Home Bots & Business RR Exclusive with Gavin Mee: ‘RPA has come of age in the pandemic’

RR Exclusive with Gavin Mee: ‘RPA has come of age in the pandemic’

by Gary Flood

Enterprise software industry veteran Gavin Mee–who’s held leadership roles at Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle–became Managing Director of UK & Ireland at RPA leader UiPath in December. We were lucky enough to be the first press to speak to him about his new role.

Hello Mr Mee, and congratulations on your appointment. Can you start by reminding us of UiPath’s main message around automation?

RPA software robots can take over repetitive and time-consuming tasks, leaving employees with more time to collaborate, attend to customers or use the time to be creative, innovate and grow the businesses. If a software robot can save an employee just 20 minutes a day, this will free up two extra work weeks a year and it’s because of this that UiPath believes in ultimately providing a robot for every person.

Our main goal is for every employee to use, create and benefit from automation. We believe every business should be a software business, and, by offering everyone the opportunity to receive RPA training via UiPath Academy, our open platform, we hope to bring automation to citizen developers around the world. As a result of embracing automation, employees in businesses and public sector organisations everywhere will be equipped with the tools to make their lives easier and their jobs more enjoyable.

How long has your company been active in the UK?

UiPath set up its first office in London back in 2016, and has since supported many customers who have been able to use automation to solve real-life business problems, drive competitiveness, and increase customer satisfaction. We started our journey by helping customers such as the Admiral Group, a financial services intermediary, which started introducing software robots into their operations that same year and soon after set up an automation Center of Excellence (COE) to support the scaling up of their automation projects.  We’ve also started supporting the Royal Mail soon after, working alongside to take its automation projects from the proof-of-concept stage in 2017 to the scaling-up phase–work which, between 2018/19 alone, delivered over £4.5 million in value to the business.

What kind of companies have bought RPA from you? Can you name names and offer one or two brief use cases of RPA success, say?

With pleasure. We work with a wide range of sectors, from government to retail and healthcare to telecoms. One example is EDF Energy, which is using software robots to increase the efficiency of operations and at the same time extend the services it could offer to other business operations within an internal EDF Financial Shared Services Centre. Alongside automating its own processes, the centre saw an opportunity in marketing its RPA expertise to other support centers inside the company, such as HR and IT.

In the public sector, NHS Shared Business Services is another great use case for RPA. It’s investing in RPA on behalf of the NHS, supporting NHS organisations to achieve higher quality of service, reduce costs, and reduce the burden of repetitive, high-volume tasks on their staff.

Can you tell us a bit more?

At the start of its RPA journey, NHS SBS assessed its around 850 financial processes covering reconciliations, invoice payment, cash flow, debt collection and more, to see which of them are suitable for automation. The team soon identified that almost half of them could be automated, kick-starting a large-scale automation development and deployment that enabled NHS SBS to embed software robots into over 250 of these processes.

The result has been increased efficiency and capacity building, as they can now rely on a full automation ecosystem. The organisation can now deliver a new robot–or a series of software robots, depending on the complexity of the process it is designed to tackle–in only eight weeks, half the time it needed at the start of its automation journey.

What effect has COVID had on UK RPA take-up, do you think?

The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way many of us work. Almost overnight businesses were expected to adapt to a working-from-home culture and less than favorable economic circumstances. Companies were expected to restructure their workplace in order to continue serving their customers, keep their employees safe and ensure their business survived and thrived.

Many looked to technology to meet the challenges of the pandemic, especially RPA. In fact, research from Forrester in May 2020 showed that 48% of global business leaders said their organisations were increasing spend on RPA in the next year by five per cent or more.

One simple example of how businesses have used RPA to battle the realities of COVID-19 is automating invoice processing. By doing so, there is no need for employees to put themselves at risk by going into the office and manually printing, signing, scanning and processing incoming invoices. Not only does this save time and money, it also helps to keep employees safe at home.

Is the UK behind or ahead of other advanced economies when it comes to RPA?

Britain certainly needs more robots if it’s going to continue to deal with the challenges of COVID-19. However, far from lagging behind, our experience shows that the UK is actually one of four leading economies to adopt automation of white-collar office tasks. Recent UiPath research showed, for instance, that 73% of UK firms expect their operating costs to improve as a result of automating business processes, while 65% predict revenue growth and 62% forecasting increased profitability through its use.

What do you see happening for RPA in 2021 in the UK?

The use of RPA is going to accelerate. As Jacqueline de Rojas, president of the UK tech industry trade body techUK, recently said in discussion with us, “You can’t uninvent technology.” RPA has come of age in the pandemic and, as with so many other existing trends, has been accelerated by it.

The message out of that has to be that the time to automate is now. Organisations are increasingly investing in automation to digitise workflows, and this will continue at pace. This is because automation is critical for securing market advantage at a time when the business climate has never been so competitive.

Those who ignore this huge shift towards automation do so at their own risk.

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