Old Mutual prioritizes IT and business collaboration to drive RPA success
Remember that cheesy relationship guide from the early 90s, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. A Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex? While it’s not topping any current bestseller lists, its title floats around popular culture and can aptly be applied to the age-old corporate holy war of IT versus business. Both sides are on a mission to digitally transform their companies, but they have fundamentally different approaches to doing so. Take robotic process automation (RPA) programs as a timely example. Automation programs that don’t strike a balance between IT and business generally fail. Business-led programs without adequate IT involvement lack the standards and governance structure necessary to scale. IT-owned programs lack the process and business context required to prioritize and deliver process improvement. Regardless of the difference in opinion and approach, collaboration between IT and business is essential to achieve the overarching mutual goal of transformation.
HFS, with support from Blue Prism, is showcasing real enterprise journeys with RPA. This report spotlights Old Mutual, an African financial services group, on its quest for improved operational efficiency using RPA. While its RPA program is currently delivering notable business results worthy of being spotlighted in Old Mutual’s annual investor reports, it started as a cautionary tale of how things can go awry when IT and business don’t collaborate. Old Mutual leadership was lucky enough to recognize the disconnect and galvanize the teams toward the same outcome of driving cost efficiencies and improved customer experience. Lo and behold, when incentivized to work together, they found more common ground than ever imagined and developed an effective model of broaching transformation from both sides.
IT and business disconnects are a matter of will versus skill
HFS’ research has found that the disconnect between IT and business is often a matter of will versus skill. We asked 100 C-Suite executives split across IT and business what was holding them back from achieving their Digital OneOffice goals (Exhibit 1). Business leaders indicated the biggest issues are a lack of digital mindset from both business and IT—aka the will to change. IT leaders cited a very execution-focused response of lack of internal talent—aka skills.
Exhibit 1: IT is from Mars, business is from Venus—the disconnect between them is often a matter of skill versus will
Q. What are your greatest challenges holding back your journey to achieve the Digital OneOffice Framework?
Sample: C-Level Enterprise Executives = 100
Source: HFS Research 2020
Rather than trying to unify the opinions, HFS recommends that enterprises leverage the differences by bringing them together with a shared purpose. Enable business to drive change through process improvement and reinvention. Let IT enable change through execution. This combination of will and skill with a mutually agreed mission allows for a balance between people, processes, and technology, which is essential for any technology-enabled transformation program.
Old Mutual’s strategic growth imperatives underpin its automation program
Old Mutual Limited, founded in 1845, is an African financial services group offering insurance, investment, banking, and lending solutions to individuals, small- and medium-sized businesses, corporates, and institutions across 13 African countries and China. As expected of a 175-year-old company, it has a storied history, including global expansion efforts throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Since 2016, it has made a concerted effort to refocus on its African roots; it completed a process of managed separation, in which it separated and divested its non-African entities. Old Mutual Limited emerged as the new entity and moved its primary listing to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in June 2018.
As part of this refinement exercise, Old Mutual identified eight key “battleground” tenets of its strategy. As illustrated in Exhibit 2, tenets one through five relate to line of business and geographic priorities. Tenet six applies to people and has a strong skill and diversity edge to it. Tenets seven and eight support technology renewal and cost optimization and are the impetus driving Old Mutual’s RPA program.
Exhibit 2: Old Mutual’s “Eight Battlegrounds” strategy tenets
Note: SA is South Africa
Source: Old Mutual, 2020
Getting beyond lip-service in business and IT collaboration
Old Mutual’s RPA program was born from the business two years ago initiated by a centralized services team akin to a shared services center. As part of its strategic growth imperatives, it expected all divisions of the company to contribute. The services team identified RPA as a potential tool that could drive efficiencies, and it developed a blunt business case based on time and motion studies estimating automation potential. It was enough to gain executive sponsorship, and the services team went through the process of selecting an RPA vendor and kickstarting its automation journey. Old Mutual ultimately selected Blue Prism based on strong security protocols and availability of local support. It also hired a local service partner that helped refine its proof of concept focus, helped set up its center of excellence (CoE), and trained internal resources.
Old Mutual’s RPA program was business-led, with IT’s awareness rather than active day-to-day involvement. The need for more active IT involvement became apparent during the initial deployments when the QA and production environments were not exact replicas and buggy bots broke down.
“We realized we really needed to involve IT. We asked them to come and partner with us, but not just for opinion, where we would mutually chase the same outcomes. We co-located the IT resources with the RPA CoE and gave them the mutual mission to drive efficiencies and CX. Since then, there are no conversations about ownership. The team is galvanized around the same outcomes.”
