Change your life with a new robot assistant

Katie Hollis FCG from Link Company Matters discusses Robotic Process Automation and gives top tips for anyone considering it.

The idea of a robot assistant sounds incredibly far-fetched, and still more likely to be the domain of science fiction than part of our working life. But if you think that your robot assistant could be a software application that can use a terminal to access other software applications, it’s not so crazy. In fact it’s called Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and is already working in some of world’s most forward-looking organisations. It is used to complete the routine processes and transactions that humans find boring, with the added benefits of enhanced speed, scale, security and accuracy.

RPA is seen by some as a potentially threatening development that will take away people’s jobs. However Professor Wilcocks, at LSE, believes that, ‘contrary to today’s worst fears, robotics could facilitate the rise not demise of the knowledge worker’. He is famously quoted as seeing the increase of service task automation ‘take the robot out of the human’ rather than put the human out of work, freeing people up to do more creative, complex and rewarding activities.

At our recent Changemakers workshop on Embracing Technology, we were intrigued and inspired to hear one company secretary’s story of how she’d harnessed the power of RPA.

Laura McNeil, Assistant Company Secretary, at technology provider Blue Prism, began using RPA to improve capacity in her small team at a time of big change. The secretariat were simultaneously juggling the demands of the annual report, AIM listing and executing an employee share plan of 500 awards across 15 countries. She decided to automate the share issue and whilst the process took a big investment in time and her own understanding of how the system worked, ultimately she benefited in executing the task that would have ordinarily taken several weeks in just half an hour. And when she was asked to issue a further thousand awards across 18 countries, it was a breeze.

Here are Laura’s top tips for anyone considering RPA

Do’s

  • Select a good target for automation – what takes up the most time?
  • Make sure that you understand every step involved in the task and create a process note to define each stage so that it is clear where it begins and ends
  • Sit alongside those creating the automation – they understand the programme and you understand the process – together you make a great team
  • Make sure you track how long it takes to complete a task in the traditional way so that you can provide a baseline against which to measure your automation gains
  • Identify additional benefits that RPA confers e.g. better security, speed of filing
  • Report on your achievement and build on established good practice.

Don’ts

  • Try implementing a new process and automation at the same time – it’s far too risky
  • Underestimate the time and work required in understanding processes
  • Listen to scaremongering – RPA frees people up to take on more interesting work, and after all, do you really want to be doing a job that a robot can do?

About the Changemakers: We are a group of company secretaries and governance professionals who are collaborating in a series of workshops across 2020. Our aim is to explore our changing profession, define what it means to be a changemaker in governance, and share our passion and experience with the wider community. This initiative is supported by a partnership between Link Company Matters and The Chartered Governance Institute. #Be the change

The author of this blog is Katie Hollis FCG, Director, Link Company Matters

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