Digital labour and process automation - KPMG Australia
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Digital labour and process automation in financial services: extracting value

Digital labour and process automation

While many organisations are starting on their automation journey, some are not prepared to maximise the opportunities it offers. By beginning small and with a strong strategy, the potential benefits are greater.


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Half man, Half robot

Robotics and process automation have become part of most financial organisations’ productivity and efficiency agendas. We see few clients that aren’t actively considering these technologies as a way of reducing manual labour on the high transaction, low complexity tasks across key parts of their organisation. So far the benefits realised have been mixed.

Many organisations are utilising process automation as part of their digital strategy, as a viable way of helping to keep their products and services accessible and relevant to their customers. Chat-bots and virtual assistants are becoming more prevalent in our European clients – but not without their challenges in terms of user experience and stability.

Whilst most of these organisations are early on their digital labour journey, we are 2 years into the experiment phase and so far many businesses have been disappointed by the tangible dollar value that they have been able to realise. Research claimed that around 30 percent of admin costs will be saved due to smart machines by as early as 2018, yet few organisations are achieving benefits even close to this now.

So where are they going wrong?

The technology to achieve revolutionary customer and business benefit is available, but what holds organisations back is the ability to enact the right change. Based on KPMG global client experience we have identified six common reasons why:

  1. Organisations have looked for opportunities to apply robotics rather than considering how customer experience and profitability could be achieved through various methods of process automation.
  2. Point solutions have been implemented rather redesigning entire processes, in turn creating inconsistency and risk.
  3. The change program is ‘owned’ by IT, not by the broader business responsible for delivery to customers.
  4. Robots are not plugged into IT release schedules (so when inputs change, robots aren’t changed).
  5. Solutions are only able to harvest ‘fingers and toes’ benefits, rather than re-thinking whole groups of activities or processes using process design techniques.
  6. Lack of active performance management for automation solutions, so intended benefits are never realised.

From our experience working with clients across our global financial services community, we believe there are a number of essential components to realising value from digital labour/automation:


1. Outline the strategic intent of automation

This should include communicating automation vision and benefits. Organisations which have achieved value from digital labour at scale are communicating the benefits as follows:

  • Employee satisfaction – Eliminating mundane, repetitive tasks allows employees to focus on strategic initiatives, thereby impacting the business in a more profound way and experiencing greater job satisfaction.
  • Scalability – Robots can scale instantaneously at digital speeds to respond to fluctuating workloads.
  • Performance – Allows an organisation to respond to customers 24/7, 365 days a yea
  • Control and regulatory compliance – The technologies keep the perfect audit trail, documenting every action taken and the outcome.
  • Quality – When configured properly there are no mistakes. 
  • Cost efficiency – Digital labour savings are estimated to be between three and 10 times the cost of implementing.


2. Rethink whole processes to deliver better customer outcomes using automation

Mortgage origination, KYC or on-boarding processes have been automated by some banks by rethinking the entire end-to-end process using several tools to deliver across the value chain. This requires a combination of process architects and solution architects working together, led by the business leader.


3. A rapid approach to implementation by selecting the right use-cases and technology

Successful organisations are driven first by customer needs, and then select the new technology. Those that are less successful look to the new technology first. Consider all possibilities across the process automation continuum including office robots, chat/voice bots, digital assistants, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, then cognitive technologies.


4. Consider the right organisational design and development for a virtual workforce

This requires role definition and capability development for all roles required to implement the process automation solutions (such as sponsor, designer, architects, analysts, change managers) and the roles and capabilities to then lead the digital labour in BAU (people leaders, sponsors, SMEs).


5. Using automation to achieve competitive advantage requires innovation and agility 

Those that have used process automation not just to reduce transactional administrative activities, but to provide a ‘world’s first’ to their customers, have often sourced their ideas from customer insights, drawn from data analytics, and from people within their own business. A visible pipeline of ideas generated from within the business is an effective way of keeping teams engaged and proactive, and ensuring the process automation can achieve enough scale quickly to make a positive impact.


6. A well designed operating model will allow for smart and effective scaling of digital labour technologies and benefits 

The digital labour operating model should scale with maturity. This has the following implications:

  • Start small with only the basic required processes in place to automate a few processes.
  • As digital labour solutions spread through the organisation, additional layers and roles should be added or scaled up within the operating model to ensure that the growth occurs in a structured and controlled manner.


7. Management of risk and security is a vital consideration, often missed 

Early engagement of Risk functions in the process is essential. Security risks range from the increased impact on cyber security, the risk of human error in programming, managing capacity of space and licencing, to business continuity if something goes wrong. Ensuring an audit trail by linking each robot to a personnel number and people leader is key.


The digital labour journey is a complex undertaking that can add significant risk and complexity to an organisation. The movement towards digital labour is coming faster than most clients have anticipated, and our experience shows that when done right, the benefits are real and significant. There a numerous insights and capabilities from our global and local client base that we can bring together to help organisations navigate this high-profile domain.


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