TECHNOLOGY

Knowing When to Pull the Plug on Robotic Process Automation

We’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of robotic process automation (RPA), and for good reason. But what if you were trying to implement RPA for process improvement and found that it didn’t work? Should you disband the project, or keep pumping money and time into it to make it work?

At NACHA – The Electronic Payments Association’s Faster Payments 2018 conference in the US in May, attendees received an inside view of an organization that attempted to implement RPA and ultimately had to let it go. Although the organization is a bank, many of the lessons learned can apply to corporate treasury and finance.

When you’re considering implementing RPA for process improvement, it is important that you’re not trying to automate a bad process. You don’t want to use RPA to simply replicate a process that doesn’t work

Allaying the Fear

To be clear, it was not the intention of this session to scare people off of using RPA; far from it. Instead, the goal was to provide financial professionals with advice on what to do when they attempt to adopt this innovative technology.

Karen Buck, executive vice president, commercial, retail and payment operations for TD Bank, began by attempting to dispel the fears that many people have about RPA and artificial intelligence (AI). There is a concern among treasury and finance professionals that their jobs could be automated away. However, she argued that as RPA works its way further into the corporate and banking world, jobs are going to evolve.

“When you look at technology, there are more roles today than there were 10 to 15 years ago in banking,” she said. “So 10 to 15 years down the road, there will absolutely be more opportunities available – they’ll just be different.”

Getting Started

When you’re considering implementing RPA for process improvement, it is important that you’re not trying to automate a bad process. Obviously the goal is to make your process more efficient, but you also don’t want to use RPA to simply replicate a process that doesn’t work.

Buck recommends following a four-step pre-implementation method:

Lean out the process. Step back and ask yourself if there are steps in the process that no longer make sense.

Look for opportunities to break down process silos. It’s important that the process runs as smoothly as possible and to do that, all components of it must work together.

Ensure that you have standardized processes across the organization. As more people get involved, ideas may conflict. It’s important to make sure everyone is following a standard when it comes to RPA implementation.

Measure the metrics. You want to make sure you have a benchmark, so that once that process is automated, you can demonstrate the value you’re bringing to your organization.

Case Study

TD Bank, the American subsidiary of Canadian multinational Toronto-Dominion Bank, saw an opportunity to improve its wire payment operations. TD was having an issue of wires that weren’t processing straight through, which then required an employee to go into the system and fix the problem.

“When you’re doing thousands of wire a day, even if you have single digit manual intervention, that’s a lot of people and a lot of processes that involve fixing those exceptions,” she said.

“So as we were looking at this opportunity, we said, ‘We have a fair number of wires that are dropping for manual intervention.’ We brought in our process improvement team, and said, ‘Help us understand why these wires are dropping and what we can do to leverage RPA to find some improvements.’”

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