With recent events creating a huge surge in operational demand across global organisations, the need for accelerated ‘operational agility’ has never been greater, but thankfully, some of this demand is being swiftly met by intelligent automation, namely enterprise-grade robotic process automation (RPA) technology that runs intelligent digital workers, an AI-powered, highly productive, super-resource.
Enterprises in every sector across the world are increasingly employing digital workers, and applying their unique ability to help operations teams do much more, much faster, more easily and with less resources than were previously required. This article will highlight the impact that digital workers have on businesses, the key areas where they deliver major value, and how they are evolving and shaping the future of work.
Digital workers in action
The challenges of Covid-19 are being increasingly met by the collaborative efforts of a digital workforce, operating in harmony with remote working humans at the forefront of the pandemic, and even in this lockdown environment, they’re safely delivering increasingly essential work across all business functions, at the accelerated pace required. These joint efforts are enabling impacted medical frontlines and organisations in all other sectors to not only maintain business continuity and resilience, but to easily create new products, jobs and services in only days, which would have been impossible to achieve before.
In the UK healthcare sector, digital workers are accelerating the sharing of respiratory data that supports identifying cases, moving data across healthcare providers and automating administrative tasks so patients receive the most efficient care possible. They are assisting in health and justice monitoring by managing responses to existing templates, which updates a central dashboard to track Covid-19 across prisons and provides access to key data. They are also automating new records in the onboarding of new emergency staff and scheduling virtual GP appointments and consultations with doctors.
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Police forces are using digital workers to process sickness reporting and tracking for emergency responders. In the banking sector, digital workers are managing customer requests for services such as installment-free periods for mortgage and small-to-medium enterprise business customers, and processing high volumes of disaster loan application requests too.
The wider impact of digital workers
Digital workers are delivering six proven outcomes, across the business operations of the world’s largest organisations:
1. Increasing productivity to deliver savings and time back to the business.
The NHS uses digital workers not only to save it hundreds of thousands of pounds, but also to offer a helping hand to strained staff. Digital workers are working in the patient records system, re-allocating appointments when a patient sends in a message to cancel. This process is projected to save £1.5 million in a single year, and will ensure an additional 15,000 appointments are available to patients.
2. Enabling new service and product offerings by delivering activities that are either impossible for humans to perform, or perform securely and compliantly.
With the global retail industry suffering major annual losses due to fraud, a major UK retailer addresses this issue by automating its “held order” process to investigate potential threats. If there’s a recommendation to challenge the order, a digital worker performs a series of cross-checks on the order using various internal and external systems. This activity is performed before cancelling, proceeding or referring the order for human participation. These fraud prevention measures are having a positive impact on customer satisfaction, trust and commitment, while liberating staff to focus on more valuable detection tasks.
3. Optimising service quality and delivery with faster, error-free, execution, quicker time to market, and reduced risks associated with longer response times.
For a major UK pet retailer, when a joint venture practice is started or sold, the in-house legal team must create 30-40 legal documents that take three to five days to complete per case. A digital worker now performs each case activity in an incredible five minutes. A digital worker also manages an ‘enhanced holiday pay adjustments’ process to help improve standardisation, efficiency and accuracy, reducing the time taken per case from 28 hours to just 20 minutes.
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4. Accelerated, innovation and opportunity generation to easily create new value-generating services and products.
A major UK online retailer faced a massively complex challenge when goods were ordered fraudulently under existing customer accounts. The retailer integrated digital workers with analytics tools to identify fraudulent orders and intercept goods before delivery. Since each courier service used different communications methods, the company built five different mechanisms to interface with third-party portals or email messaging services to stop couriers from delivering the goods and return them to the retailer’s fulfilment centres. The key to driving value was the speed and accuracy with which the digital workers could contact couriers identified for each item.
5. Operational transformation by using insights from automated process transaction data to optimise or reinvent business processes that enhance stakeholders’ experiences and create long-term value.
A big four accounting firm used digital workers to help it achieve consistent processes and substantial global savings with a 30% reduction in headcount across its geographies. The company is currently operating 200 digital workers across various tax processes, which has resulted in standardising many existing processes, uncovering disconnects, and delivering greater value. The company’s innovative, self-healing solution enables an interrupted digital worker to resume work in less than two seconds, which further generates lower operational costs and an improved service-level agreement.
6. Happy and motivated, staff who are liberated to work on more intellectually challenging, fulfilling, and value-generating work.
A global telco has successfully automated 163 individual processes, employing 266 digital workers. This has already resulted in an amazing 500,000 human hours being generated back to its business. This huge capacity is being used to facilitate growth in certain teams who can now take on more varied work, and it’s an enabler for bringing call centres back on premise. Ultimately, the telco’s goal is to drive exponential growth in the number of hours saved by its employees to further improve both the customer and employee experience. This is also enabling the telco to become a more efficient, responsive organisation and a better place to work.
Fast forward to the future of work
The next challenge for organisations is to adopt digital workers strategically – to make the enterprise smarter, more agile or efficient. This is an important ‘future of work’ conversation about changing the performance of business and what it might look like with a blended digital and human workforce. Digital workers will play an increasingly key role here by taking on tasks ill-suited to humans, much faster and more accurately, while providing the crucial capacity for continuity in any future challenges.
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Importantly, humans will be liberated to do more things aligned to their strengths, and by using digital workers’ ability to easily enable any new tech to interoperate with any existing technology, they’ll generate huge possibilities too. While humans will continue to provide strategy and creative thinking, digital workers will execute on increasingly complex business processes, and core IT will provide the underlying technology infrastructure and data storage.
The Digital worker is here to stay and will become an increasingly familiar component of the future workforce – helping to swiftly deliver ever greater productivity, efficiencies, opportunities and value. Looking forward, we’ll increasingly see humans driving collaborative innovation and imagination, working in tandem with digital workers, and this partnership will be the key success factor to thriving in the digital age.