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Automation: Delivering value in a crisis.

Long before the COVID-19 health pandemic many businesses were working to digitise and automate their processes to improve response times to their customers, alleviate strain on their workers and streamline operations. Automation delivers benefits in normal business environments, but in a dynamic or crisis environment the value of automation really comes to light with its capacity to adapt to change and to absorb strain. We’ve seen some great examples across our clients where their automation initiatives, particularly using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have responded to the demands of the new operating environment. These automation use cases have had a big impact in alleviating stress and providing continuity of service during this difficult time.

Service Interruption Automation

Many people are applying for changes in service or extensions for things such as education courses, travel itineraries and loan repayments. Automating as much of this process as possible can improve response times, minimise stress and protect long term relationships with your customers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, one of the first groups of people impacted were international students attempting to return from overseas for the start of the year. At a large University we work with, we had previously digitised a number of student processes, leveraging Business Process Management (BPM) and RPA technologies, allowing students to extend and interrupt their studies in addition to requesting fee refunds.

As the Australian government tightened restrictions on international flights, the University needed a way to report on the number of students withdrawing or interrupting their studies due to COVID-19. Since the business process had already been digitised, it was simply a matter of incorporating an additional COVID-19 ‘reason’ on the form and this change was implemented almost immediately providing the business with exactly the data they required.

As shown in the above chart, prior to COVID-19 there were approximately 100 requests for international student withdrawal or interruption per month. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the University saw numbers start to increase across February and peak in March with almost 3000 applications. Despite the peak in the number of requests, there has been no impact to response or processing time or system performance as shown below.

HR & Payroll Process Automation

Job positions are rapidly changing in this climate. Many industries are seeing mass hibernation or job losses while the supermarket industry is hiring at a rate of knots. Automating hire, position changes and termination processes can ease the burden and get workers on the ground where they’re needed.

As part of a large HR transformation program we implemented UiPath to automate hire, position change and termination processes. This involved analysing the required process interactions between the Human Capital Management and Payroll systems and designing the most appropriate automation patterns to meet the business requirements.

Financial Work Order Process Automation

During this time of social distancing there are still businesses who have workers performing services on client sites. To ensure contact can be avoided, workers can be required to enter data into systems (internal or the clients’) to validate job completion for payment.

A Fire and Security organisation we worked with had an existing manual process to generate a daily report of jobs finished and closed in their Dynamics 365 system and then complete the job Closedown form for the corresponding job in the Facilities Management Portal (City FM). This took 5+ minutes to run the job plus an additional 5 minutes per job to complete.

This process was fully automated using the UiPath Connector for Dynamics 365 and browser automation for the CityFM portal and is based on the Robotic Enterprise Framework (REF). The robot takes an average of 30 seconds to close a job, most of which is waiting for the CityFM portal to load the required pages.

Automating processes that are experiencing significant increases in demand during this stressful period will ease some of the burden on your business and keep you connected to your customers. We partner with market leading RPA provider UiPath, their customers have shared some further use cases here: Examples of customers using automation to respond to drastic shifts in demand.

Author Details
Simon McCabe
Simon McCabe
Chief Commercial Officer
Simon has over 20 years’ experience in business-to-business environments, working with clients to understand their needs and deliver bespoke and efficient solutions. Simon’s core expertise is in educating and communicating to the corporate sector on the risks and opportunities from new market dynamics.
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