How UK CIOs are using Robotic Process Automation

A quickly emerging technology, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) involves programming software bots to perform repeatable tasks and automate certain business processes. It can be deployed to automate mundane business tasks and promises great efficiency gains for organisations willing to make the leap.

Here, CIO UK looks at some of the top IT leaders using RPA within their organisations today.

Read more: How UK CIOs are using automation

Graeme Fletcher, Connect Health CIO

Graeme Fletcher, Connect Health CIO

Connect Health CIO Graeme Fletcher has been investigating the use of advanced technologies to improve musculoskeletal patient care.

When it comes to RPA specifically he has been working with the vendor Thoughtonomy’s Intelligent Automation cloud platform, to automate repetitive tasks by replacing human labour with virtual workers.

“We don’t talk about robots; we talk about virtual workers,” Fletcher told CIO UK. “And we’ve introduced it to the team as they’re getting some new people in their team, it’s just that they’re not going to be sat next to you but they’re here to help you – what might you want them to do?”

The process initially started with registering patients onto clinical systems, a task which traditionally took a lot of time from staff based on the need to register over 1,000 patient referrals a day in the space of 48 hours.

According to Fletcher, the Thoughtonomy platform has enabled Connect Health to do twice as many registrations a day by automatically completing the process overnight.

Read more: Connect Health CIO deploys digital workers to streamline processes

William Hewish, Pets at Home CIO

William Hewish, Pets at Home CIO

Following six years as CIO of United Utilities, William Hewish was appointed as Pets at Home CIO in December 2018.

Hewish had previously spent his time at the water company delivering a number of digital solutions for customers and staff, including the automation of over 20,000 hours of work using robotic process automation (RPA).

“Automation comes from automating the plant in the same way that you would automate a factory, and that’s where operations technology and the Internet of Things come into play,” he told CIO UK in an interview. “But there’s also back-office automation. We’re on a programme right now of rolling out robotic process automation (RPA) and we’re taking tasks that are very manual, very people-intensive and automating those using robots. That’s been really successful.”

Read more: United Utilities CIO William Hewish interview - Automation for the people

Matthew Scott, Orbis CIO

Matthew Scott, Orbis CIO

Orbis CIO Matthew Scott has been in control of helping the organisation transform its IT and digital structure.

Since shifting to a single IT department, Scott has been focusing on innovation using AI and automation. “We’ve introduced and set up a robotics lab, so we’re about a year or so into the development of a robotics RPA capability,” he told us.

“To be honest we started off fairly experimental, and what we were looking at doing is applying the robotics to fairly low-level task automation and clear process backlogs.”

“That was mainly within the back office, but we’ve actually just started scaling it corporately to support our wider transformation plan. So the use of RPA has been the priority in the last 12 months and alongside that, we plan to develop a server-based chatbot capability.”

Read more: How Orbis CIO Matthew Scott merged the best of three IT departments together

Phil Turnock, NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCG CDO

Phil Turnock, NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCG CDO

Chief Digital Officer of NHS East and North Hertfordshire CCG Phil Turnock has turned to RPA to redeploy over 5,000 tasks to bots, such as setting up new user accounts.

“This is very much about how we use things like robotics and technology to free up clinical time to make us focus on clinical activities,” Turnock told CIO UK. “It’s not about cost reduction, it’s about making better use of our resources.”

Turnock has further plans to roll out RPA into repeatable processes outside of IT and within both corporate and clinical areas of the organisation.

Read more: NHS East & North Herts CCG CDO: shared services helps us deliver more

Chris Youles, Open University CIO

Chris Youles, Open University CIO

Open University CIO Chris Youles has introduced the use of RPA within IT services to assess how student progression can be supported better.

According to Youles, RPA has been helping to automate standard processes and free up staff time to add value where it counts.

“Technology is very much at the heart of everything that goes on at the OU and therefore, is very closely aligned with the busy strategy and overall aims of the university,” Youles told us.

“I think in the more traditional tech space, such as the non-learning environment like student administration, a huge amount of innovation is going into the way that we make sure that our students are attracted to the right courses. We’re an open university, which means that we often need to point students to some access courses, so we use fairly innovative technology to direct them onto the right ones.”

Read more: CIO Chris Youles on the keys to the Open University's digital transformation journey

Colin Rees, Group CIO, Franchise Brands

Colin Rees, Group CIO, Franchise Brands

Group CIO of Franchise Brands, Colin Rees, has been tasked with the duty to modernise the organisations technology capability.

Starting with the implementation of cloud-based infrastructure to improve overall reliability and performance, to voice recognition technology to route calls automatically, Rees has also introduced RPA to integrate the brands’ internal systems with some of its larger customers.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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