Introducing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Into Your Organization

15 Oct

high angle photo of robot

By Berys Amor, Director of Technology at Corrs Chambers Westgarth

My first encounter with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was through an introduction in early 2018 to a Melbourne start-up (Ci-Gen) who were providing intelligent automation services to businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. While the banking and insurance sector had seen rapid interest and uptake of RPA, I didn’t really understand how it could be utilised in a law firm.

At the first meeting I asked the Ci-Gen directors to talk to me about some use cases that they had been involved in. They described how a large hotel chain were using software robots to analyse expenses overnight, looking for any anomalies or unusual expenses. The aim was to capture any incorrect or unusual charges immediately, to avoid any disputes or unhappy guests.

This example made me think about how we analysed timesheet entries on a daily basis – this involved a finance team member running reports from the practice management system each morning, extracting the data to an Excel spreadsheet and then sorting and analysing the data to look for any unusual entries, as well as missing timesheets. Maybe this was something a robot could do? We identified three other processes that we could automate and worked with Ci-Gen to scope a Proof of Value (PoV) initiative. We wanted to demonstrate that software robots are able to accurately access and interact with various nominated applications, accurately capture input data, reformat/repurpose the data where required and pass data between applications as directed.

The objective of the PoV was to ascertain if RPA would be an effective approach to reducing effort in areas where there is sufficient volume and repetitive processes, with an end goal of increasing efficiency, accuracy and timeliness.

The four processes that we identified for the PoV were:

  • Client WIP Reporting – run WIP report using our BI tool and then upload the report to the client portal site for client access.
  • Timesheet Analysis and Reports – look for missing timesheets and send alert to the fee earner.
  • Non-Billable Timesheet Analysis – analyse non-billable time entries to search for narrations such as matter, client, or research to verify non-billable.
  • Partner Profitability Report – run BI profitability report for each individual partner and send via email.

The PoV was performed over a three-week period – if the project failed the investment was small, but if successful the project could scale up and be converted to a production-ready system.

The PoV was a clear success and the automation of these processes demonstrated that the software robots could interact with a range of applications, data types and data sources, and also assist with sorting and identification of mass data sets (150,000+ lines).

Fast forward 12 months and we have a fully functioning Corrs Automation Services team, made up of our Data and Automation Manager, a Process Automation Business Analyst and our two robots, Robbie and Dexter! It was really important to launch the automation services with a dedicated business analyst and this was factored into the business case for RPA. If the task of looking for processes to automate was part of our already busy team of business analysts, then we would not have achieved immediate results, quick wins and the project could have floundered.

Since the implementation of RPA the Corrs Automation Services team have analysed and automated numerous business processes. We created an RPA Evaluation form to determine whether a process is a good fit for RPA. It has questions such as: is the process documented, what systems are involved, what inputs are required and what frequency, and what are the perceived benefits of automating that particular process. It is also important to measure improvements by documenting the before and after results.

The team have worked closely with the finance team to automate many reports and processes, for example we created a workflow template for a robot to run utilisation reports for each partner from our business intelligence application. Each report is bespoke to the partner and is distributed to them automatically with 100% accuracy. This robot template is also a being used to compile and distribute many different reports to various groups

While RPA is typically used for back office processes and functions, we were keen to let our robots work within the practice groups themselves. Our first opportunity came early in the project when we were migrating our conveyancing service from an on-prem SQL database to a cloud-based e-conveyancing platform. We estimated that it would take a paralegal six to eight weeks to re-enter the existing property developments into the new platform – a tedious task with lots of room for error.

The first step was to populate the cloud platform with 8,000 solicitor records. The team then programmed a robot to read an Excel file, validate each data field and then log into and input this data into the new cloud application.

The second step was to migrate over 400 property lot records for the first development, which  involved the robot logging into the old database, extracting all the records and inserting them into a spreadsheet, validating the format and performing a split and merge, before logging into the new platform and entering each record. The migration was completed by the robot in 12 hours with 100% accuracy. This workflow is now being used to migrate other projects.

The RPA project has allowed Corrs to transform roles rather than replace them, giving employees time to invest their talents in more engaging and interesting work. Robots are extremely accurate and consistent – they are much less prone to making mistakes or typos than a human worker and operations can be performed 24/7 as robots can work tirelessly and autonomously without requiring manual trigger. As a result, process cycle times are more efficient and can be completed at a faster speed compared with manual process approaches.

One Response to “Introducing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Into Your Organization”

  1. LSC Network October 21, 2019 at 3:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on Legal Tech Talent Network.

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