Insights / Finance / Article

Shared Services Poised for Next-Level Robotics

May 25, 2018

Contributor: Sharon George

Many shared services organizations (SSOs) are ready for next-level robotics but need to target processes within their control and engage stakeholders to implement effectively.

New technology adoption in shared services continues apace. Three years ago, less than 40% of shared services organizations (SSOs) had worked with robotics, according to CEB, now Gartner, data. Today, over 90% of SSOs use robotic process automation (RPA), which handles structured data, to cut costs, boost productivity and increase accuracy. For many, the question now is how next-level robotics can complement existing RPA to automate processes across a more diverse range of tasks.

“  Leverage emerging best practices to ease implementation — the first being to concentrate on quick wins”

“Advanced robotics such as cognitive computing and machine learning tools could perform tasks that SSOs currently have difficulty automating,” says Cliff Struhar, principal executive advisor at Gartner. To smooth next-level implementation, he recommends SSOs actively engage key stakeholders and start with processes within their control.

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SSOs edge into cognitive computing

About half (48%) of SSOs are already evaluating the next steps in their robotics journey. One financial services company already applies cognitive computing to manage fraud-related customer inquiries. The cognitive solution applies natural language processing (NLP) to customer requests and effectively routes 95% of inquiries to an appropriate representative for follow-up.

Other advances in NLP hint at the potential for software to reliably retrieve information from unorganized text and create more opportunities for SSOs to automate and reduce human intervention in a range of processes. Artificial intelligence programs built by Alibaba and Microsoft have already shown superior reading capabilities, for example. Alibaba has used its program to answer live customer service queries since November 2017.

Google released enterprise machine learning software (Cloud AutoML Vision) in January 2018 that generates custom image recognition algorithms. Later versions will process other types of data. This new application may make machine learning a more accessible and cost-effective solution for enterprises.

Engage stakeholders to speed implementation

SSOs that want to expand their robotics capabilities should leverage emerging best practices to ease implementation — the first being to concentrate on quick wins and not get bogged down in analyzing all the strategic, organizational and resource implications of initial forays into next-level robotics.

“ Key stakeholders are procurement, human resources and audit”

To move quickly, SSOs should start with a discrete process in their immediate control. Then they need to engage with stakeholders from other departments, not just IT, for their support and expertise. By securing buy-in from these teams, SSOs will be freer to “buy and try” robotics as stakeholders will understand what robotics is and what it can do.

Beyond IT, the key stakeholders are procurement, human resources and audit. In engaging with each, SSOs must ensure for example:

  • IT understands that robotics is not additive to their day-to-day workflow
  • Internal audit doesn’t make waves about controls
  • HR doesn’t jump to conclusions about virtual workers and the impact on staff
  • Procurement doesn’t put the brakes on shared services’ need to buy software.

Recruit an advocate

SSOs can also involve global process owners (GPOs) early on in the automation process so customers and delivery teams achieve the full benefits of robotics. A GPO is a full-time, dedicated person (or team) focused on and accountable for process standards and improvement.

Before implementation, robotics teams and process owners should agree on how bots will be used, the target benefits they will provide and how GPOs will meet those targets. They must also develop a system to track the progress and benefits of implementation. Robotics teams need to take these steps to build a business case for next-level robotics and build credibility within the organization so they can continue to push for future solutions.

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