Building a tight-knit community

Sep 23, 2019
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The following article by Invest Lithuania’s Senior Investment Advisor Monika Vilkelytė first appeared in the Outsourcing&More magazine. You can find the original here.

Lithuania’s strategic approach to RPA development.

Despite its proven value, one issue is holding back the implementation of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in GBS – the fact that centres are basically on their own when it comes to getting funding, creating strategies, finding talent, and training it up. Support from mother companies can be erratic. This is sometimes due to lack of awareness, or trust in, automated systems. But most often it results from the misplaced fear that RPA inevitably leads to employees being laid off. Meanwhile, assistance and support from governments and other partners remains minimal. However, driven by its goal of becoming the regional hub for RPA, Lithuania is following a different approach, one that revolves around community and support.

Robo-tops…

RPA is the hot topic in GBS. This use of software programmed to carry out repeatable tasks offers centres a huge range of benefits, including reduced costs and increased productivity. No surprise then that, according to KPMG, 72% of GBS leaders have made RPA their top service delivery priority. Everest Group’s survey found that around 25% of centres have successfully implemented RPA. The RPA ball is clearly rolling.

…or robo-flops?

Yet implementation remains slower than expected. The reason? Recent research by Invest Lithuania and Create Lithuania identified two problem areas for centres – talent and strategy. Regarding talent, centres have difficulties finding RPA specialists. Many of them train up talents only to see them snapped up by competitors. This skills gap feeds in to a second issue – strategy. Deciding which functions to automate, and how, is proving challenging. Consultants are one option, but they are expensive, especially for pilot projects. Instead, RPA is typically developed ad hoc, with team members optimising their workflow using hot keys or Excel macros and then rolling out these solutions. This bottom up approach has merits, but needs to be complemented by a clear strategy.

Ultimately, because centres lack support when training specialists or developing strategies, RPA implementation is taking longer and costing more than it should.

Building connections for RPA success

The solution is to facilitate knowledge sharing and develop expertise. Recognising this, Invest Lithuania, the country’s FDI agency, has partnered with Create Lithuania, a program for professional development and the applicability of best foreign practices to create a future of modern Lithuania, to develop a concentrated RPA hub that brings in all players, from GBS centers to various service providers, as well as leading universities.

Its first step was to have in-depth conversations with key GBS players. This revealed some important insights: a strong business case is key for starting the RPA journey; companies are disincentivized from training talent for risk of losing it; and support is needed for the entire journey to Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), not just the RPA stage.

Armed with this understanding, they are now organising the first of many community meet ups, where attendees will get an introduction to RPA’s advantages, plus examples of technical use cases. This eventually will kickstart knowledge exchange, with RPA know-how made available to everyone involved in GBS industry. In support of this initiative, the government is investing into tools and incentives to help GBS centres adopt best RPA practices.

The second step is to ensure a supply of high calibre talent trained in RPA. To achieve this, Invest Lithuania is partnering with two universities and a software provider to launch a dedicated programme for RPA. This programme is aimed at both current students and professionals looking to become RPA developers. By boosting the availability of talent, this programme aims to make it easier for local GBS centres, especially smaller ones, to start RPA initiatives. It will also provide added impetus to the field, accelerating the development of the whole process automation ecosystem.

“Optimized and accelerated processes”

While Lithuania’s strategic approach to RPA is recent, it is already bearing fruit. 34% of centres have implemented RPA solutions, and over one third of these are moving towards full IPA, having already deployed autonomic and advanced automation systems. In total, 85% of the centres in Lithuania are developing RPA solutions in-house. And there are already notable success stories. One centre in Lithuania has already saved close to 100,000 human hours through its RPA, freeing up staff to work on higher value tasks.

And one of Lithuania’s largest GBS centres, Western Union, managed to automate over 1 million tasks last year. As Gintautas Jonutis, Director of Automation and Robotics, explains, the benefits have already been significant. – The technology has optimized and accelerated our internal processes, and reduced errors and even risks. – Unsurprisingly, the centre is already looking at next steps. – We are actively increasing our investments in automation and going beyond RPA in order to impact a wider range of processes, especially end-to-end work flows, where you are dealing with unstructured data and human interaction – Mr. Jonutis explains.

Transforming GBS together

What is driving Lithuania’s focus on RPA? The answer is its potential to transform the way GBS works, and the country’s desire to be at the forefront of this seismic shift. McKinsey and KPMG forecast that these technologies will fundamentally alter the role of centres. They will become value creators driving digital transformation across whole organizations.

As a result, the strategic value of these offices will increase, as will the level of competence required to work in them. And Lithuania believes this will make them valuable contributors to a maturing economy. Supporting centres through this transformation and helping them climb the value chain will create new employment opportunities and positively impact the economy.

Lithuania’s aim is to become the region’s best-in-class process automation hub. And its efforts to nurture the RPA ecosystem are a very important step in realizing this ambition.

Download the full Business Services Report here.

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