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Blog | Jun 1, 2023

Putting Our Customers in the Driver’s Seat with Next Generation

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Customers are at the heart of everything we do here at SS&C Blue Prism, and our Next Generation platform is no exception.

Announced on May 18th during a live-streamed event with an audience of customers, this is a journey we’re taking with you: our customer and end-user.

Our focus is on total transformation – on finding value in new ways to help you scale faster, securely, and sustainably. We don’t just listen to our customers – we crowdsource our ideas from our SS&C Blue Prism Community to address how your business can benefit from intelligent automation. That's why this year, we made our customers a key part in shaping the day’s content and discussion in the same way they play a key role in designing and influencing the future direction of our products.

Our vision is to see organizations take the next big step in their automation journey by focusing on intentional automation. With a wide range of technologies available and skeptical economic times looming ahead, we need to identify where intelligent automation can derive the most value.

With that in mind, let's spend a few moments going over the highlights we discussed with our panel of customers and experts on some of the key challenges they're facing with intelligent automation today.

State Street Bank

We’re proud to have welcomed Giovanni Gentile, managing director of BIONICS platforms, products, and services, at State Street Bank, to our panel discussion. State Street Bank is a financial services and investment firm based in the U.S. and was using RPA and cognitive computing when Gentile joined the team.

Gentile quickly recognized they were using the technology “for technology’s sake” and not to drive business value. When he first started, they formalized their Center of Excellence (CoE) and grew to 500 RPA digital workers in production over about 55 processes.

With that success, they introduced artificial intelligence (AI) to their automation to form an enterprise-wide collaboration. But they didn’t want to stop there. They tied their automation across multiple capabilities, searching for end-to-end solutions to benefit the entire organization.

By implementing IA, State Street Bank saw their customer onboarding and Know Your Customer (KYC) process start at two to three months, and cut 17 days from that process, generating $2-3 million in revenue.

With this intentional automation, State Street Bank is seeing huge transformational results and will continue to grow its automation program for further value.

Some Customers Are Only Scratching the Surface 

What’s holding them back? Colin Redbond, managing director of product management at SS&C Blue Prism, had some insights: Business buy-in was one of the major factors influencing how organizations managed their automation program. Redbond says, “Having the business buy-in at a high enough level to get the resources that you need,” is one of the biggest challenges for organizations. “You’ve got this problem of a lack of knowledge, a lack of data – and then you’ve got this technology solution. But without that business buy-in, you cannot connect the dots.”

Without business buy-in, your team will have difficulty finding an automation program.

That’s where relationships come in, as Gentile shares: “Technology isn’t the problem. The problem is people and their ability to work together… and we had a lot of success in establishing friendships and collaborations… Collaboration is the key.”

Giovanni Gentile, managing Director of BIONICS, State Street Bank
Giovanni Gentile, managing Director of BIONICS, State Street Bank

We opened the discussion of business buy-in to our panel and heard our customers’ experiences.

Viren Patel from Lancashire Police, and one of our winners in this year’s Customer Excellence Awards, said one of their foremost challenges in gaining business buy-in was in understanding processes. People would come up with the problems, but without understanding the processes it was time-consuming to look through them and find a solution that fit.

Viren Patel, Lancashire Police
Viren Patel, Lancashire Police

Along with that was a pervasive nervousness over whether RPA would take over jobs – and that trust element is a huge factor for many organizations looking at intelligent automation solutions.

How Do You Get Business Buy-in?

Gentile looked at the problem of selling automation to the business and came up with a self-funding, federated model. With a federated model, the business has operational ownership – so it’s not just a solution they can toss away but an integrated DNA within their operations.

By providing the business with the tools to develop their automation and giving them ownership over those tools, you’re showing them what success can look like.

How Do You Build Trust in the Business?

More conversations are shifting to the fear that RPA will take over people’s jobs, a concern exacerbated by the recent emergence of ChatGPT. For those non-technical people, AI can seem daunting.

That’s where building trust comes in. Anticipating and having conversations with your people about the opportunities automation can present will be indelibly valuable. Jordanna Green, Acacium Group, says the best way to build that trust is to address the elephant in the room, talking through and assuaging those fears openly.

Jordanna Green, Acacium Group
Jordanna Green, Acacium Group

By investing time into getting your people to understand how RPA can actually help make their work more interesting and productive, and showing them how they can upskill their talents, you're benefiting your entire organization. With good communication, partner working, and coaching between your employees, you’ll see those who were once fearful of automation become advocates for it, just as Green sees in her people.

How Can We Bring People into Automation?

Colin Redbond walks us through having the appropriate mix of control and federation in your automation program. Bringing your people into the program without a level of governance can lead to duplication of effort or compliance risks. Every industry will have its own standards for who should have access to automation, and a federated model can help establish those limitations.

Gentile shares, “Governance is my least favorite thing to worry about, but the most important thing I need to pay attention to – especially in financial markets with a lot of regulation.”

When federating a team, establishing a good CoE is important, Gentile says. It’s all about empowering the people within your business to think about automation, with a natural progression of learning and regulating until they can build the automation on their own. Then, your federated model provides the backdrop for standardization, optimization, and component libraries.

Are There Examples of a Successful Citizen Development Program?

