Our journey and motivations to increase the intelligence of virtual workers – A reflection by Digital Workforce Head of AI, Gaurav Khullar

Recently, I’ve been devouring myself into critically thinking about innovation. Can there be a scientific framework for creating innovation and using it for the prosperity of businesses and humanity? Or does innovation happen due to random sparks of brilliance and ingenuity of the human brain. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Only innovation that results from solving someone’s need or want and is packaged at the right price will prosper.

There has been a lot of hullabaloo around Artificial Intelligence in the recent past and the fire has been further fuelled by media reports about spectacular AI achievements e.g. Deepmind’s AlphaGo, Microsoft’s machine translation reaching levels of human performance and many others. Sceptics or rationalists (as they may like to call themselves) would rather question the impact that such AI will have on humanity. Believers, on the other hand, would like to believe that AI will one day become a superpower.

For an organization like Digital Workforce, the goal is to create AI that will always empower humans rather than overpower them. Humans will be empowered if AI can help them in: a) making decisions that are unbiased and objective and require a lot of computation and data mining that is unwieldy for a human b) getting more satisfaction from their jobs by automating their routine tasks so that they can focus on more creative tasks.

Automation of routine tasks has been possible for many years by using automation scripts. However, more elaborate and industrialized commercial software have started to appear since the last couple of years. These software applications have gained the name of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The RPA applications have not been as glorified as ML, but they have been providing a lot of value and the RPA industry is expected to be in multi-billion USD range by 2021.

What is especially interesting for me as an AI practitioner is the convergence of ML/AI and RPA. RPA robots have the limitations that the business rules have to be manually pre-programmed and they can only process structured digital data. They can therefore only automate a fraction of business processes where the format of digital data is structured and pre-defined. Also, these robots are not good learners – they don’t have the “digital brain” to learn patterns and rules from data. That said, their strength is that they can work with any existing IT application which means that cost of automation using RPA is minimal. RPA software also has the capability to integrate with AI components using REST API calls – this capability is a huge enabler to use AI as the brain and RPA agents as the hands to execute business processes.

The limitations of RPA no longer hold it back as integrated AI models can understand and process unstructured and unformatted data for it (including in non-digital format e.g. text in paper documents). Such a capability is termed as Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). The IPA market is an order of magnitude larger than the RPA market.

We at Digital Workforce are on a journey to create an IPA platform – a digital brain force for our RPA agents so that they can automate tasks requiring higher order of “brain” function. Hopefully, this will unlock a tremendous amount of business value which can be reinvested to develop more meaningful and innovative experiences. Our hope is that our innovation will fuel and empower corporations to further their own innovativeness.

Would you like to join us on the journey? We are growing our AI team! Find out more here.

 

Gaurav is responsible for defining, developing and delivering Digital Workforce’s AI strategy. He joined Digital Workforce from a Senior Manager & AI Lead for Data Science role at Accenture. He has strong experience in AI, e.g. context aware computing, personalised customer experience, churn prediction, econometric forecasting and predictive maintenance, gained from his previous positions at Nokia, Microsoft, Tecnotree, Accenture and a few co-founded start-ups. He has worked with technologies like Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Recommendation Systems and Deep Learning.

Contact: Gaurav Khullar Head of AI, Digital Workforce, +358 50 482 1216 gaurav.khullar@digitalworkforce.fi

Want to learn more about the latest developments in AI and how intelligent solutions can benefit your business? Gaurav hosts a monthly expert interview webinar series. Access all interviews free on ai.digitalworkforce.eu 

Workforce Management: Manage your virtual workforce real-time where ever you are!

Digital Workforce has developed its own mobile and desktop application to improve the management and result reporting of RPA based digital workforce. The Workforce Management application is already in test use and is soon made available for all Digital Workforce cloud service customers as part of the Robot-as-a-Service package.

