Learn how a bank’s Center of Excellence can unlock customer and colleague value by overcoming hurdles to automate digital processes.
During our frequent conversations with our clients about automating their digital processes, we find many are struggling to scale up from proofs-of-concept to enterprise-wide rollouts. This Digital Process Automation (DPA) logjam can occur even when they’ve set up a Center of Excellence (CoE), tasked with driving DPA implementations and take-up across the company.
Overcoming the hurdles involved and empowering the CoE is imperative if organizations are to seize the true value of automation for their customers and workforce.
DPA: a holistic strategy for maximum impact
Let’s start by clarifying what we mean by DPA. This is a set of activities aimed at transforming a process from operating in a legacy way (think manual task distribution, tracking and processing) into a digital process. This process uses digital workflow to drive the end-to-end process execution. And, it combines various automation capabilities such as cognitive chatbots, robotic process automation and machine learning to transform the process operation.
A key term here is ‘end-to-end’. Creating a robot to automate one step of a process will only deliver marginal gains. To be most effective, DPA should focus on enhancing the end-to-end customer journey. We can use it to identify improvements that can be made to the customer experience along with opportunities to increase employee effectiveness.
To maximize the business benefits, DPA must also do something else: optimize outcomes not just along end-to-end processes, but across them. Take, for example, an agent trying to search for and locate the correct customer account for payment. This task can easily be automated and reused across multiple processes. For instance, the compliance team might use it when searching for an account that has been flagged as potentially fraudulent. Rather than recreating this automation for each process, it can be reused, thereby multiplying the return on investment.
There is opportunity to create DPA capabilities that can be reused across multiple business processes and even multiple business areas.
Understanding the hurdles
To achieve all of this, the business needs to be at the heart of the DPA effort. The CoE must look to collaborate closely with the business units to pinpoint where DPA can create the most value. The CoE also needs to look across the business for reuse opportunities. But this isn’t easy, for two reasons:
- Achieving the right engagement with the business. Getting time with business leads can be a challenge. And they will usually have prioritized their budgets for the year--with process optimization a lower priority than keeping the lights on and other critical projects. In contrast, DPA technology tends to be a priority area for IT, who tries its best to drive business adoption. The dynamics need to switch from tech-push to business-pull.
- Deciding how to fund DPA. In most organizations, the money available for investment is spread across the business units. The result is that budgets are fragmented along department lines. This can cause problems when the returns accrue across multiple areas of the business and go beyond immediate reductions in process costs, as with investments in reuse. Under traditional budgeting, a DPA project with clear reuse opportunities will be the burden of the business unit responsible for the first implementation. While everyone would see the wider value, nobody would want to front the initial cost.
Navigating these hurdles is crucial for an empowered CoE that drives value across the business.
Empowering your CoE to drive DPA at scale
The goal of DPA is to enhance the end-to-end customer journey and increase business value. The CoE must therefore be treated as a business enabler outside of technology. It should be positioned it to drive improvements across business functions from the front-end through back-end operations.
From a funding perspective, we’ve seen some CoEs asked to self-fund by using operational savings from each phase of work to pay for the next. While this can work, it encourages a focus on cost reduction and quick wins rather than strategic, long-term benefits like improved sales, employee retention and customer experience. Improving operational efficiency is key. But making it the sole basis for funding can hamper long-term and non-financial benefits that would be even more valuable.
Another critical factor to consider is the CoE governance structure, which must include a mix of senior business and IT managers so that both perspectives are heard. This team is tasked with the objective of operationalizing the board’s message and balancing short term goals with long term priorities. This requires strong leadership, negotiation and decisiveness, as the two goals often don’t align.
How do you overcome all these hurdles and empower the CoE to drive DPA at scale? In our view, three steps are required:
- Get rock-solid buy-in and sponsorship from the Executive Committee. They need to champion the CoE’s message that value goes beyond cost reduction, and that the DPA focus should be both end-to-end and reuse across the business.
- Budget for large-scale delivery rather than handfuls of processes.
- Use the DPA roll-out as a vehicle to address legacy replatforming, boosting the benefits still further.
If embedded successfully, DPA has the potential to deliver a significant shift in customer experience, employee engagement and operational efficiency. Now’s the time to build your business of the future with DPA.