How to implement robotics without ‘automation anxiety’ – a Baker Tilly case study

How to implement robotics without ‘automation anxiety’ – a Baker Tilly case study

The accountancy and advisory firm reveals how robotic process automation software from NICE has saved them time and money

How to implement robotics without ‘automation anxiety’ – a Baker Tilly case study

In a special edition of our Tech CEO Q&A series, Baker Tilly’s director of innovation Waqqas Mahmood and NICE’s Oded Karev explain how NICE automation software transformed the way they work. Now, a process which began with Real Estate Investment Trusts is being rolled out to tax and cyber security processes.

How did the collaboration between Baker Tilly and NICE come about?

Oded: NICE is a big software provider with about $1bn in revenue. We’ve been around for 30 years and our core solutions were always customer-services based, recording calls made by agents and providing speech analytics, for example. In 2010, NICE acquired a company called Eglue, which was doing a kind of process automation which is today known as robotic automation, focused on enhancing performance in contact centres. This evolved into a standalone robotic process automation (RPA) business, which provides automation above and beyond contact centres – for HR, supply chain, finance, and so on.

Waqqas: Baker Tilly was in the process of acquiring a lot of firms, and I was brought in to integrate and automate a lot of these firms. I reached out to NICE as we were starting our automation journey and looking for partners to help us. My criteria was compliance, and I was interested in how it was going to integrate with our system end-to-end. I wanted one vendor, a one-stop shop.

Which area was the RPA focused on to begin with?

Waqqas: We focused on real estate investment trusts (REIT). You deal with a lot of clients, and it is a very repetitive, mundane process. It was a great candidate for automation. We asked ourselves: what is the automation potential? We realised that 60-70 percent of it could be automated. A task which took 15 minutes manually could be done by the robot in five.

What are the benefits of using automation with REIT?

Waqqas: Our employees could now have more one-on-one discussions with partners – a much more strategic conversation, what I would describe as high-value work. Now we are doing a better job at describing our findings. We have time to sit down and analyse the results. The quality has gone up but we are charging clients less money.

Did you have any teething problems?

Waqqas: The first problem is automation anxiety, as I like to call it. People think ‘what will it mean for my team? Will we be eliminated, or will it affect our relationship with clients?’ We had an education programme so employees would better understand this. Standardisation was our next challenge: acquisitions tend to do things their way. Evolving roles was another thing we had to address. People who used to sit in front of spreadsheets can now project ahead for the next 10, 20 years.

When it comes to implementing automation, where do you see yourselves in relation to the rest of the industry?

Waqqas: We implemented this around fall [autumn] last year, so only one quarter has been delivered. We were able to bill the client for less money as we saved so much money in overheads. We are catching up with the Big Four, but we are definitely ahead among the mid-tier firms.

Do you have any plans to automate other processes at Baker Tilly?

Waqqas: We have five other NICE products for RPA we are delivering over the coming weeks. We have a tax process we are automating, and we have built a system which automates cyber security checks. GDPR has made this more imperative.

How do you decide which tasks still need a human touch?

Waqqas: There are some tasks the human can oversee while the robot does some of it. For instance, you can get the robot to flag up any transaction over $5,000, but what about a transaction of £4,999? The human will be able to spot that.

Oded: Many vendors will install the robot on the server. We can do that when it fits, but we can also install the robot on the actual desktops, where it can do specific tasks while the employee is working on other things.

This goes a long way to alleviating “automation anxiety.” The employee still has control – the robot just does the repetitive mundane tasks.

 

 

 

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