RPA for HR: Impending takeover of Ultimate Software leaves its RPA solution for HR undiminished

“We believe that one of the very best investments that an organisation can make is to invest in their people,” says Pat. Robotics process automation may have a bad rap with some onlookers, ‘won’t it take jobs?’, they ask, but Ultimate Software’s RPA for HR solution illustrates the counter argument perfectly. It t’s not about replacing jobs, it’s about enhancing them. But in the case of Ultimate Software, it is also about “helping your employees thrive,” or so Pat told us.


Patrick Pickren, Sr. Director, Product Strategy
Product Strategy at Ultimate Software

“We can reduce the amount of time that managers have to spend doing administrative tasks” freeing them up “to do those higher-value types of activities.”

RPA for HR

So how does it work? How would a company’s HR benefit from RPA? What must a CTO or CIO understand?

Most RPA players offer a broad solution: automation across whatever department you want: Ultimate Software is in the business of human capital management.

“Our process automation is part of the Ultimate platform technology,” he says.

“A lot of our customers are looking to us to provide packaged or templated types of automated processes. One of the attractive elements of RPA is that ‘I don’t need to have an army of developers or coders to help me get some value out of connecting HR solutions or systems together’. Because of that, as much as possible, we’re providing templated out-of-the-box types of automation.”

And what does this mean?

“We’ve seen organisations that have seen a 40% improvement in the response times to employees.”

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The takeover

Before we go any further, we must deal with the elephant in the data centre: Ultimate Software is subject to an $11 billion bid from a group of investors led by private equity outfit Hellman & Friedman.

In a statement, the company said: “Our customers will benefit from our ability to bring new features and services to market more quickly, while still enjoying the same high level of service they have with Ultimate today, or better, with new innovations to our offerings.”

Or to put it another way, whatever happens next — and by the way, the agreement the company has with the prospective investors allows it a 50-day ‘go-shop’ period, to look for alternative deals — it’s in no ‘would be’ purchaser’s interest to limit the product offering.

The bid represents a 19% premium on the share price before the offer. And the company says that post purchase, its existing management under the leadership of Chief Executive Scott Scherr, will still be at the helm.

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RPA is just a part

The RPA market is growing fast, but it is still quite small. A recent report from last October, from Grand View Research,  forecast that the RPA market would be worth $3.11 billion by 2025. Yet Ultimate Software, a company that provides a suite of HR solutions, of which RPA is just one, is apparently worth roughly four times what the global RPA market will be worth six years hence. See it like that, and all of a sudden RPA seems small.

RPA for HR, what it means in practice

Ultimate Software is a global company with customers all over the world, and indeed customers who themselves, are based all over the world. We asked Pat for a specific example of how its RPA software works, and he began by citing the case of international challenges.

“We have customers that might be using different system solutions. In one country they could be using one vendor to provide payroll processing or applicant tracking” and something different in another country. ”Some companies are then bringing in new employee hire information from a third party HR solution.

That’s where RPA comes in. Either by interacting via APIs, or if not via, comma delimited files, its RPA tool “will pull that data.”

“When you think about joining an organisation as a new hire, there are many different types of organisation-specific documents as well as other compliance documents based on the country or region, even the municipality of a city.

So for one thing, the RPA for HR tool can retrieve the necessary employee information, and then personalise the information that’s presented to the new hire, “only presenting you with the appropriate documentation.”

“It can then collect an electronic signature showing that they have acknowledged that they have received that contract. Then have that stored for the official record digitally and to have that archived.”

RPA for HR and NLP

But RPA is often closely associated with natural language processing — NLP.

The NLP, in combination with the RPA for HR, for example, can apply an employee survey, that is able to take unstructured text, carry out sentiment analysis, and apply emotional theme detection, so that it can help provide insights to the manager on what’s going on with their team. In this way they can provide not just a better experience for the worker but have a better working relationship and address potential organisational issues before they become problematic.”

Or the NLP can help in screening potential new employees for a post. Sometimes a CV might list the appropriate skills for a role, but using different terminology. A company may be looking for individuals with experience in dealing with customer complaints. A CV might say ‘dealt with telephone calls from customers who felt unsatisfied with the service.’

As Pat said: “The NLP does more than just key word searching, it is about taking that data that may not have been neatly matched up to just going through the application questions, those knock-out questions, to find candidates that may have been overlooked.”

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of Techopian.com and the host of the ESG...