Business Transformation Services

An Insightful Talk on Digital Tech with Gopal Kulkarni

Digital technologies such as RPA and intelligent automation will bring value to business areas where ERP/CRM upgrades may take longer or AI can be very expensive. Digital transformation and RPA can drive organizations towards better customer experiences. This podcast discusses the following key areas.

  • Technology plays a key role in business continuity and resilience.
  • Current and future business operations will require a rainbow of technologies such as tactical, custom automation solutions.
  • Automation initiatives in the organization level should be strategic.

Podcast Audio Transcript

Alisha: Hi everyone, thank you for joining us today for our podcast on digital technologies. I am Alisha, and I am joined today by the head of Technology solutions group here at Infosys BPM, Gopal Kulkarni. Welcome, Gopal.

Gopal: Thank you Alisha. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Alisha : So Gopal, how has it been for you in the last 7-8 months with the new normal?

Gopal’s answer – to cover both personal front and a bit about Infosys.

Last 8 months have been challenging yet full of learnings and new experiences both on personal and professional front. On personal front, learned to manage with limited resources, proven again that self discipline is very important and prevention (with good immunity) is better than struggle for cure. While the work is part of life, working from home significantly blurred the lines between work and personal life as the technology ensured the quick connectivity and always being accessible. Amidst the pandemic situation, the performance delivered by the functions and overall organisation is significantly higher than the same period last year, this is a clear testimony of adopting to the new normal with improved productivity, commitment and dedication of higher order with enhanced trust level.

Alisha: Absolutely, I see that technology has really transformed the way we work.

Technology has played a vital role in triggering the instant business continuity and resilience while enabling the large human workforce to operate from home. At Infosys BPM we had 97% of our Digital BOTs were seamlessly delivering the services when the BCP was triggered.

Alisha: We have a number of interesting things to discuss today, so let me begin with my first question to you.

Which digital technologies do you think will be key to transform the business operations of tomorrow?

Unlike in the past where few technologies dominated, current and future business operations landscape will require a rainbow of technologies for transformation and it will range from Tactical automation to custom solutions to Intelligent process automation, can be parked under the broad umbrella of Business process automation in context of Business Process Management.

Service providers need to scale up for implementing the array of technologies, considering the expectation of delivering with client preferred technology. While ERP/CRM upgrades and enhancements will continue to be important for long term transformation of back-office operations, new-age technologies like AI/ML will be key to enhance end user experience in consumer facing operations.

Alisha: Right! Will these technologies play a significant role in tactical side as well?

Tactical automation, RPA are expected to continue bringing value to businesses in areas where ERP/CRM upgrades have a longer turn-around time or AI is super expensive. While analytics has been a key ingredient of the technology mix for a long time now, intelligent analytics will now not only impact how businesses consume insights but also drive transformation in many cases.

Very interesting, Gopal. As preference of end customers keep on changing, is organizational focus  shifting from just process efficiency improvement to providing superior customer experience and business resilience. ?

Indeed the focus is shifting beyond process efficiency to effectiveness, business value delivery, customer experience enhancement and improving the business resilience.

The selection of technology will vary by the line of business / practice, strategic priority and preference of client, expected outcome /value and spending. Also, with penetration of social media and internet connectivity, behaviour and expectations of end users are evolving. For eg: 

  • Customer Service, enterprises are increasingly looking at digital technologies like Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) solutions as a strategic priority from a next generation contact center perspective.
  • Intelligent document processing is enabling straight through processing of invoices under accounts payables delivering superior experience and driving on time payment metrics
  • Use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques are enabling fraud analytics with near real time monitoring of transactions.
  • Use of machine learning algorithms to classify procurement spend into appropriate categories and sub-categories for better spend analytics
  • Using virtual assistants to create order modification tickets under sales and fulfilment channels.

Bottom line is the near future will focus on Intelligent Process Automation and integrated technology solutions.

Yes I agree. We have been seeing a major shift from customer service to customer experience. You touched upon RPA earlier, and it’s been a common buzz word in our industry. In your experience how should an organization approach the implementation of RPA within their business processes?

The automation implementation at an organisation level should be looked upon more of a strategic , well thought through initiative than just good to have, disjointed tactical initiative, well aligned with the org’s IT priorities/initiatives complimenting each other than creating roadblocks/delays.

Alisha: Of course. Quite like a change management.

Yes Alisha! Automation is a large “Change Management Program” and I often use the analogy of running race with automation implementation. In fact, it’s a combination of all forms of running race. To start with, the program is a quite challenging considering involvement of diverse stakeholder with in and outside organisation with varied expectations, that’s like a Hurdle Race  MANAGING STAKEHOLDER EXPECTATION and navigating the circumstances. Like in Sprint there is NEED FOR SPEED with instant start  and quick results On time and better time every time. As in Marathon, ENDURANCE AND TACTICS are essential to manage large and complex program Building competitive edge in long run. Entire automation implementation life cycle right from Discovery to tech solution design to delivery to support and maintenance demands for SEAMLESS EXECUTION with right Control measures at every stage, Compliance to regulations & standard and most important Synergies between teams like we do in Relay Race.

