Last week we hosted our tenth Blue Prism Café with Serkan Saracuz, Head of Organisation & Processes, Operations Center, Postbank and Thomas Belper, Director of Strategic Alliances at Blue Prism. As one of the largest established service providers for payment and banking products in Germany, Postbank view Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as playing a key role in making their operations more efficient, swifter and more scalable.
Serkan is on an exciting journey, which began in early 2016 and has led to over 50 processes now automated through the implementation and evolution of 40 Blue Prism Digital Workers. The company is also looking to utilize the interoperability of Blue Prism’s RPA technology with intelligent automation capabilities to deliver even faster customer response times. So read on to learn about his real-world experiences and lessons learned in a complex – ever changing, operating environment.
What’s driving RPA?
It’s well known that the banking sector leads in RPA adoption as forward-thinking organizations seek to automate processes already locked down by regulators – while seeking efficiency gains, cost and risk reduction too. However, Postbank faced a number of additional factors that influenced its desire for RPA, with “bottom up” demand being driven by a joint collaboration across the back office business units. The need for digital transformation was a key factor here – especially with the bank possessing ‘clumsy IT’ – a legacy of numerous IT silos created from an architecture and infrastructure that had grown incredibly fast.
The bank saw RPA as a major opportunity to address these issues by reducing IT complexity – with measures including condensing the functions of multiple systems into one application. Relieving its employee workloads – via robots was a key focus too – so staff could be re-utilized for higher quality tasks – without further recruitment. Enhancing the customer satisfaction was also an aim that would be realized by the bank achieving vastly accelerated process completion times.
In 2016, Postbank sought an RPA solution that could help it react quickly to market demands. A proof of concept was tested against requirements that included reliability, stability, high quality features and ease of integration into the existing IT landscape – and Blue Prism was the vendor that best met all these criteria. The bank also acknowledged that the views of their employees mattered too and their acceptance would be a key RPA success factor. Serkan explained that it was critical that employees experienced a seamless transition across this major cultural change.
Our workers council has always been involved with us from the beginning. Keeping them on side was key, as they have great influence in Germany and could have blocked our RPA initiatives if jobs losses had resulted. We communicated RPA’s goal in a very transparent way by defining its positive role and value via road shows and videos of our RPA processes. This led to an employee mindset shift from rejection – to enthusiasm. In fact, we have colleagues who now say they never want the process to be done manually, but the way the robot does it, is exactly what’s wanted.
To create a focus on ever-improving RPA excellence, the bank has a different approach to its operating model which is uniquely run by specialist RPA teams – not the IT department. However, IT is still involved, providing the hardware, software and first level support only. The bank’s RPA team does the rest – from process identification – through to testing, monitoring and maintenance.
RPA in Action
In the early stages of its journey, Postbank identified areas with the highest automation potential – such as HR and risk control. Serkan was mindful that when fully automating processes, ensuring that bad processes didn’t become bad digital processes – but were optimized instead. To date, 50 processes have been implemented. These range from simple – to complex processes, some of which now ensure that over 10 applications communicate with each other.
Serkan explained that with RPA, service levels can be action-ed much more efficiently, because the robot ultimately always acts the same – 24/7, which results in time savings for customers. This means that orders that have been left for days are now performed immediately – so a customer gets a PIN code faster or a card locked faster. Also, by having a clear RPA audit trail provides easy access to data, which helps compliance adherence too.
When asked about planned RPA initiatives, Serkan explained that the back office units which focus on accounts, services and lending – are already set up and now all other departments of the group are being targeted – with a further 25 processes to be implemented over the year.
Serkan has ambitious plans to further optimize end-to-end processing, by creating the first link between RPA and machine learning big data. This will deliver the thinking and analytical capability to make operations smarter and more efficient – while further enhancing service delivery too. It’s hoped that these insights will inform the process design of future tasks and processes – opening up completely new possibilities for the bank.
Asked about his top focus areas for others considering RPA initiatives, Serkan recommends two things:
- Promoting the employee experience by involving them at an early stage by clearly communicating RPA’s positive, added value. By considering and carefully managing employee esteem, ultimately ensures they embrace – not fear change – and this improves the end results immensely.
- RPA initiatives should always be on solving both immediate and longer-term business challenges, and by addressing the right processes. Equipped with Blue Prism’s platform that can, integrate, scale and evolve in complex operating environments, Postbank possess the tools to stay ahead of the rest.
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