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April 12, 2016

Here Comes Robotic Process Automation

Summary:

Robots allow the focus to be on the customer, while they do all the tedious, "swivel-chair automation."

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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is very much today’s buzz phrase. If you are to believe the press, everyone is afraid robots will take all our jobs—even the popular media is reporting on the “Rise of Robots.” (Daily Mail estimated robots will take over five million jobs by 2020, and the Financial Times also threw AI into the mix.) McKinsey says 25% of jobs are likely to go because of this new technology. The War of the Worlds begins!

See Also: Of Robots, Self-Driving Cars and Insurance

But robots/automation have been part of every stage of industrialization, evolution and revolution. From horses to motor vehicles and auto assembly lines, from bank agents to ATMs, from manual work to macros—there are so many things we have done that automate and ultimately save time by doing things in a more efficient way. In every one of these scenarios, we have moved to new jobs and created new categories. Today is no different. In fact, there are many jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago. This from David Hamman:

Regarding robotics, a quick summary from me would include:

What it means for insurance (and most other industries)

  • Reduced error rate from human processing
  • Improved process speed (today you can still only run at the pace of the slowest machine)
  • Increased speed—robots don’t take coffee, lunch or holiday breaks, so there’s a lot less to deal with

Why it works:

  • Allows the focus to be on the customer, while the robot does all the “swivel chair integration” (updating lots of systems with the same stuff)

Don’t forget:

  • Ultimately, you are adding more layers to the ecosystem/architecture. This may give you great full-time equivalent (FTE) improvements, productivity gains and reduced error rates, but long-term strategy should be to switch stuff off and reduce run cost.
  • If the underlying systems change, do you need to change your robot configuration?
  • The “happy path” is always easiest to map. It’s when that path doesn’t work that things starts to get more difficult.
  • If your remaining FTE are only dealing with exceptions, they likely need to be more skilled and experienced. They also need to be able to pick up in the middle of process quickly to understand the exception and complete the task or set the robot on its way again.
  • Automate only the right process. Not everything will be a good candidate, just because you could automate it.
  • Don’t mistake “rules” with RPA for human judgment’ I don’t think we are quite there yet, but, with AI, we are learning. It won’t be long.

Of course, we just launched the first Robot-Run Insurance Agency, which moves from robotics to robo advice—a whole new world indeed.

For now, there is plenty to dance about and plenty of opportunity and ways how this can be used to drive significant benefit and opportunity.

What’s your take? Where do you see these best used, and why? Where can we see the positive side of this in terms of exciting new jobs and better experience for employees, agents and customers?

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About the Author

Nigel Walsh joined Deloitte in 2016 as Partner in the Insurance Consulting team. His key focus areas include technology transformation, digital and insurtech. Prior to Deloitte, Walsh served as Vice President and Head of UK Insurance for seven years. Walsh has been actively engaged with clients across multiple lines of business as they embrace transformation.

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