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Client: Orange Spain Region: Europe Industry: Telecom

The Orange Robot Factory leverages RPA to fulfil CEO’s vision for business transformation

Spanish subsidiary of the leading French telco operator Orange leads the way with the creation of a Robot Factory that uses the UiPath RPA platform to generate millions of euros of savings for the company whilst transforming the way they do business and enrolling its entire staff in the automation initiative.

When Laurent Paillasot was appointed CEO of Orange Spain in 2016, he set in motion an enterprise-wide transformation of the way the company operated which has successfully driven growth in the business to the point that it has on occasion overtaken even the Orange parent company in France. His strategy and vision for the company was based on three tenets: that it should become a digital yet at the same time a human-centric company, where agility and flexibility are fostered, and where not only teamwork is encouraged, but also individual talent is utilized to the maximum.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was viewed as a technology that wasn’t simply a means to optimize operations but that could be a key enabler to achieve these tenets across the organization. The democratic nature of the steps required to create a software robot, as enshrined in UiPath’s Automation First philosophy, dovetails perfectly into the CEO’s three principles. A technology for the digitalization of the business that improves the work environment for human employees, driving agility and flexibility in the company’s operations, and one that can be built by multidisciplinary teams to allow individuals to use their creative talent and add value the business.

Orange

With this in mind, he gave his total backing to the creation of what was to become known as the Orange Robot Factory, a business within the business dedicated to the automation of internal processes so that employees can provide greater value to Orange’s customers, and headed by Javier Castellanos. His support was crucial for the success of the initiative, says Castellanos, because “we at Orange were much braver than others at the start. We see companies that test and automate a couple of processes as pilot projects over a year or more, whereas we went all out, setting ourselves the target to create and operationalise one robot per week, and the results spoke for themselves - within the first six months of activity of the Orange Robot Factory, more than two million interactions in the company were already done by robots”.

“The first use cases helped us a lot to gain credibility within the company, once the whole organization could see for itself that we could offer fast deployment, quick returns on investment and immediate reductions in costs.”

Javier CastellanosHead of Orange Robot Factory

Orange were 100% certain they wanted to work with UiPath as their main provider of RPA. The range of easy-to-use and highly visual products that don’t require high levels of technical expertise to understand allowed them to democratize the automation process and define an operating model for the Robot Factory where employees can request a software robot and participate in its development.

The Factory

Launched in Q4 of 2017, the Orange Robot Factory began life going through the same learning and growth curve as any ‘start-up’ business would, with a team of just 13 people from various business units, not just IT. Since then it has grown to 100 strong and has gone on to create over 400 robots across the company and install ‘RPA’ ambassadors in all departments - a direct contact with every area in order to uncover new opportunities for automation. Most of the team comes from inside Orange because, as Castellanos says, “the knowledge has to be internal”.

“The company could have hired some consultants or brought in people from external providers to the organization,” he adds, “but instead of doing that Orange has ‘drawn from the bench’, opting to incorporate only a few very specific profiles from outside”.

“The emphasis on training employees in RPA has been fundamental to the success of the initiative, on the one hand to reduce fear of the technology but also to motivate staff to change the way they operate the business.”

Javier CastellanosHead of Orange Robot Factory

Orange’s RPA journey started with the first robot deployment for a member of the quality control department, a qualified telecoms engineer, who was having to spend one and half hours a day launching and processing client satisfaction surveys after they had had fiber optic internet connections installed in their homes and businesses – 1½ hours a day which equated to two months a year dedicated to a monotonous and repetitive task that was ripe for automation, according to Castellanos’ calculations.

The process involved obtaining three different reports from two webs, aligning the data in several different Excel sheets, preparing an individual URL in order to send the survey to the customers via SMS, putting the file on the FTP for the clients to access and fill in. A laborious and time-consuming task that was way below the employee’s level of technical knowledge, as a telco engineer. Now the robot completes the task in just two minutes, and the employee now has time to review the responses of the clients, understand the process better and make suggestions for improvements.

“This was the kind of use case we were looking for and an example of the changes we wanted to implement on the staff”, says Castellanos. “There was concern at the start amongst employees that robots would be ‘stealing their jobs’ and they would be laid off, so our internal communication plan was critical to addressing these concerns. We made a video about this first robot deployment and how it helped the employee, and we showed it to the whole organization, highlighting clearly how software robots can help individuals be free from doing these kinds of tasks, allowing them to perform higher value work that leverages their own talent”.

“We were much braver than other companies that test and automate a couple of processes as pilot projects over a year or more. We went all out, setting ourselves the target to create and operationalise one robot per week, and the results spoke for themselves - within the first six months of activity of the Orange Robot Factory, more than two million interactions in the company were already done by robots.”

Javier CastellanosHead of Orange Robot Factory

Shortly after that, Castellanos and his team went to the controllers of two different business areas within Orange, Finance and Operations. They explained how they could deploy robots quickly and easily to automate certain key departmental tasks and showed how the robots could help reduce operational costs for that department by up to 80% in the first month. Within less than 3 months from its launch, the Factory had robotized 17 different processes, bringing together the technical know-how of the team and input from the different departments involved.

