI/Value, (2) Resiliency and Controls, (3)Business Process Roadmap, (4) Technology Process Roadmap, (5) Industry Best Practices and (6) Automation Inventory & Lifecycle. I’m compelled to belabour the first and the last points, for good reason. Consider ROI not only in terms of cost but improved controls, better customer satisfaction. And it is paramount to have an up-to-date inventory of bots readily available across the organization to enable re-usability. More often than not, the same problem is being solved in different parts of the organization eating up valuable resources. By the same token, it is necessary to continually review this inventory and kill bots that have outlived their purpose.

Once the Governance Framework is established and widely communicated, the engine of automation will gather momentum and require scaling up, uncovering another set of challenges. One quick and easy way is to go hub-and-spoke, empowering delivery teams across the organization while maintaining discipline through a CoE.

To conclude, let us always remember that robotics is only tactical in nature and can never replace a strategic solution. Having said that, it is important to know that when coupled with complementary technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the power it could yield is boundless.

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