Robotic process automation in the telecommunications industry

How will robotic process automation (RPA) transform the telecommunications (telcos) space?

RPA will help address many of the biggest challenges telcos currently face. The industry is being impacted heavily by the digital revolution, with telecoms infrastructure coming under increasing strain as it supports connected cars, smart cities and the Internet of Things. All the while, revenues are shrinking. Over-the-top (OTT) providers are eating away at the margins, siphoning off entertainment services revenues, while consumers lose their appetite for expensive phone upgrades, squeezing pre-paid contact revenues. All of this is set against a backdrop of greater regulation, skills shortages, and rising customer expectation.

When applied properly, RPA can play a big role in overcoming many of these challenges. It provides telcos with an army of robot ‘helpers’ that can reduce pressure on operations teams, free up time to concentrate on revenue generation, increase the quality of service, and deliver better value and experiences for customers.

RPA: we take a look at UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere

Robotics process automation, or RPA, is becoming big. And this month, RPA is our main theme. Information Age talks to three of the top players: Blue Prism, UiPath and Automation Anywhere. So here we begin RPA month by comparing and contrasting. Read here

What are the benefits of RPA for the telco industry?

RPA boosts the capacity of existing workforces by augmenting human abilities, allowing CSPs to reduce costs, increase accuracy and quality, improve efficiency and deliver a better customer experience. Specifically in the telecoms space, RPA can help to enable network teams to find faults faster and maintain quality of service; collate data for revenue forecasting, decision making and network planning; provide a 360-degree view of the customer to support call handlers; help operations teams to manage and qualify alerts to improve efficiency. It can also ensure bills and invoices are processed correctly to reduce pressure on contact centres and on the human workforce – and free up time to focus on revenue generation.

If we look at billing as an example, analysts estimate 10% to 20% of telecom charges are billed in error, which leaves telcos facing heavy fines and damaged reputations. The complexity of billing is largely to blame – telcos often aggregate services from a mix of other providers, making it difficult to see where the responsibility for an error lies. RPA (or document processing automation, specifically), digitises this process, tying systems together to provide a complete audit trail, so that discrepancies can be handled faster or avoided entirely.

Ravi Palepu, vice president and global head of Telco Solutions at Virtusa.
Ravi Palepu, vice president and global head of Telco Solutions at Virtusa.

Similarly, if we look at service assurance, the challenge lies in the fact telco networks are incredibly complicated; inevitably, things go wrong. When it does, people are quick to call up the contact centre, burdening call handlers who inevitably escalate to the operations team, leaving customers frustrated. RPA can help by running pre-set diagnostic tests, meaning more calls can be handled by the contact centre team without the need for escalation. Even when escalation is required, the RPA has helped to eliminate a many of root causes and can provide much richer context to the ticket so that problems can be solved much faster.

RPA can also help to improve the call centre experience. Telcos rely heavily on the call centre to deal with customer complaints, yet few customers enjoy having to deal with it.

Yet RPA can turn the call centre — a traditional cost-centre — into a source of revenue. Using attended robot ‘helpers’, RPA can automatically aggregate and harmonise customer data from multiple sources into a single 360-degree view of the customer, allowing them to answer a query quickly – improving the experience for the customer and boosting the productivity of call handlers.

Ten best practice tips for RPA: views from UiPath, Blue Prism and Kofax

You are the CTO or CIO of a company, or you are responsible for digital transformation, a Chief Digital Officer perhaps, and you want to introduce robotic process automation. Here are ten best practice tips for RPA, drawn from interviews we conducted with leading players. Read here

Do you have any RPA integration tips?

Taking a centre of excellence (CoE) approach can help to identify integration challenges before they become a problem. When a business process or task has been identified as a candidate for RPA, then it is vital the team map out what interdependencies exist within that business process, what systems will need to be integrated, and whether this is possible. The last thing you want is to get further down the road only to realise that some systems simply won’t play together – not only will this waste time and resource, but it will diminish trust in the wider team and support for further RPA roll outs.

Are there any integration challenges?

Telecoms networks are extremely complex and are becoming even more so with recent M&A activity and the introduction of new services. This means data is often spread across multiple systems and stacks, siloed within different teams. If we look at a typical use case for RPA, such as supporting contact centre staff by providing a 360 degree view of the customer, there are a number of integrations that need to be in place to enable that – from billing through to the CRM. So, integrations are a huge technical challenge.

Why would an RPA integration fail?

Lack of strategy and planning are often the Achilles heel of RPA. Before embarking on any RPA implementation, it’s vital to consider where and how it will fit, and how it supports the organisation’s goals. Having the ability to scale RPA will help to deliver even greater ROI.

Without identifying and testing areas for ‘quick wins’ and understanding how RPA can be scaled up from there, organisations risk biting off more than they can chew and stalling their RPA programmes or abandoning them entirely.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...