Sebastian Whelan, Former Executive Head of RPA, Old Mutual
Sebastian Whelan, then the Executive Head of RPA, realized that the business-led initiative lacked fundamental guardrails and standards. According to Whelan, “We realized we really needed to involve IT. We asked them to come and partner with us, but not just for opinion, where we would mutually chase the same outcomes. We co-located the IT resources with the RPA CoE and gave them the mutual mission to drive efficiencies and CX. Since then, there are no conversations about ownership. The team is galvanized around the same outcomes.”
Don’t expect instant IT and business chemistry
The formal addition of IT to the business team took place roughly six months after the program started, and it helped set the right conditions for success. However, there was no instant chemistry. Sharon Vergotine, Head of IT–Robotics and Cognitive Services for Old Mutual, led the embedded IT team. She quickly realized that many of the standard IT methodologies, policies, and governance protocols that the RPA program desperately needed could not just be applied as is. There were notable examples:
- IT’s standards for software development lifecycle (SDLC) management, IT service management, and release management didn’t meet the business’s needs for delivery cadence.
- Traditionally, developing “code” necessitated that IT comply with SDLC, AGILE, and Waterfall methodologies and extensive quality assurance governance requirements. But this was overkill for low-code/no-code RPA and burned unnecessary time and expense.
- IT policy required all employees to have ID numbers to facilitate access management and credentialing. Addressing access management for digital workers required a review and potential risk management policy changes.
Vergotine led the change initiatives to develop fit-for-purpose approaches that satisfied stringent IT requirements while meeting business needs. As Vergotine states, “We had a case of two different worlds colliding and needing to understand how to work with each other in a new robotic world. The success of Old Mutual’s RPA program would have been impossible without making key changes to the way IT and business worked and partnered.”
“We had a case of two different worlds colliding and needing to understand how to work with each other in a new robotic world. The success of Old Mutual’s RPA program would have been impossible without making key changes to the way IT and business worked and partnered.”
Sharon Vergotine, Head of IT–Robotics and Cognitive Services, Old Mutual
Good things happen when you add RPA to the enterprise transformation toolkit
By bringing IT into the business-led CoE, the RPA program got the standards, governance, and structure it desperately needed. The collaboration also helped RPA gain broader visibility across the company as part of the enterprise transformation toolkit. IT realized that RPA meets a variety of timely needs that its deep integration roadmap would not even contemplate for years. Thus, by working together, IT and business realized that they could address business needs and enable the transformation from different vantage points with a mutual approach of always leading with the best solution for the problem.
Now two years into its RPA journey, Old Mutual reports the following successes:
- The team deployed 151 bots across 43 different processes, with an estimated return to the business of 5.3 million minutes in 2019.
- Old Mutual has run over 800,000 transactions via straight-through processing with no human intervention required.
- Speed and iteration results continue to improve, with automation results hovering around 60%, up from 20%.
- The company achieved a 30% improvement in its NPS score; bots assisting customer service have led to notable cycle time improvement and happier customers.
- The company has a robust pipeline of automation needs that are evaluated based on which tools or re-engineering will yield the best results.
- While the research for this report was done ahead of the current pandemic operating conditions, Old Mutual notes that the existence and health of its RPA program helped it support clients and employees and the transition to remote operations more effectively.
As Old Mutual strives to scale its RPA program, it is evaluating additional technologies, akin to HFS’ Triple-A Trifecta approach of integrating elements of automation, AI, and analytics to yield exponential benefits. On its current shortlist are tools for processing and understanding unstructured data and natural language processing to support sentiment analysis.
The Bottom Line: Collaboration between IT and business is essential to achieve the overarching mutual goal of transformation.
IT and business may be from different planets, but they are ultimately unified by the mutual need to enable their companies’ growth strategies. For Old Mutual, technology innovation and efficiency are two separate, but complementary strategic imperatives that require business and IT to work together. In the case of its RPA program, a well-intentioned initiative was nearly scuttled due to a lack of alignment between IT and business. Formally bringing IT into the business-led RPA CoE made the teams work toward a common goal of using RPA where it makes sense to drive efficiency and CX and developing robust standards and processes appropriate for a digital workforce.
While Old Mutual’s automation program got the enhanced structure and governance needed to run effectively, it also elevated RPA to the broader enterprise-wide transformation toolkit. This helped the business realize there are more options than RPA. IT realized that RPA has a distinct role to play for timely automation requirements, particularly when APIs are not available or planned IT intervention is years away. As HFS states in our report, A New RPA Manifesto for the Next Seven Years, IT and business’s ability to work together effectively despite their differences is a prerequisite to digital transformation success. Old Mutual’s strong IT and business collaboration is core to its success and a strong differentiation characteristic.