How to Get Started with Robotic Process Automation

By: Molly Walker, Manager, Business Excellence, PSCU

Robotic process automation (RPA) is playing an increasingly important role in improving front- and back-office efficiencies, business scalability and customer service in all industries. For these reasons, PSCU began its RPA journey last year, furthering its commitment to help our Owner credit unions achieve a strategic, competitive advantage by delivering technology advancements.

PSCU partners with credit unions to help them meet evolving member demands, leveraging digital technology in providing various types of payment solutions and services. The increasing scope and scale of PSCU’s business activities drove the company to search for ways to further add efficiency without sacrificing quality or member experience.

One of the key tools we adopted for this purpose was RPA, which allows us to automate business-critical processes that are highly manual. One area that experienced challenges as a result of our growth, becoming more and more time consuming and costly, was the process for implementing federally-mandated index rate changes. Given the unpredictability and manual nature of the process, this made for an effective RPA pilot at PSCU.

Since we implemented our first RPA bot, we have supported three federal rate change events (including the latest one following COVID-19) that triggered hundreds of issuers to make APR changes to their portfolio(s). Historically, due to the volume and unpredictability of these requests, as well financial/regulatory implications of meeting service-level agreements (SLAs), we would need to pull in additional company resources to assist the configuration team. Through RPA, we have been able to automate many of the administrative tasks associated with these changes, enabling the configuration team to prioritize and manage the volume, work the exceptions and maintain quality.

Developing and Implementing an RPA Strategy

RPA combines the impeccable execution of robotics with the human element to maximize process execution and exceptional customer experience. By automating repetitive tasks, RPA allows employees to focus on the work that matters to them.

As part of PSCU’s Center for Process Excellence (CPE), we follow a “Define, Manage, Optimize” structure, and it became clear to us that “Automate” was our next step in process excellence to advance our technological maturity.

Our RPA journey began with an “initiate” phase, in which we spent about eight months assessing our RPA capabilities, identifying use cases of RPA applications within our organization and researching various RPA vendors in the market. Once we identified our chosen partner to help us expand our internal capabilities and scalability, we went to work to build out our first pilot use case with index rate changes. Though we are still in the early stages of RPA, we have had some significant wins, as well as learning some critical lessons.

Is your credit union considering RPA, but not quite sure how to get started? Here are some best practices we would like to share that may be helpful as you look to develop and implement an RPA strategy:

  • Consider a Center of Excellence (CoE) design that works best for your organization and establish roles and responsibilities early on. Some questions to consider are: Who will be responsible for strategy, the roadmap and best practices? How will your RPA CoE partner with IT, or will it be part of your IT organization? What role will your business teams play in RPA?
  • Be diligent about how you select your use cases. Develop a structured assessment process and prioritize appropriately. Don’t be afraid to spend significant time upfront evaluating your initial use cases to ensure they are right for RPA.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of the people side of change. The idea of robots and automation can give your employees anxiety and ultimately create resistance in adoption. Get them involved early and be clear about why you are investing in RPA. For PSCU, it was all about enabling our employees to spend their time on value-added activities, doing the work they enjoy!
  • Engage your leadership early and get their buy-in from the beginning. As with any technical implementation, there will be hiccups. Ensuring consistent support from the top will help to overcome challenges with ease and understanding.

As a result of PSCU’s experience implementing RPA, we’ve been able to recognize the importance of use case selection, build a structured program, define ROI and create accurate employee expectations. Our employees are now able to focus their attention on more valuable business priorities in support of our credit unions and their members.

Molly Walker is a Business Excellence (RPA) manager at PSCU. In this role, she leads the organization’s robotic process automation (RPA) journey to improve both front- and back-office processes and efficiencies. Prior to joining PSCU as a senior process engineer in July 2017, Walker served as a consultant with BlueLine Associates and was with Sun Life Financial for more than six years in various process improvement, project management and operational leadership roles. She is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and holds a B.S. in Corporate Finance and Accounting from Bentley University in Waltham, MA.