Smart integration of robotic and desktop automation

Anyone managing a financial services organization understands the dangers of having employees perform mundane and repetitive tasks manually. Such processes are unnecessarily time consuming and also significantly increase the likelihood of human error, exposing your organization to potential compliance or regulatory breaches.

Robotic automation can help optimize these tasks in order to increase revenue, diminish operational costs, save time for both employees and customers and even address regulatory guidelines. While desktop and organization-wide robotic automation are not new concepts, the ways companies are implementing these solutions are evolving. Whereas one business may need a fully robotic solution, another may benefit more from enhanced desktop automation tools focused on simple, repetitive tasks. Choosing the appropriate path is important to avoid unnecessary spending and redundancies.

Here is a step-by-step approach to choosing the automation solutions appropriate to your specific business needs and current infrastructure:

Identify and eliminate processes that can be performed using automation from the desktop. Every day, employees perform repetitive tasks that do not require any level of actual decision making. In addition to wasting their time, this monotony increases the chance of human error and lost revenue. Desktop automation eliminates these manual tasks and ensures greater accuracy and recordkeeping. Streamlining work processes also frees up employees to perform more revenue-driving tasks and spend more time on quality assurance rather than simple data entry.

Where necessary, automate manual, repetitive and redundant tasks that can be streamlined so employees can focus on more value-added work. The next step is to look at the other functions that might benefit from robotic automation. Core business activities such as documenting notes about customer service inquiries, copying and pasting data from one system to another and countless other manual work tasks can increase the time a customer has to spend talking to a representative, inflate transaction processing time and increase the opportunity for errors. While these activities must be performed on the employee desktop, they can still be fully automated.

By integrating disparate applications and creating automated end-to-end processes that make workers more productive, an employee can improve the quality and accuracy of the transactions and customer interactions.

Optimize processes that cannot be fully automated to simplify and accelerate transaction execution. Once all fully automatable activities have been removed from the desktop and a financial institution has automated all desktop activities that no longer have to be performed manually, the next step is to take a critical look at everything else the employees do and decide whether or not they should be optimized with robotic automation.

A few simple questions can help identify these areas: How are employees using applications to gather the information they need to “work” the transaction? Is a human decision actually required? If so, what are the activities that lead up to that point that a decision must be made? Does the employee have the information necessary to efficiently process the transaction? Are there steps in the work process that could introduce error opportunities?

By answering these questions, a bank can identify any remaining opportunities to improve efficiencies. Automation can help shape the activities that lead to the point at which the employee must exercise a “decisioning” activity and automate micro-activities. The best example of this is the adoption of 360 degree customer or “agile desktop” solutions – consolidating user interfaces and data points from disparate applications into a single view. Having a comprehensive view of the customer’s information enables employees to engage with a customer in higher valued activities and reduces the opportunity for error.

Extend the value of existing technology investments by creating more extensible logic that improves transaction quality and increases revenue per-transaction. The final step is to build extensible business logic that improves transaction quality companywide. The result is algorithms that create new promotions and upsell opportunities for the customer, also known as “intelligent guidance.” Intelligent guidance at critical moments can significantly improve average revenue per-transaction. Additionally, having better customer intelligence enables employees to provide more accurate information faster and more efficiently.

While a fully robotic automation system may seem like the best solution for a financial institution, it pays to look at every step of the process above and implement those processes that make the most sense, while keeping human interaction involved where it is most critical.

The best example of when human interaction can benefit an institution involves potentially fraudulent activities. While alerts can be programmed into a system, they will never have the same critical thinking skills a trained employee uses to identify illegal activities or even simple customer check-writing mistakes. For those reasons, full automation is rarely needed.

On average, by taking the steps outlined above, most organizations will end up automating roughly 85% of their systems, leaving human employees in charge of the remainder.

Ms. Convery is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of strategy at Alpharetta, Ga.-based OpenSpan. She can be reached at [email protected].