Yes indeed. It sounds like a very strategic move for any company. Gopal, on that note, what are some of the critical factors to a successful automation program?

There are few critical to success factors for the automation program like …

  • A well defined scope - Enterprise-wide, with upfront multi-year commitment.
  • Client sponsorship with clear Targets and Accountability defined in score cards cascaded from program sponsor to the execution team
  • IT , business, domain, risk, legal, finance must be aligned and work together towards common objectives of automation program
  • A strategic change management program with aspirational target for extreme automation
  • Rigor to track the program progress and remove roadblocks with Multi – tier governance model
  • Process vision and involvement of the domain / subject matter experts while selecting the right use cases amenable to automation
  • Flexible cloud infrastructure : Scaling of operations would be efficient and easy with a cloud infrastructure
  • Flexible commercial framework: Incentivizing extreme automation is essential to ensure fair share of gain for both client and service provider
  • Setting up an Automation Nerve Centre for efficient and effective BOT operations management
  • Automate amenable processes post simplification / standardisation / harmonisation / re-engineered process, Ensure not to automate waste, you will only end up amplifying waste !

Of course, at Infosys BPM we look at automation as a key ingredient for Humaware Service Delivery with right balance of Head and Heart.

That’s interesting, you mentioning Head & Heart. Also, I heard you mention “human-ware”. Could you elaborate what it is and how it affects the automation of business processes?

Sure Alisha. For the past few decades, BPM focused on streamlining Business Process to achieve Operational efficiency and cost benefits via metrics such as TAT,SLAs, etc.The current BPM industry is reimagining its role to be a Partner, working alongside its clients to co-create business value and enhance stakeholder experience leveraging technology.

Alisha: That’s quite a paradigm shift!
Yes indeed. New BPM industry is leveraging Human-ware concept where Humans are encouraged to be inquisitive and innovative, to create Process Excellence and enhance customer experience, whereas the repetitive work is handled by Automation.

At Infosys BPM , we define Humanware Service delivery as “Best of People capabilities blended with Best of Technology to deliver the services, co-creating the Business value and enhanced Customer Experience”. The complementary play of software and human interactions is known as HumanWare.

At one end is Humanware and then there is extreme automation. Is it really possible to completely eliminate human effort  from business processes or specific steps? If so, what is required in such an approach?

Yes and No. There are many business processes which are completely rule based and can be automated entirely with little to no human intervention required post automation. Month end reconciliations, order creation etc are only a few examples. The premise for this to happen remains the same i.e. high degree of defined rules, less exceptional scenarios and standard i/p and o/p.
The technology landscape is evolving rapidly and with rise of Intelligent Automation the possibility of extreme automation leading to exponential efficiency improvement has significantly gone up. In short, extent of automation possibility has become a function of technical capability of service provider and customers willingness/ability to spend.

On the other hand , In certain scenarios, even when a process or step can be automated completely it would be advisable to retain the human effort which can provide empathy over and above automation efficiency, thus enhancing customer experience. This is especially applicable in customer helpdesk scenarios where a customer would instantly feel relaxed knowing s/he is being helped by a fellow human being.

I tend to agree with you here. It is always good to know that you are speaking to someone at the other end of the phone line. Gopal, Could you talk about any recent automation projects and give us comparative idea on the success factors you mentioned earlier?

Yes. Let me share with you a tale of Two Organisations, one is a ‘Health Tech Major’ and other ‘Mfg Major’. Both engagements have almost similar processes (or functions), ERPs and way of working. Both were equally excited when we presented them the automation roadmap. However, only one of them embarked on an automation journey with a holistic vision driven by the critical to success factors I mentioned earlier and the other has taken only a ‘Tactical’ approach towards automation. The difference in benefits delivered by automation in these two engagements is stark and speaks volumes about the relevance of ‘Automation driven by a Vision at the enterprise level as a large Change management program ’

Alisha: I am sure embarking on the automation journey without a holistic and strategic vision would not be successful.

Quite true. After 3 years, we have one organisation with hundred of live bots with well established Automation Nerve centre and reported over 34% productivity improvement in addition to the significant improvement in business metrics , better control & compliance measure. They are aspiring for more by expanding the program to other service lines. Where as the other organisation is still at the very initial phase of the program due to several cross functional and policy level barriers.

Automation driven by a Vision. That has a nice ring to it. And to round it off Gopal, tell me What would be your recommendation for organizations that are planning to bring digital transformation?

I have spoken about the around 10 factors critical for the success of Automation program earlier, let me share my 3 key take away  from the large automation programs implemented at Infosys BPM.

  • Organizational Change Management driven in collaboration between Client, Service provider and Automation platform partner to work towards readiness or level of preparedness for automation to succeed.
  • Humanware: human element to integrate with automation. Enterprise roll-out and sustenance of RPA programs requires strong process knowledge with an empathetic mind-set towards human-ware service delivery, in addition to technological prowess.
  • Amplify Human potential and  Augment business value – automation is not a substitute for humanware.

An aspirational goal with the digital mind-set and human-ware approach, rather than pure automation, will be the future of large automation programs that will drive value for organizations.

That was a very insightful discussion we had, Gopal. I learnt quite a bit myself. Thank you so much for joining us today.

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