Point of View

Industrialize automation with a process bot factory

October 5, 2020

Belfius’ and Hexaware’s enterprise-wide approach fuels a journey from RPA to intelligent automation and beyond

Why is it so hard to scale and industrialize automation initiatives?


The ugly truth surrounding the first seven years of RPA adoption is that we’ve simply succeeded in using RPA to move data around enterprises faster with less manual intervention rather than to rewire our business processes and create new thresholds of value. According to our research, 30% of enterprises still have no RPA plans or are unsure about leveraging RPA and the variety of emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Fewer than 25% have business and IT working collaboratively to implement the Triple-A Trifecta (automation, AI, and analytics). Fewer than 15% have scaled automation and AI initiatives, and fewer than 10% have an enterprise-wide approach to using emerging technologies.


Bank and insurance firm Belfius is a positive outlier showing the way by creating, with support from Hexaware, an agile automation factory model to drive automation adoption at an enterprise level. Our recent webinar covered Belfius’ journey with Hexaware from RPA adoption to pushing the boundaries of intelligent automation, underpinned by a dedicated team, business, and IT collaboration and a truly enterprise-wide approach. The process bot factory has delivered 100% process standardization and 40% to 60% automation across multiple processes, and Belfius is not done yet!



Belfius’ dedicated automation team creates this crucial enterprise-wide approach to automation and its plans for emerging technology


Belfius started with RPA for simple document and workflow management approximately 10 years ago. The Belgian firm was plagued by manual processes and their resulting errors, demand fluctuations, and legacy apps slowing its processes. Clearly, Belfius saw room for improvement, but it quickly realized that traditional development methods weren’t working and that it needed to change strategies.


“Belfius was open to change and failing fast—that is unique to Belfius, but replicable to many other firms.”


Chinmoy Banerjee, Executive Vice President & Global Head—Banking Vertical & Business Process Services, Hexaware


Belfius was originally heavily dependent on business teams for ideas when it came to RPA. There were no KPIs and structure, and often there were ad-hoc (and sizeable) requests for bots. Some people might have said it was going well or that there were risks, but no one could pinpoint exactly what was happening. Belfius was wasting employee and financial resources just as much as it had been with the original legacy processes.


“It’s all about structure and delivery.”

—Martin Malengier, Head of Automation, Belfius Insurance


Belfius couldn’t deliver automation initiatives on time or in scope; Hexaware’s Factory model delivers one bot per month, on-time and at high quality, while monitoring closely all bots in operation, and has been doing so since its inception. Hexaware is helping to organize execution—through planning, business analysis, and building the business case—as well as discovering what processes can be automated. Belfius works closely with Hexaware within its business under clearly defined roles, even if they’re offshore (including multi-language process manuals and local language support), to nail-down its business requirements. