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On Robotics and Muddling Through

IMG_0543While reviewing material on the benefits and challenges of implementing omnichannel communications, I came across a new (to me) approach to introducing robotics into existing processes. I am a big fan of ‘muddling through,’ and this approach seems to offer help to organizations which are looking for a starting point to the digital world.

It started out so simple

A white paper from the customer engagement, communications and collaboration supplier, Interactive Intelligence, makes the point its title: “Omnichannel is No Longer Optional”.

And it describes how to create the Omnichannel Experience: “By integrating these solutions with your CRM system, you can enable truly personalised cross-channel interactions driven by informed service representatives.”

But there is one catch …

This assumes a working CRM system. This is not universally true for all insurers. And this is only one element in the over arching issue: Continued reliance on legacy insurance systems.

So what to do?

There are several standard approaches to introduce new functionality in the legacy environment:

  • Replace the old core systems for all products and services. A big, time consuming project that yields little in the digital functionality column
  • Develop a parallel environment for high priority products or services. Still a big project, but scoped down enough to have a quicker return
  • Start with a simple ad-hoc implementation and let it proliferate into other existing systems.  Higher risk due to unique variations in implementation.

And this is where I ended up meeting a ‘new’ robotics approach. The ad hoc approach seems to be the way the Lloyds market is heading, but with help to providing sustainable consistency.

A message from TOM

TOM (Target Operating Model) is “a core component of Lloyd’s Market Modernisation proposal, set out by the London Market Group (LMG), to improve the ease of doing business in the London Market, locally and globally.” Writing on the TOM website, independent consultant Robin Merttens suggests an approach to the introduction of robots (“bots”) to support knowledge workers.

Instead of engaging in philosophical debates, Mertterns notes that some organizations are taking a path of least resistance “to support knowledge workers”. He writes:

These implementations are taking place at the simpler end of the spectrum getting machines to do some of the simpler tasks that the industry has traditionally done manually, often on an outsourced basis. This is referred to as Robotic Process Automation or RPA.

The RPA bots are not the R2D2 variety, but “desktop software that emulates the human execution of repetitive processes.” These virtual workers ‘train’ by following the repetitive processes of the ‘live worker. Thereafter, the RPA can sit next to the carbon-based life-form as an assistant or act as an autonomous worker.

What are the bots good at?

According to Merttens, the tasks where these RPAs are most often used include:

  • Application migration
  • Data entrys
  • Information validation and auditing
  • Legacy enablement

These functions seem very close to the requirements for data and process rationalization that precede digital modernization.

Others have the same thought. UiPath, a robotics software supplier, writes in its blog that RPA is effective in the insurance industry dealing with:

  • Legacy systems,
  • Complex business processes and decision-making,
  • Managing regulatory requirements

These elements can be introduced as desktop software, and evolve into “a platform-based application capable of automating complex business rules and orchestrating hundreds of ‘robots’ to address large volumes of work.”

Reality Check

Merttens cautions that, at the minute, RPA implementation is “not just a case of downloading the software and off you go.” Implementation requires a lot of time to define the base rules and continuously improve the accuracy.

That being said, however, Merttens suggests “cost benefits are rarely achieved within a year, but are of such magnitude in future years that it is usually worth persisting.”

Moreover, a number of the larger consulting houses are focusing on RPAs for insurance and developing best practices for supporting insurers.

What do you think?

A little over a year ago, I posted on the Science of Muddling Through, suggesting that human intuition with incremental successes are still integral to success in the business process.

This seems to be the case in the use of RPAs as described by the TOM and UiPath. If you have thoughts, please share.

In the meantime, I will take return to the Ominchannel communication post.

 

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