The idea for Workforce Management originated from a customer survey that mapped customers’ wishes and needs in managing their digital workforce. The survey highlighted that organizations wanted an easily accessible and real-time channel for tracking their digital workers. The wish was motivated by the desire to attain general peace of mind, control and the ability to further develop operations.

Traditional applications offered only limited tools for monitoring and management and didn’t correspond well with the customers’ needs who wanted to know exactly what their robots had done and whether everything went as planned. The first application version of Workforce Management was quickly created and further developed in co-operation with Digital Workforce customers.

Digital Workforce developed the application for the BP platform to perform searches and present the information in a user-friendly format. Using Workforce Management, the customer organization’s admins are able to check the status, reports and performance of their robotic workforce at any time on a computer or mobile device. The application is also security-audited in May 2018.

The easy-to-use visual application integrates the management of digital workforce to the everyday life of the business and brings them better in touch with their virtual resources. In addition, the application helps the business management to further develop their use of digital workers and to identify new opportunities for their use.

Automation super week: Sign up for our September events across the Nordics!

The fall kicks off in the Nordics with a busy week of events. Digital Workforce organizes a total of 4 breakfast seminars in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. If you want to stay updated on the latest news and developments in process automation, software robotics and new intelligent technologies these seminars are for you! Check out our upcoming events below and register for your local event today.

Events in Denmark:

12.9. Copenhagen

Organized in collaboration with UiPath, the event’s list of speakers includes UiPath’s Technical Customer Success Director Rasvan Constantinescu along side Digital Workforce’s own representatives Jari Annala and Tony Minana. Customer presentation is held by Topdanmark Forsikring’s Senior Project Manager of RPA and Machine Learning Stig Geer Pedersen.

The presentations answer questions such as:

– How can you get the best results from RPA?
– How RPA can be used in different industries and business functions?
– How should you prepare for new intelligent technologies?

You will also have the opportunity to ask your own questions and network during the breakfast.

The event takes place at Scandic Copenhagen on Wednesday September 12th, 8.30-11.00 (CEST). Register free!

13.9. Aarhus

Denmark’s second breakfast seminar is also organized together with UiPath and both parties deliver their expers from Copenhagen to Aarhus. Jari Annala and Tony Minanan of Digital Workforce discuss the latest developments in the field of RPA and AI with UiPath’s Technical Customer Success Director Rasvan Constantinescu. The event will be held in an intimate setting to encourage more personal encounters and open discussion.

The presentations answer questions such as:

– What should you know about RPA best practices and success measures?
– How can organizations tap into the benefits of RPA in all fields and fuctions?
– What should you do now to be ready for the future involving intelligent technologies?

The event offers a great opportunity to address your burning questions and get personal advice from the industry’s leading experts .

The event takes place at Scandic Aarhus on Thursday September 13th, 8.30-11.00 (CEST). Register free!

Events in Norway:

13.9. Kristiansand

Digital Workforce holds an intimate breakfast seminar in Kristiansand, Norway to address questions often brought up by organizations starting their robotic journey. Presentations are held by Digital Workforce’s Norwegian team – the leading Intelligent Process Automation service providers in the country.

The speakers answer questions like:

– How can you identify the potential for RPA and other intelligent solutions in your organization?
– How can virtual workers accelerate digital transformation?
– What are the steps from introduction to long term success in implementing virtual workforce?

The event offers a great opportunity to address your burning questions and get personal advice from the industry’s leading experts .

The event takes place at Scandic Kristiansand on Thursday September 13th, 9.00-11.00 (CEST). Register free!

Events in Sweden:

13.9. Stockholm

Our largest event is held in Stockholm, Sweden. The opening speaker Kenneth Tellebo, Digital Workforce Sweden’s Country Manager is followed by a customer case presentation by PwC. Marcus Henriksson, PwC’s Head of AI and Automation tells about the company’s journey from a pre-study to implementing digital employees and how this transformed their business.

