As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Replace the proverbial fish with automation, and you get Singtel’s blueprint for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) success.
Singapore’s leading telco, Singtel has successfully trained and empowered its employees to automate mundane and repetitive work since 2016.
Simply put, employees have created their own robots to do these tedious tasks – from processing applications to replying to emails – giving them more time for higher-value work such as serving customers and identifying avenues for growth.
“Through observations, we felt that there are many small opportunities that are easy to automate rather than (on) a mass scale, so that triggered a vision of a bot for every employee,” said Chiron Lum, Associate Director of Group Digital Office at Singtel.
He was speaking at the UiPath Hyperautomation 2020 webinar, along with Australia’s Heritage Bank and VITAL, the shared services arm of the Singapore government. They shared about the progress and challenges of putting in place ‘a robot for every person.’
A robot for every person is an innovative vision for the modern workplace where companies maximize their RPA potential by enabling every employee to use, create, and benefit from automation.
Non-technical employees can become 'citizen developers' and create their own automations in a fully governed environment. Such ground-up movements can snowball to larger company-wide digitalization efforts.
In fact, this citizen development approach is gaining ground in the last 18 months among UiPath customers in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, noted webinar moderator Malina Platon, Managing Director of Strategic Accounts in APAC at UiPath.
It is driven by enthusiastic employees who are termed as automation “power users.” They are the first to learn automation skills, before helping colleagues automate processes and extoll the virtues of company-wide RPA implementation.
A fine balancing act
For Heritage Bank, which embarked on automation in early 2017, starting small was the way to go. Now, they have a full-fledged automation team governing 12 unattended and 60 attended robots.
“[RPA] has touched the lives of everyone at Heritage through automating processes like CRM [customer relationship management] or corporate engagement,” said David Johnston, Manager of Intelligent Automation and Process Excellence.
However, challenges remain. Juggling a day job with learning automation is no easy feat for some employees, said Johnston. To mitigate this, the bank will provide more RPA opportunities to equip staff with the necessary skills.
Fortunately, Heritage has engaged employees who “absolutely want to learn” automation skills. They are prime citizen developer candidates, and Johnston is eyeing 10 to 20 of these potential ‘champions’ to drive automation across the company.
“We want [employees] to have multiple automations, and see the time reinvested into higher-value tasks,” he said. “In 2022, we may see more automation done by citizen developers.”
Investing in capabilities for sustainability
In late 2017, VITAL ventured into RPA with the aim of automating repetitive and data-intensive work to help achieve its goal of being a digitally-enabled shared service center.
From the get go, building internal automation capabilities to eradicate repetitive work was the primary focus. However, like Heritage Bank, VITAL realised that empowering citizen developers required extra time as well as ensuring basic programming knowledge.
“We wanted to increase our internal capabilities but recognized not everyone can be an RPA developer,” said Christina Seah, Deputy Director of Innovation at VITAL. “On a positive note, we discovered hidden gems who can be trained as technical users.”
After finding a “sweet spot” to scale up and reap tangible rewards such as time savings, a new challenge emerged – maintaining the robots in a sustainable way.
For now, the company is testing UiPath StudioX, a UiPath tool where business users can automate processes without coding. This allows employees who are less technical to quickly build and maintain software robots on their own.
“While we want to invest and upscale our officers in digital skillsets, we must ensure that it does not gets too costly or unsustainable in the long haul,” said Seah.
Equipping employees with the right tools
Furthest along the RPA journey is Singtel, which outlined three key factors for automation success:
- Leadership support
- Delivering the right message
- Keeping employees confident in RPA
A fully supportive management was the driving force, which showed how seriously the organization took automation. At the same time, the leaders focused on understanding how each department functioned and their pain points, using them to convince employees that RPA can solve these issues.
With an army of RPA converts, Singtel aims to not just train citizen developers, but also to grow their confidence so they can continuously apply the skills at work.
“[We want to] at least have employees build their first bot so they can understand what it really means,” said Lum, who has organized hackathons and assigned RPA coaches to guide individual employees.
One success story is the “Valbot” – designed by 65-year-old employee Valerie Tan – which delivers monthly reports in two clicks, as compared to 385 manually before.
He added: “This is an investment in people and not robots. It is important to bring your employees along the journey as they are assets in your digital transformation.”
If you missed the Hyperautomation 2020 webinar you can still access the on-demand webinar recording. To learn more about enabling all employees with robots, visit our official ‘a robot for every person’ web page.
Director of Marketing, APAC