“Automation is something that has always fascinated me,” says Kris (Krishnan) Subramanian, head of sales at Option3. We wanted to make automation open to everyone—not just technical folks, but also end users, he adds.
“In fact, when we started out five years ago, the first task we focused on was usage. We looked at how people can intuitively use a product, how we can develop it without making it technical in nature.”
This month, as we welcome Subramanian as a member of the AIIA Network’s Advisory Board, we sat down with him to discuss where he’s seeing the biggest changes in the automation market, and what’s in store for the year ahead.
AIIA Network (AIIA): What, in your experience, are the real benefits for enterprise in implementing automation? And are those benefits visible across the board or just in one particular market or segment?
Kris Subramanian (KS): It’s fairly dispersed across the board. Even within the enterprise space, we have automated processes that yield varying benefits. Take the automation of manual processing in a sector like financial services—the cost-benefits of that are very visible.
For example, we have a client whose processing cost was close to ten dollars per voucher and, with automation, they could bring that cost down to two or three dollars. That’s an easily measured benefit given that they processed close to 100,000 of these per year.
There are cases of RPA where the cost-benefit has been very limited, but the real advantage is that we process complexity itself.
So not all organizations are automating to see cost-benefit, some want to avoid doing certain processes which are not a value add for them. For example, tasks like remittance processing are easily automated.
On the other hand, we have clients with processes that can’t be automated using standard rule-based RPAs, so we need to implement cognitive capabilities and machine learning solutions. That may not be a big benefit in terms of cost saving initially, but it could streamline processes and save time or errors and start yielding results as volumes go up.
For instance, we recently did a rollout for a process that spanned three countries—Australia, the UK and Sweden—and, from a reconciliation standpoint, this makes organization much easier. It was about the benefit of reducing complexity of an existing business process by letting the cognitive engine take on some of the human decisions.
In order to reap the benefits of automation I believe the current commercial model needs to change—this is also what a lot of clients have told me. At the core, I think it’s about working out different models—it could be a transaction-based model, a processing-based model or a subscription-based model. It’s about making sure options are affordable to all industries and organizations, regardless of what they are hoping to achieve.
AIIA: You mentioned different industries in there—which are the industries or sectors that are automating fastest? And which sectors risk falling behind?
KS: If you take some of the manufacturing driven industries—such as shipping, oil, and gas energy—you see it’s like adoption of mobile phones in India, where the country didn’t have to go through a technology evolution and the pains associated with it before we came to the latest smartphone technology. We skipped a few evolutionary steps.
Credit cards and smart cards are another great example—these are very common throughout India, whereas if you look at the UK or the US, they went through, or are still going through, the pains of how to embrace this technology to make card transactions secure. So especially in sectors that are large and have been driven by a lot of legacy applications, we see RPA can be a savior and help these sectors skip some parts of the BPM evolution.
AIIA: Are there varying challenges when implementing automation in different regions—for instance across markets like the Middle East, India, The UK and US?
KS: All the work that we have been doing has been with global organizations across the US, Europe and the Middle East. The India business processing industry is very mature right now. In fact, we’re seeing a trend where BPM (business processing management) companies are adopting RPA and providing it as a service to their end customers.
They realize that this is the game that’s going to stay. And if they don’t reinvent themselves, they risk another Kodak moment.
The other critical challenge is that, for many people, this is still a relatively new concept. People are beginning to realize the importance of it but some of them are just getting into the BPM or RPA journey. So, coming back to my earlier theory, I think some of them could jump a few hoops by embracing both together in many cases.
AIIA: How do you help clients go about selecting the right process to automate? Can you give an example?
KS: It does depend on the nature of the customer and the industry. Let’s take an enterprise I know who is now adopting RPA. Pilots are a key aspect to getting an RPA assessment so we initiate a few pilots in two or three areas. One could be a repetitive process, which is rule-based, but there are volumes to substantiate it.
The second one is a non-rule-based process and a little bit more complex to automate. But if you do it, it gives you a big business benefit. And the third one is an area where you look at not just automating the process, but that gives a lot more insight into their business. So by adopting RPA in the third scenario, they’re not just automating the process, it’s also giving them business insights and process impacts, and they can even run analytics to see business trends forming. It comes to a stage where businesses start demanding more RPA as they start seeing benefits of automation that help them drive new business and improve efficiencies.
The recommendation that we give to our customers is a three-pronged approach. And don’t just do RPA for the sake of it—it has to be a combination of automating a process to reduce effort at the same time as gaining more intelligence on the process itself.
AIIA: What does the next 12 to 18 months hold in store for RPA and automation then? Is there anything that’s really caught your attention leading into 2018?
KS: There’s a lot of talk about intelligent automation right now, but unfortunately we’re not seeing a number of successful use cases. And though this has been promoted far and wide, I don’t think all these products are yet ready, because cognitive automation requires tight integration with machine learning.
Our RPA approach has been to make it intelligent from day one. We strongly advise customers not to venture into cognitive or intelligent RPA as an afterthought to rule-based automation. As thought leaders, we need to make cognitive automation very easily accessible to small and large enterprises. Whatever we do on machine learning has to be very light and has to run—and has to be very cost effective.
Source: AI & Intelligent Network