The FINANCIAL — Dell Services on October 8 announced a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution – Automated Full-Time Equivalent (AFTE) and AFTE Command Center – designed to help customers increase speed and accuracy in business processes.
AFTEs are software agents or “robots” that are programmed to perform repeatable, rules-based tasks in business processes. Customers are able to monitor the performance of the agents through a real-time dashboard, the AFTE Command Center. Both were developed by solution architects at Dell Services, according to Dell.
RPA is being touted as the next big IT revolution that will take cost out of business by allowing enterprises to automate many tasks. This frees up employees who were previously performing simple tasks to do higher-value work.
“Twenty years ago, low-cost labor markets revolutionized the outsourcing industry. RPA is the next frontier,” said Tanvir Khan, vice president and global head, Dell Business Process Outsourcing.
While Dell’s AFTEs perform tasks with a high degree of accuracy, there are times a particular process requires a higher level of scrutiny (say a high-dollar health claim). In those cases, Dell’s Personal Robotic Assistants (PRA) kick in and can complete the process with only a final review needed by a human. Dell’s PRAs have gone beyond traditional AFTEs to incorporate machine learning (similar to how a smart phone’s auto-populate function continually learns more words that the user frequently types in sequence). This ensures that all tasks are performed with 100 percent accuracy. The robots work around the clock until the tasks “assigned” to them are finished.
The next-generation of AFTE, currently under development by Dell, will incorporate even more cognitive intelligence: self-healing, self-service, and predictive analytics.
Where AFTEs have been deployed, they have become an extension of the team. In many cases, team members have given the robots names and recognize the contribution they make to productivity. For example, in claims processing, human workers are able to start their day with all the information they need to process claims because the time-consuming and boring tasks have already been done by their virtual teammates. In one instance in which processing a claim took 4.5 minutes, it’s now completed in 45 seconds or less.
And Dell has been able to extend contracts because “customers see the value,” says Telidevara Narasinga Rao, executive director, BPO Business Process Services for Dell.
“We call them Robotic Personal Assistants because they really are helping teams be more productive,” says Khan. “We’ve got to change the mindset that they’re a threat and start to see the benefit of RPAs in helping teams become more productive. As businesses incorporate automation more and more, these Robotic Personal Assistants may even help teams earn bonuses by helping them increase their production.”
Dell’s AFTE solution has won the Best Outsourcing Thought Leadership award for BPO innovation from the Outsourcing Institute.
AFTE is just one of Dell Services’ automation solutions. Systems Monitoring and Automation Services provide an end-to-end view of the performance and availability of customers’ servers, storage, networks, and infrastructure. In applications, Dell’s Universal Test Automation Framework helps organizations automate applications testing to shorten release cycles and cut costs.
One example of where Dell Services helped a customer automate processes is with Scapa Group. The bonding and adhesive components manufacturer needed to move from manual, paper-based processes to automated ones in a newly-acquired plant to better comply with government regulations. Dell helped Scapa streamline production processes across all its North American plants, giving the company real-time data and better visibility into their overall operation.
Another example is Greene Tweed, where Dell helped the manufacturer of high-performance materials and components automate collection of inspection data and eliminate manual data entry.
Dell Services is now integrating the AFTE personal assistants into its BPO solutions.