First Consulting on how to enable robot assistants for employees

28 September 2018

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an innovative technology increasingly used to fully automate human steps in business processes. It is expected that RPA will impact all different process types within organisations, leading to huge efficiency gains. First Consulting, who are actively involved in this RPA revolution, envisions a future where all employees can be supported by their own personal robot assistant. In discussion with, experts at First Consulting say that robots of this kind could not only handle administrative tasks, but could also be able to handle increasingly more complex tasks through self-learning capabilities.

Over the years, First Consulting has built a track record supporting organisations in applying and implementing RPA. By investigating how RPA fits within the organisation and its IT architecture, the firm’s business consultants identify the most sustainable way to benefit from the technology. After investigating the opportunity and forming a business case, they work with organisations to embed efficiency gains for sustainable results.

What is RPA?

RPA is sometimes mistaken for the usage of physical robots, but this is certainly not the case. RPA is software that mimics human interaction within a digital environment (often administrative) and can be thought of as providing a virtual workforce of virtual employees. RPA operates within existing IT systems and applications, which minimises its impact on the IT architecture of the organisation. This allows RPA implementations to be business, rather than IT driven.

The market roughly divides robots into two categories:
Attended robot – This robot is activated in real time by the operational employee in order to perform a specific function.
Unattended robot – This robot is prescheduled, normally taking its cases from a work queue of some kind and continuing until they are complete.

What is RPA?

A robot as a personal assistant

This article considers the attended office robot, the robot that is actively managed by the employee. Suppose an employee is working on entering a new customer into the system. While the employee is entering the customer details in the system, they can tell the robot to search for supplementary customer and industry characteristics. The robot can do this by searching in the database of the Chamber of Commerce or in other such internal/external systems. This can save the employee a great deal of time, and moreover, mitigates the risks of manual ‘copy-paste’ errors by the employee.

It is a common misconception that robots can only be applied within administrative settings; the construction and utilities sectors in particular have a large potential for these robots as well. For example: engineers in these sectors often need to come into the office to prepare their work order. A robot is perfectly suited to do these tasks for the engineer, freeing up their time and eliminating unnecessary travel. The robot can decide which orders have the highest priority and what materials are needed for the execution of this order. After completion of the order, the engineer can submit the relevant data to the robot, which will enter it into the relevant back-end systems.

It is not only the efficiency that is improved by the presence of a robot, the day-to-day tasks of employees also become more attractive. An employee can focus on primary processes that add value, without being distracted with more tedious administrative tasks that used to be an essential part of the job. Hence, the presence of robots can exponentially increase employee satisfaction within a company.

How do I get moving with RPA?

Imagine the impact of having all employees spend 30 minutes extra per day on adding value to the business process and adding value for clients. The business case for the use of robots is then quickly made.

How to get moving with RPA?

Creating hundreds or maybe even thousands of robots is not something that is sketched up in an afternoon’s work and implemented overnight. To implement RPA, three areas require according to First Consulting specific attention:

1. The organisation needs to be technically able. When applying RPA, the IT department is directly engaging with individual employees and their specific processes. This differs vastly from large-scale implementations of IT software that are directed and managed from the company headquarters. Many processes and tasks of employees are subject to change, and these changes have impact across different workstreams. The business will have to explore how to organise this and re-evaluate the possibilities. To help customers gain insights in this, First Consulting has developed an online RPA tool.

2. Choosing the right type of RPA platform is crucial with respect to the options an organisation has, to ensure a controlled and scalable roll out of the software. It is important to include the IT-department in the discussions about balancing out the requirements and nice-to-haves.

3. Do not underestimate the positive impact on employees! Making the robot assistant effective and efficient is a time-consuming and intensive process for employees. To achieve the full potential of robot assistants, employees will also need to broaden their skillset and be willing to continually improve and digitise their own work.

According to Jon Nelmes, UK Managing Director of First Consulting, “We help our clients to achieve the full potential of robots within their organisation. From the drawing-board to implementation, we actively involved in bringing RPA to life.”

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Four ways digitalisation is transforming car brands and dealers

16 April 2019

From changing expectations from the customer to new stakeholders entering the industry, the digital transformation of global automotive industry means it is facing the wholesale transformation of its business model. In a new white paper, global consulting partnership Cordence Worldwide has highlighted four major digital trends that are transforming the relationships between car brands and dealers with consumers.

With digital transformation drives booming across the industrial spectrum, automotive groups are no different in having commenced large digital transformation programmes to improve productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. Falling sales figures mean the automotive sector is facing an increasingly difficult road ahead, something which means companies in the market are even more hard pressed to find new ways to improve their bottom lines.

While it offers major opportunities, the industry’s move to digitalise is not without complications. It has triggered a series of major internal changes, which have presented automotive entities with the challenge of becoming a “customer-oriented” industry. A new report from Cordence Worldwide – a global management consulting partnership present in more than 20 countries – has explored how automotive companies are navigating the rapidly changing nature of digital business.

New business models

The level of change likely to be wrought on the automotive industry by digitalisation is hard to overstate. Automation could well lead to significant reductions in the number of accidents, higher vehicle utilisation and lower pollution levels, while leading to a $2.1 trillion change in traditional revenues, with up to $4.3 trillion in new revenue openings arising by 2030.