Erfan Makhsos, Volvo Cars
Erfan Makhsos, Volvo Cars

Erfan Makhsos, Volvo Cars, initially brought Volvo's citizen development program in to train people in the foundations of the tool and to learn what’s possible. Their intention wasn’t to make them federated developers; it was simply to educate them. As experts in their own processes, Makhsos’ people began looking at their work and standardizing those processes.

From this, Makhsos’ team has seen a huge development in their program. By empowering people to understand the foundation of how it operates and what’s possible, they’re finding more optimization opportunities in the business and becoming automation ambassadors to other teams.

Makhsos’ organization rewards its citizen development team through its career path. It’s an opportunity for them to learn something different, shift careers and upskill as they want.

How Do You Get People on Board with Change?

Top-down buy-in of your automation program is key to getting everyone on the same page, according to Gentile. An impediment Gentile’s team overcame was moving their focus from point-to-point automation to end-to-end solutions. But nothing is more important, Gentile says, than getting everyone on board with the technology: “Technology’s the easy part... It’s people. That’s the hardest thing. Once you get people to work together you can accomplish anything – but you’ve got to get everybody on that same page,” Gentile explains.

Redbond suggests looking beyond headcount and cost reductions; for most people, that’s not what’s top of mind. Instead, think about the value you’re creating with your automation: improved customer and employee experience. Look at the journeys you’re creating for your people.

Colin Redbond, managing director, product management at SS&C Blue Prism
Colin Redbond, managing director, of product management at SS&C Blue Prism

How Do You Measure the Success of Your Automation?

Tom Kempster from Thames Valley Police talks about how they measure their automation success. While cash savings and opex reduction are factors, another equally important measure for his team is how they’re improving citizen experience and policing outcomes.

Tom Kempster, Thames Valley Police
Tom Kempster, Thames Valley Police

Managerial requirements, compliance, data quality, data health, and backend structures are other layers. And finally, they look at capacity release: where they can use RPA to bridge the gap between capacity and demand. Kempster’s team has set up a tiered hierarchy of measuring automation value, from high-level to operational metrics.

From this, Kempster’s team has found their business case isn’t a one-off activity. Rather, it’s an ongoing and evolving strategy of identifying where their digital workers can be deployed next, based on their changing goals year by year.

Do You Start with BPM or RPA?

Maureen Fleming, program vice president for IDC’s intelligent process automation research talks about the expanded framing of automation when turning your focus from task automation to business process improvement. A lot of people first getting into automation can find this transition challenging, and that’s where a good automation vendor makes all the difference.

Organizations starting with BPM often have different challenges than those starting with RPA, as Redbond shares. Those who first bring RPA into their systems often want to see human-in-the-loop (HITL) right away. That requires a basic amount of orchestration, but it’s not a full BPM-type orchestration. If you’re starting with BPM, the challenge is, “How do I make this efficient and how do I get value out of it?” since it requires more investment to roll out.

According to Fleming, as soon as HITL is brought in, the work becomes more complicated. Makhsos agrees, saying they turned to SS&C | Blue Prism® Director to solve their roadblocks. Director can address that orchestration challenge once you start scaling your automation. As an analyst, Fleming spends a lot of time focused on figuring out the middle orchestration tier and finding a solution.

Where Does Generative AI Fit into Intentional Automation?

Makhsos’ team isn’t using generative AI yet due to the nature of privacy and data protection, but he predicts in the near future we'll see a shift in security capabilities. Already he’s seeing expectations for people to use generative AI as a personal assistant to support some of their work: “From answering emails to answering an angry stakeholder that writes you, and ‘how should I answer this right?’ Ask ChatGPT to create it for you.” He sees the potential of this technology in creating a body for an API and inserting your own parameters.

To him, lowering the threshold is the first step. The next step is iterative and interactive development with AI, as we see with GitHub Copilot already used by automation & RPA developers to code faster. Level three, Makhsos says, will be root-cause analysis, debugging, self-healing, and eventually, possibly having AI manage the digital workforce.

Gentile sees generative AI as an opportunity to shrink development times. And once more regulated industries like finances can be more comfortable with the security of generative AI, it will likely play a role in future development.

How Do You Give Autonomy Back to the User?

Maureen Fleming, program vice president for IDC
Maureen Fleming, program vice president for IDC

Fleming sees a huge impact in giving users more autonomy, saying it will bring a lot of potential and changes to foundation models going forward.

There’s an ongoing battle in AI to be the safest and currently, open AI is not winning it – but we should be ready for when it gets there. Fleming predicts a lot of foundation model competition will arise with the development of these new technologies and she advises users to be careful when deciding which to choose.

Conversations with Our Customers

Our panel discussed a huge range of topics, from BPM and RPA to citizen development and generative AI. And these conversations don’t stop here. This is an ongoing relationship we want to maintain with our customers. We want you to be involved in how we develop new products and how we interact with evolving technologies.

We want to see you empower your people with intelligent automation just as much as we want to empower you to come with us on this automation journey.

Building the Next Generation with You

Over the course of the last few years, we’ve ensured the voice of our community of end-users is embedded in our product lifecycle. We’ve put down the foundations, but we want this process to be collaborative, iterative, and transparent.

If you’re an end-user of SS&C Blue Prism and want to get your hands in the design and feedback process of the next generation of our product, please raise your hand and join our Product Research Program today.

Watch the recording of our spring launch video to find out what else our customers said here!

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