“These use cases helped us a lot to gain credibility within the company, once the whole organization could see for itself that we could offer fast deployment, quick returns on investment and immediate reductions in costs”, says Castellanos.

As with any business, the Orange Robot Factory has its KPIs. The bottom line is that it must save Orange money. Its core business is not automating for the sake of automating internal processes because Orange wasn’t looking to replace staff with robots. However, if staff levels remain the same whilst the number of robots increases, it becomes an expense for the company, with the cost of the servers, hardware, software licenses and developers, and that is not the path to real savings.

So right from the beginning the approach was that if a business area wanted to automate a process without a clear business case, the Factory wouldn't create the robots. The employees should learn how to use UiPath robots by obtaining the official RPA certification through the UiPath Academy, and they are expected to create their own robots with the help of the Factory. The Factory’s focus is exclusively on reducing CAPEX and OPEX for the organization, and in the 2¼ years it has been in existence, Castellanos calculates it has saved Orange Spain more than 34 million euros.

“We have a wealth of talent in the company and the robots are allowing us to bring this out and leverage it, by freeing us from those tasks that we all know have to be done but do not satisfy us either personally or professionally.”

Javier CastellanosHead of Orange Robot Factory

This emphasis on training employees in RPA has been fundamental to the success of the initiative, on the one hand to reduce fear of the technology but also to motivate staff to change the way they operate the business. Orange is the only company in Spain to have launched a training program on robotics for all its employees, and to date 250 members of staff have received the UiPath Certification following the successful completion of the UiPath Academy 50-hour course on RPA. The objective was clear – to engage the workforce in the company’s overall strategy for automation and help them reskill and learn to use the technology, so that they can continue their function in the business working alongside software robots which they themselves will have been able to help develop to improve their own work environment.

Another key factor for the success of the Factory was the launch of an internal website where employees can suggest, and request automation and all parties involved can track progress in real time. A platform designed to do away with the exchange of thousands of phone calls, emails and Excel sheets and provide on single point of contact and interface where requests for robots can be launched, the various stages of the robot creation process can be tracked and the working of the robots can be monitored for performance and in case of incidents. Every controller has his or her own private area on the web where he or she can observe in real time the savings that all the robots in their area are achieving.

Best in class

Of the 400 robots currently running in the organization, only a small percentage are considered mission critical. “Not all robots are created equal”, says Castellanos, “and as you add one robot to another, and then another, you create an ecosystem where various robots are interacting together and become interdependent on each other”. One such ecosystem of which Castellanos is particularly proud operates in the area of technical support, a vitally important function that directly impacts on the quality of client experience.

It consists of 31 robots all working together to resolve technical incidents where a simple call to the customer service call center will trigger the diagnostics, escalations, testing and documentation necessary to resolve the incident with all processes managed by robots, from sending a replacement router to booking a call out appointment with a technician. This enables Orange to provide a truly 24/7 customer service in real time whilst generating enormous savings from the operations side.

The future

The Robot Factory’s work is far from over. Javier Castellanos highlights the need to evolve now that the RPA deployment in the organisation is approaching maturity. “We have to develop new steps and for example we are currently learning how to join Business Process Management (BPM) with RPA in order to tackle other types of processes. There are many within the company which are highly complex, such as the monthly crossing of invoices with Netflix (which we offer to our customers), and it’s not enough to just put in a robot and that’s it”, he adds. One of the Factory’s objectives for 2020 is to put into place a web environment around this process that involves many people and detects which steps can or need to be automated.

Javier Castellano’s team also want to accelerate more transactions within their Artificial Intelligence division this year. Orange is the only telco operator in Spain that offers Customer Service via WhatsApp connected to their virtual assistant Djingo, or for example they also have Djingo connected with Google Home, where customers can ask direct questions about tariffs or query invoices. Such transactions require a lot of robots so the Factory has built an API that connects the robots to every front in the company so that customers, call centre agents, sales staff or any other relevant employee can all awake the same robot at the same time.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 400+More than 400 robots created and deployed since Q4 2017
  • 24/7Software robot ecosystems working together to provide fast, efficient 24/7 customer service
  • 100 strong multidisciplinary team in Robot Factory
  • >34milOver 34 million euros in savings in little more than 2 years
  • 250 employees trained in RPA with the UiPath Academy
  • AIPlanned ramp up of integration with AI technology
  • AmbassadorsRPA ambassadors in all business areas
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Orange believes in RPA, and the top down support for the Robot Factory combined with the positive perception the staff have of the technology across the entire enterprise is proof of this. “In Orange, RPA means a golden opportunity in our development. It is becoming a thing of the past to see highly qualified engineers, with incredible business knowledge, wasting five hours a week in cross referencing Excel sheets. That's what this is all about. We have a wealth of talent in the company and the robots are allowing us to bring this out and leverage it, by freeing us from those tasks that we all know have to be done but do not satisfy us either personally or professionally", explains Javier Castellanos.

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