As a result of this colossal opportunity, it is easy to see why almost all automotive groups now have digital departments, with generally strong communication within the digital transformation and the customer approach. The changes to society which this may have are potentially distracting automotive firms from the change it is leading to in its own companies though, according to Cordence’s paper.

The automotive market is dead, long live the mobility market

Because of this, the sector’s business model is set to transform over the coming decades. With digitalisation speeding up the appearance of concepts such as car-sharing, a subscription package model will likely become more palatable. At the same time, car and ride-sharing models will cater to the sustainability criteria of millennials, who will rapidly become one of the automotive market’s leading consumer demographics in the coming years.

Antoine Glutron – a Managing Consultant with Cordence member Oresys, and the report’s author – said of the situation, “These ‘old school industries’ are now working on creating new opportunities, but in so-doing are facing challenges and threats: new jobs, new technologies, new ecosystem of partners, necessary reorganisation, different relationship with customers, and even new businesses. The customer approach topic is in fact a real challenge for car companies as it implies changing their business model and adjusting their mind-set to address the customer 4.0: from product-centric to customer-centric, from car manufacturer to service provider.”

Digital customer experience

In the hyper-competitive age of the internet, even top companies face an uphill challenge when it comes to holding onto customers through brand loyalty. Digital disruption has resulted in changes to consumer behaviour, which is forcing a range of marketing strategists to reconsider their old, possibly out-dated strategies. As modern customers wield an increasingly impressive array of digital tools and online databases, they and are now able to quickly and conveniently compare prices, check availability and read product reviews.

The automotive sector is no exception to this trend, according to the study. In order to adapt to the needs of the so-called ‘customer 4.0’, car companies will increasingly need to change their business model and move away from product-centric companies to customer-centric ones, from car manufacturers to service providers.

Glutron explained, “As an automotive company, you can no longer expect customer loyalty simply with good products; you must conquer and re-conquer a customer that “consumes” your service. The offer now has to be global, digital and personalised. Your offer has to be adapted to this customer’s needs at any given moment. A key issue related to data control is to build customer loyalty by creating a customer experience 'tailored' throughout the cycle of use of the 'car product': purchase, driving, maintenance and trade-in of the vehicle.”

One way in which the sector may be able to benefit from this desire for a tailored experience is via connectivity. Consumers are generally positive about new connective features for automobiles, and many are even willing to pay upfront for infotainment, emergency and maintenance services. Chinese consumers, where the connected car market is set to hit $216 billion, are already particularly interested in paying a little more for navigation and diagnostic features in their future new car. This can also enable automotive companies to exploit a rich vein of customer data, enabling them to rapidly tailor their offerings to consumer behaviour.

New automotive segments

Digital transformation has also brought with it the rise of completely new application areas. As mentioned earlier, the most well-known example is the autonomous or self-driving car, where the last steps forward were not taken by major automotive groups but by technology companies such as Tesla. While this may have given such firms the edge in the market briefly, a number of keystone automotive names will soon be set to take the plunge into the market themselves, leveraging their car manufacturing prowess and huge production capacities to their advantage.

Before companies rush to invest in this market, however, it is worth their while to remember that the readiness and uptake for such vehicles differs greatly geographically. For example, following a study published in 2018, 92% of Chinese would be ready to buy an autonomous car, compared with only around 35% of drivers in France, Germany and US. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of different nations will also be significantly less accommodating of the new technology.

Use digital for steering thr activity

Elsewhere, Cordence’s analysis has suggested that hooking the cars of tomorrow into the Internet of Things is also likely to see a rapid change in the business model for car maintenance, providing real-time diagnostics for problems. This presents chances for partnerships to improve the connectivity of cars, especially with tech companies; for example, PSA partnered with IBM for a global agreement on services in their vehicle. Meanwhile, data could also be sold to other parties with an interest in this data, such as the government, which could use it to manage traffic levels, or ensure that only adequately maintained vehicles take to the road.

Glutron added, “With the increase in the amount of client data and connected opportunities, the recommendation is to set up data-centric approaches. The value is now in the customer data. The general prerequisites are to rework the data model and the Enterprise Architecture and generally build up a data lake including data from all sources (internal and external, structured and unstructured).”

From automotive to mobility

Relating further to the idea of connectivity, the report claimed that automotive firms must now adjust their models in line with the provision of end-to-end mobility, rather than treating the sale of a car as an end point in their relationship with the customer. In order to realise this transformation, transformations are likely to become more and more important.

A network of partner companies means automotive firms can provide a global mobility experience. As the vehicle is increasingly connected to its environment, new partners can also be cities, governments, and other service providers within the global mobility services industry in which the car brands want to take part.

According to the study, the target is clear. Companies must look to a holistic transport service, offering to move customers from A to B in a unique and pleasant way – otherwise they might as well take public transport. At the same time, they should extend the services reachable “on-board” (especially the enhancement of the connectivity between the car and smartphones or other connected devices), and reach high standards in terms of user experience (online sales, online payment, customised experience during and after the use of the car).

Concluding the report, Glutron stated, “These mobility market transformations could be considered a threat for the car manufacturers. Quite the opposite: if they take up the challenge and review their business model so that they become the service provider – communicating no longer to a driver but to a ‘mobility customer’ – they can then take advantage of their expertise and their position as a historical player. The most convenient means of transport are cars, and building a car is highly-skilled work.”