How Great-West Lifeco implemented RPA

While automation is often touted as technology that can save money and improve efficiencies, it can also deliver an array of other benefits.

For instance, robotics process automation (RPA) is helping Winnipeg-based Great-West Life Assurance Company, an insurance-centered international financial holding company, reduce operating costs, improve customer and employee experience and facilitate regulatory compliance.

Like all financial service organizations, Great-West Lifeco operates in a highly regulated environment and relies on myriad processes. At the same time, the organization is challenged to deliver more value to customers for less money. While the company had not been having specific efficiency issues, it chose to implement RPA to automate some of the more mundane and repetitive manual tasks, enabling its workers to focus on more challenge, value-add jobs.

The insurer selected products from Automation Anywhere to streamline and automate some of its manual processes. While the company is seeing efficiency and productivity gains, it was actually specifically looking to the solution to further its drive to continually improve.

“The RPA solution was a natural fit with the culture we’ve established, constantly improving processes, speeding turnaround for customers and pursuing higher quality for the customer, while driving down unit costs,” explains David Hodge, EVP and CIO at Great-West Lifeco.

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Electronic circuit boards from an International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Z14 server rack sit on display at the CeBIT 2018 tech fair in Hanover, Germany, on Monday, June 11, 2018. CeBIT, Europe's business festival for innovation and digitization, runs June 11 - 15. Photographer: Kriztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Hodge explains that the company had been looking for a solution was not overly complicated and that could demonstrate tangible early value. The firm selection the Automation Anywhere platform out of approximately 20 different options, involving its business organization up front.

“The nature of the technology is that it’s squarely in the middle of talent,” Hodge points out. “This is a technology, but it’s a business solution. It requires technical skill and analytical thinking. It needs people who understand business and business process and people who understand operations and how to run an operations organization. You want business people who can think about applying technology as much as you want technical people who can think about the business.”

To further support the company’s drive to automate processes, Hodge recruited a director of automation services who acts as an evangelist within the company to communicate the automation’s potential. This individual also leads Great-West Lifeco’s Automation Center of Excellence, which manages the automation lifecycle, setting strategy, championing the technology throughout the organization, assessing processes to determine viability for automation and developing and running its own bot farm.

Hodge says that the Automation Anywhere implementation has provided process benefits and cost savings, but also has improved the employee experience. “It’s certainly important to drive down the cost of business processes, but now the staff is working on more complex, more personally challenging and higher-value tasks,” Hodge notes. “The staff also looks at ways to improve processes with automation. They’re excited by the opportunities.”

So far, Great-West Lifeco has completed or is nearly finished automating about 50 different business processes. The process improvements have resulted in a wide range of benefits. “Organizations immediately want a bottom line figure, and they want to know how much money the technology will save or if it can significantly reduce full-time employee counts, for instance,” Hodge says. “While automation can deliver these, they can also drive quality and improve customer experience. For instance, automation can extend the daytime of processes, so customers can access services after hours, and can improve compliance. Many organizations may not view them as high-value and instead just look to automation to drive out human cost. While there’s clearly opportunity there, we’ve anchored to other benefits.”

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