CoreLogic A/NZ operations leader, Sarah Edwards, can now confidently say she knows a thing or two about robots.
Certainly, that wasn’t the case eight months ago when she was completely new to the robotics game and still wet behind the ears.
But now she’s spearheading the company’s robotics process automation (RPA) program. And she’s not only comfortable and planning for the future, but already seeing tangible results – and it’s still early days.
“We’re in the middle of our robotics journey at the moment in terms of that being operationally-led, so it’s very exciting times for us,” Edwards told CIO Australia.
As the head of operations, Edwards leads a team of 200 staff across its customer service operations, data acquisition operations, telesales and offshore operations.
CoreLogic’s Sarah Edwards
CoreLogic Australia, formerly RP Data, is a property data and analytics service provider.
“We’re here to help people find, acquire and protect their homes and all of that is powered by our property data, and that requires us to have really strong data entry and verification processes. That for us has been the primary focus for robotics today.
“We’re only about eight months into our robotics journey, so the focus at the moment is very much about automating the opportunities that enable us to take both cost out of the business, but also repurpose our staff onto higher value add functions.”
In addition to the data entry and verification processes, she said the company has also started to automate reporting and fulfillment processes, which is creating opportunities to beef up customer service.
“For me, it’s all about improving that end customer experience with CoreLogic.”
She said the next step in CoreLogic’s robotics journey is to start using attended bots – a move that will see the company go beyond automating generic processes.
“The next step for us is enablement. Enabling our staff to have a bot partner with them, so the attended bot concept. We’d like to roll out attended bots partnering with our staff to make some of those simple decisions automated within a workflow process, and then enabling staff to focus on that final expertise judgement call.”
Essentially, the bot can make single decisions within a workflow process, helping staff to focus on the final expertise-based judgement calls as part of their role.
“We’re really excited about that as the next frontier for us. For me, that’s achieving that vision of a bot and a human metaphorically working arm-in-arm with each other, which is a really exciting place to be.”
As part of CoreLogic’s journey, the company selected UiPath as its RPA partner. It was a necessary move, Edwards said, explaining many of the back office processes (data entry, verification and report generation) have been in place for the past decade.
“For me, it’s been the next logical step in that evolution. Whilst we’re only really at the beginning of our journey we’ve seen some stunning results in those first few months. We had a manual process that had a duration previously of two hours, which had to be repeated hundreds of times in a month, and it now takes six minutes without human intervention.
‘Bots won’t replace human-led customer service’
At the same time, Edwards said focusing on change management and staff culture is also important – and a top challenge – when undertaking a robotics journey.
“I do believe it’s a change management program that you need to run. For us, it was really important for us to set the scene on what robotics looked like for CoreLogic, assuring that our staff are clear that it’s not to replace human-led customer service culture or diminish the accuracy of our products and services.
“Our approach was to make it real and be as transparent as possible on the processes that we targeted for automation. We even went so far as to create videos of a ‘bot in action’ to ensure everyone was very clear on how it works. This is alleviating any cause for concern.”
As such, it’s crucial firms properly communicate how the bots will be used within the organisation in order to allay fears.
“There’s been a lot of hype created around the flashy statement: ‘The bots are coming to steal your jobs.’ So making it real in your organisation around how you plan to use bots can alleviate some of that fear and misconception.”
Engagement is vital
When rolling out an RPA program, Edwards said it’s important to engage in the design process.
“Engaging in the design stage is incredibly important. Like any other business, our processes touch multiple departments. They weave through from initiation to completion and we certainly found that when developing the bots.”
Additionally, “when you do shine a bot light on it” – onto manual processes that have been manual for so many years – she said expect a lot of interest from a host of stakeholders, which was welcomed at CoreLogic.
The trick, she said, is to get stakeholder feedback early in the piece – ideally before the development phase.
“We had a situation where we were getting feedback whilst we were in development and that caused re-works. We’ve certainly learnt from that to make sure we broaden our stakeholder engagement at the onset.
“There’s a risk that you simply automate your current processes today. So it’s really important to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘If we design this process from scratch, how would we optimise it?’ One of the processes that we optimised we were able to take 60 per cent of the steps out of it.”
Finally, don’t think about the program from simply a user interface (UI) process perspective, she urged.
“Don’t just think about it from the clicks on the user interface. Is there an API that could be used for this? Is there a database that could be hit up to enable this process to be even more effective than just simply automating what someone does today.
“That’s been a great learning for us.”