How advertising giant Dentsu’s using RPA to “elevate our people’s potential and enable them to do the creative, strategic, and high value work that provides value to clients”
London -based Dentsu International is a global advertising and public relations leader, offering best-in-class services and solutions in media, customer experience management, and creative, it operates in over 145 markets worldwide and has over 45,000 dedicated specialists on staff.
In 2017, the firm found itself facing a specific business problem: junior/mid-level employees were struggling with workload by taking on high volume, low-value tasks which were business critical but highly manual and repetitive. These tasks, its Chief Technology Officer, Shiva Vannavada, told RockingRobots, were mostly focused on amedia bill pay business process that relied on legacy third party applications.
“The output from these processes had a high margin of error; not because people were not doing their work, but because people are not meant to be manual transcribing over 3,000 invoices from an Excel file to an antiquated user interface each week,” he notes.
“A 95% reduction in manual effort, happier employees, and dramatically fewer errors”
Dentu’s managers decided to step in and end the tedium and the burnout, and implemented a number of RPA proofs of concept to, in his words, “Elevate our people’s potential and enable them to do the creative, strategic, and high value work that excites them and provides value to our clients.”
Eventually, UiPath was chosen as the ideal partner for achieving this, as Dentsu felt it offered a holistic automation platform of which RPA is a key product/component. The company believes it has now developed a “very strong” automation capability for its industry, and will continue to work so that the company can experience the benefits that come with a digital workforce.
How this journey started: Vannavada stresses that the idea was not to automate any bad processes, but to use the introduction of robots to fix things. For example, his team identified an issue where suppliers/publishers were submitting invoices for different amounts than had been expected, but instead of just wrapping RPA on top of the reconciliation process, the issue was traced upstream from the back office to the mid-office where it seemed team members were not always clear on the right calculations to perform when actualising spends.
“We solved this by using RPA to proactively pull data from various sources and run the transformation/calculations based on our supplier terms and conditions, then notify the suppliers what we were expecting to be invoiced weeks prior to them even generating the invoice,” he states. “As a result, in this one process we have seen up to a 95% reduction in manual effort, happier employees, and dramatically fewer errors.”
That isn’t the only metric of success Vannavada offered us for the impact of automation at his company. “In the initial stages of automation/RPA, we were acutely focused on reduction in manual effort hours and tying cost against those hours,” he says. “This was the cleanest and most agreeable way for us to show ROI for the investment.” And since 2017, he goes on, RPA projects have saved over 125,000 hours of work directly but also “exponentially more” hours from preventing manual re-work.
New metrics for workplace success
But as we heard, RPA at Dentu isn’t just about rationalising processes, and is is eager to show how. And intriguingly, his colleague Brian Klochkoff, Head of Automation, Americas, sees it as part of a structured move to a genuinely blended, human-software workforce:
“We are now more interested in learning how RPA qualitatively enables and empowers our people to be their brilliant selves. From the top-down, we will always be looking at manual hours reduced, exception rates, number of ideas/solutions, process cycle times, and other KPIs via our orchestration insights; but we are keen to evolve beyond that soon, but now that they have a complementary digital workforce working side by side with them, we are looking to better understand how citizen developers and automation consumers qualify their employee experience via employee testimonials, automation community building, and peer to peer knowledge sharing and engagement. And as we gradually shift from a manual effort, hourly based KPI, we are looking at metrics such as employee satisfaction, retention rates, internal mobility, promotability, and so on.”
Next steps for RPA at Dentu centre on enabling the automation capability within our functions and service lines through solutions that have meaningful business impact, low maintenance, and business owned sustainability. To achieve this. But that original vision remains in place: “As we seek to elevate our people’s potential by integrating automation and AI into everything we do, we continue to push the limits on how RPA can be applied for the betterment of our employee experience,” he confirms.
See also this article on Dentsu and RPA