The presentations discuss topics such as:

– What’s the state of RPA in Sweden today are where is it headed?
– How RPA and other intelligent technologies can be used to boost business performance?
– What are the keys to long term success?

You will also have the opportunity to ask your own questions and network during the breakfast.

The event takes place at Scandic Continental Stockholm on Thursday September 13th, 8.30-10.00 (CEST). Register free!

Digital Workforce breakfast seminar: Oslo March 7th 2018

Digital Workforce hosted its first breakfast seminar in Oslo March 7th. The intention of the seminar was to give the participants an overview of the possibilities of RPA and share knowledge about how to successfully hire a digital worker.

Pat Geary, Chief Evangelist at Blue Prism, gave an inspiring presentation about Blue Prisms journey from a start-up to a major enterprise. He also gave a detailed introduction to RPA in general, noting the important aspects of the technology. As well as discussing the technology itself, he talked about how RPA should be approached by businesses, both big and small. Geary underlined the importance of starting small, but planning big.

Magnus Skarstein and Andreas Montanus from Codan Insurance shared their RPA journey: from an unstructured hobby project to a strategical tool embraced and encouraged by the management. They also talked about the mistakes they had made because of insufficient planning, and how they had learned from those errors. Following the learnings and supported by the company’s management, Codan has been able to increase net savings and significantly speed up processes with RPA.

Finally, Mads Johan Laastad, Solutions Architect at Digital Workforce, took the participants through a journey on how to hire their first digital worker in a structured and professional manner. He described the different steps and phases needed to be able to successfully hire, configure and deploy a digital worker, and tap into the automation potential of the business.

IPA – what exactly does it mean?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) performed by software robots has become a commonly utilised solution across industries. Today, Digital Workforce’s virtual workers are used in over 50 organisations across the Nordic countries. This means in practice that as the virtual workers take over knowledge work routines human workers’ time is freed up for more value adding work. The next step is to grow the virtual worker’s intelligence and its ability to learn so that it can tackle more complicated assignments.

Jukka Virkkunen and Heikki Länsisyrjä – two of the three Digital Workforce co-founders- sit in a conference room in the company’s Helsinki HQ. Despite busy schedules, time is taken for an important discussion. Today we talk about Intelligent Processes Automation – IPA!

What does IPA really mean?

Jukka: IPA – Intelligent Processes Automation – means maximising business value with the help of processes automation. The job of an IPA-service company is to figure out how far, and with what tools, the client’s processes can be automated in an efficient and high-quality manner.

The automation of a single process may require the use of multiple different technologies: RPA, image recognition, chat bots, machine learning… the list goes on. The term ‘Intelligent Process Automation’ refers to the end goal of applying robotic technologies rather than a specific technology.

Heikki: The form of the solution, and what technologies are applied, depends entirely on the client’s business processes. Within the IPA-repertory, there’s an entire ecosystem of technologies which need to be considered as parts of a bigger picture. By fitting different pieces together it’s possible to tailor just the right solution for any situation.

Why is this worth talking about?

Jukka: As organisations and businesses gain more experience, they also keep developing their ability to recognise opportunities for robotic solutions. Process automation starts by changing information to a digital form, with the second step usually being RPA. In the next phase, the focus shifts to tasks that require a degree of interpretation, which then means the consideration of a selection of smart technologies.

Heikki: Managing knowledge work efficiency is on the management’s agenda because it is the most important factor of our time in terms of productivity – this being true in nearly all industries. Change has been incredibly fast and the amount of routine knowledge work has been increasing. By automating business processes, meaningful gains in productivity have been achieved, and this ability is something most organisations want to develop further.

What is RPA’s position in relation to IPA?

Heikki: RPA is still the best tool for automating repetitive knowledge work. When we talk about IPA, we might just as well talk about smart virtual workers, meaning software robots that have been given smart capabilities depending on process requirements. The virtual worker’s application areas are now even wider, but RPA is still at the center of the execution.

