Driving operational excellence through automation: The Capita story

When business services expert Capita decided to embark on the world’s most ambitious automation project – it turned to ServiceNow to provide the right platform to drive this forward

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Working across the public and private sectors, Capita is involved in everything from the management of school libraries to payroll for NHS dentists. And with 35 million end users served every day, it oversees a truly enormous logistical operation bridging government, business customers – and more than 61,000 direct employees.

In 2019, Capita kicked off a project to introduce automation across its huge web of businesses and functions. To grasp quite how ambitious this has been as an undertaking, IDG spoke to Dr Grainne Watson, Capita’s director of automation practice.

Improving services and employee experience

“Our job is connecting businesses and customers with governments and citizens – basically helping things work better,” she explains on the ‘Innovate to Accelerate’ podcast series. The institutional focus is on “continuous and consistent innovation”, and this principle drives the whole automation project: “greater efficiency for everybody”.

The programme was established with two main goals in mind, internal and external improvements: “We wanted to improve the user experience for our own staff, and we wanted to improve how our services were delivered.”

But what does automation mean for Capita in real terms? Dr Watson references one particularly telling example, a healthcare provider which handles pension entitlements. Before automation, the process involved one person checking 82 regional databases and collating the information. It was, she admits, “extremely manual”, “very, very time-consuming” and “not always 100% accurate”.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was introduced to handle the hard work of crosschecking those databases. Efficiency has markedly improved and the job now takes about half the time. How was this achieved? “Purely by augmenting what a human does. We took the manual parts away, and let them focus on the important bit: getting the process done.”

Learning what automation can do for you

Automation isn’t about taking people’s jobs away – it’s about facilitating important tasks without obliging staff and clients to jump through awkward and unnecessary hoops. So while the technology that underpins the project is obviously vital, Capita has been determined to make education and communication a key part of its strategy. Every manager takes an introductory course to learn about what automation can do for them, while every business unit was asked to appoint an automation champion – which means the whole organisation can buy in from the top down and the bottom up.

“Everyone understands what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how it helps them,” says Dr Watson. “This is a central tenet of what we do – and it’s essential that everybody views it as such.”

ServiceNow has been at the heart of the entire project. Capita had had two false starts before approaching their Californian partners, but the third time worked the charm. With such a large project, external expertise is a must for when things inevitably go awry.

Saving 35,000 hours a year – with one process

Capita’s entire first-line automation support desk is now completely digital, operating ServiceNow’s tried-and-true platforms. Every single initial query is handled by bots, and issues are only ever elevated to a human engineer if the question can’t be answered automatically – “and we’re seeing that, frequently, a bot can.”

In fact, in one week last year, the ServiceNow platform handled an incredible 61,000 transactions.

“For some tasks, we’ve cut handling times by 50%, so you can imagine that’s absolutely transformative,” Dr Watson enthuses. The project is bubbling over with success stories; one private client, an insurance company, has saved itself 35,000 hours a year after a single process was automated.

“We wanted to be able to be continually and consistently innovative, and we feel that ServiceNow provides us with the best opportunity to do that,” she continues. “The platform has integrity. There is a clear schedule of upgrades coming and more features to unlock – and that means we can be consistent with what we’re building.”

ServiceNow delivers digital workflows which transform old-fashioned, manual ways of working into modern digital workflows that create great experiences and unlock productivity. You can learn more about Capita’s automation story, and how the ServiceNow platform has powered its automation project, by clicking here to listen to our podcast interview with Dr Watson. Alternatively, click here to read the full case study.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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