If it can be automated, it should be and will be. Increasingly that’s the strategy for telecom providers and other digital businesses looking for ways to maximize employee productivity, revenue and customer satisfaction, all while minimizing human error.
Of course, automation has been around for decades in multiple forms, including macros, business process management and, more recently, software-defined networking (SDN). But as my new TM Forum Quick Insights report, Robotic process automation: Rise of the machines, explains, interest and implementations are increasing thanks to a variety of market trends, new technologies and new mindsets.
One of those technologies is robotic process automation (RPA), a broad, deep category of tools for automating business, network and operational processes. For example, Prodapt Solutions says its Telebots RPA platform can complete business processes three times faster than humans while enabling automation levels between 50 and 80 percent.
This efficiency and expediency dovetails nicely with trends such as self-service, which most consumers now say they prefer over speaking with a live agent. For customers who prefer the human touch, or who have needs too complex for self-service, automation means the contact center, technical support and other staff now have more time to provide a ‘white glove’ service. There are other benefits too.
Like human agents, the robots are vendor agnostic and don’t use APIs, making it cheaper and faster to implement RPA than if the vendor had to do a lot of deep, custom integration.
RPA vs. macros
RPA is similar to macros – which record frequent processes and then serve them up to an employee so they don’t have to waste time doing them manually – in the sense that neither requires programming skills. That helps makes RPA and macros attractive to operations teams, which typically lack those skills, and to their IT colleagues, who would have to provide them. But unlike macros, robots don’t have to be recreated every time there’s even a minor change in the application they use, such as the position of a field on one screen.
There’s another, unfortunate way that RPA is similar to other forms of automation: They’re not implemented as widely as they could be because businesses often fear losing control of important processes. For example, SDN is proven to be much faster and much less error-prone than humans when it comes to responding to security threats and traffic loads. Yet many SDN implementations still center around alerts going to people who then decide what to do.
But there are plenty of real-world deployments that show why digital businesses shouldn’t be afraid to let robots take their reins. One recent example is Windstream, which is using RPA for directory assistance and is considering it for other applications, such as order entry. The company believes that a solid framework of rules – such as when to alert a human, and how to ensure the robots get all of the information they need to perform each task correctly – is key for using automation widely, including in the network.
“I think if you have clean information and a very clean process, the possibilities are endless,” says Chris McCasland, Vice President, SVD Operations.
For more on what RPA could do for your business, download the free report, Robotic process automation: Rise of the machines.