From the client’s perspective, however, it is most convenient that all the required technology for automating a process is delivered as a whole, in a form that is scalable and easy to access. For this, the best solution is a cloud service that integrates different technologies and scales up fast if necessary.

 

 

Digital Workforce is the only company purely specializing in Intelligent Process Automation services on an industrial scale in the Nordic countries. Get in touch with us to tap into the full potential of process automation hiding in your organisation!

Introducing Digital Workforce Repository – Applying RPA is faster and easier than ever before!

Digital Workforce Repository, the client organization’s own object library allows our customers to apply RPA faster and easier than ever before. But how does it exactly work? And who can most benefit from it?

Who is it for?

We developed the Repository tool to respond to the needs of large knowledge-intensive organisations. These organisations, such as banks and insurance companies, perform many backbreaking and time-consuming routines that perfectly fit digital workers. In fact, the use of digital workers is becoming more and more popular in these organisations for exactly this reason.

As digital workers become more commonplace, and robots are being utilized in new departments, demand for developers increases. Large organizations often have one or more robotics teams that search for new automatable processes and refine solutions to optimize operations. How do we ensure that the development work is efficient and the performed tasks aren’t overlapping? What about development quality, is it consistent? This is where the Repository-tool becomes of high value.

How does it work?

When the robotics team deploys a new digital worker, reusable parts or automation objects are created in the process. Repository is the client organization’s own object library, where these reusable parts are effortlessly collected, and made accessible to the whole robotics team. When somebody has developed something good, it can be used in other projects. It is advisable that an organization starts to collect these objects in their Repository from the start.

What are the benefits?

When a developer downloads a new object to the library, its quality is checked and the information noted. Users can comment, report problems and grade the object. When developers create a reusable object, and their evaluation and commenting during the object’s lifecycle are transparent, the quality of the entire robotics project improves.

Repository greatly enhances the quality and consistency of RPA projects across the organisation. It allows developers to share knowledge and speeds up automation projects to a fraction of the time compared to separately performed automation projects.

 

Register for DNFintech conference on digitization in banking and finance in Oslo 9.11.2017

Join us at the DNFintech conference on digitization in banking and finance in Oslo 9.11.2017!

The event gathers some of the brightest minds from the financial services industry to discuss the future in light of new technology, users and customer behavior, legislation, and access to investment. How does the future look? Where are the big money and the winner will take it all?

Read more and register here!

Digital Workforce joins European business AI and robotics- event in Helsinki 25.- 26.10.2017

Digital Workforce joins European business AI and robotics- conference in Helsinki, Messukeskus 25.- 26.10.2017 .

The European business AI and robotics- event gathers the entire North European AI ecosystem, including top business and technology decision-makers and innovative solution providers, to network and discuss AI business applications and AI and Robotics’ impact on business and society.

Sign up now and reserve your seat!

 

Key take-aways from Blue Prism World

The Blue Prism Partner World- events gathered over 1500 people to New York and London in June 2017 to hear the latest news from Blue Prism and visionary industry keynotes, and customers sharing their RPA experiences. Digital Workforce joined the buzzing seminar on both continents.

The recently launched Digital Workforce Academy peaked visitors’ interest as it offered the only e-learning platform focusing on more than just one specific technology. In addition, the ability to receive login details to the online learning portal to anywhere in the world within a few days of filling in the order form attracted positive attention. Other discussions evolved around the issue of moving forward from doing mere pilot and proof of concept automation projects. Especially those who had been involved with RPA projects already understood the importance of creating RPA capabilities within an organization, which goes way beyond the technical requirements. Everyone shared the same sentiment – RPA needs to be utilized strategically.

Key take-aways from 7.6. New York- event

Jon Theuerkauf, BNY Mellon (Bank of New York): Run fast and allow failure

“The existing environment today is at least 3-5 years out from a fully integrated automated operating environment leading the way to AI. Begin your automation efforts with the end in mind, and remain focused on a more structured operating environment”, Jon Theuerkauf.

DO! – The beginning and continuing of investing in RPA technologies is the DOING part of automation.

THINK! – Maturing into a Machine Learning and AI enabled world is the THINKING part of automation.

The future will land somewhere between ro-topia and ro-pocalypse. What are the implications?

  • Managers and workers can ’code’ and are managing work by exception management and client interactions
  • Machines and AI WILL NOT require structured data or structured processes
  • SmartBots and people will work side by side through the transition period, and slowly bots will phase in more and more
  • Customers and regulators will demand increasing speed and accuracy only achieved through automation
  • There will be exchangeable automation utilities available across platforms and organizations

Professor Mary Lacity, UMSL (University of Missouri-St. Louis): RPA is strategic! 

“Consider RPA for more than cost savings or you will miss value”, Mary Lacity.

The evolution of RPA

Phase 1: Identifying the “want” for RPA
Phase 2: Focus primarily on cost savings (POCs, pilots, practices)
Phase 3: Focus on the triple-win, enact action principles
Phase 4: In the future, RPA will be institutionalized in every organization and integrated with other innovations. We are not there yet!

What are organizations actually doing with FTE savings generated from service automation?

  • Redeploy people (49%) within unit and outside unit (32%)
  • Reduce FTE’s from provider (32%)
  • Take on more work 26%
  • Only 13 % lay off employees!! It is not zero, but not the 47%!

Key opportunity – Talk about hours back to business!

Redesign human work for robotic by considering:

Nature of work

  • From high-level instructions to defining explicit instructions
  • From mixing rules and judgmental tasks to re-sequence of tasks

Access & Identify

  • Two-three factor authentication, password resets, employee numbers, DOB to Logon ID and passwords for each software robots

Security

  • Designed for human behavior: Example Idle- times -> screen locks. Robots have different requirements!

 

Key take-aways from 21.6. event in London

Brian Halpin, HSBC: Keep calm it’s not rocket science!

“20% of total effort constitutes for 80% of total results!”, Brian Halpin.

You shouldn’t try to automate everything at once. Always automate the simple parts of the process first. Pick the low hanging fruits first and move forward from there!

Rules of success:

  • Keep it simple (80/20) and seek opportunities to replicate, extend or re-use.
  • Optimize processes first for automation.
  •  Consider all options when reviewing a process for RPA – Find the most fitting tool!
  • Be very clear how you will measure and realize benefits (before you start!).
  • Significant value exists in processes that are perceived to require human ‘judgement’ – Challenge the need for ‘judgement’!
  • Develop a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and federate with care.
  • A global ‘command center’ can support monitoring, execution & capacity management.
  • Recognize that you are creating a new operational capability not just doing projects!
  • Continuous improvement based on data and process knowledge can be your best source of opportunity.

22.6. Round-table with Professor Leslie Willcocks, LSE (London school of economics): Make automation strategic from beginning

“When messaging change to staff communicate often!”, Leslie Willcocks.

Three enablers of RPA

1. Shareholder value
2. Customer value
3. Employee value

Risks

  • Tool selection –> wrong/bad tool
  • Stakeholder buy-in –> stall/derail project
  • Operational/execution –> robots not functional
  • Change Management –> HR/cultural misfits
  • Strategy –> thinking small/short term
  • Others

Leslie’s favorite quote: “You have to plan where this is going, not where it is now. You have to build a foundation for a tower block, not a bungalow.” – Patrick Geary, Blue Prism

Digital Workforce joins the annual ABSL conference in Lodz Poland 12.-14.6.

The Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL) is the leading organization representing the business services sector in Poland. The annual ABSL conference brings together business leaders and influential representatives of various industries, providing an exceptional opportunity for insightful discussions and networking.

Following the setting up of Digital Workforce’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) competence centre in Poland, we look forward to the opportunity to further build our local network in the prestigious conference. Read more about the event here and come meet the virtual workers in Lodz!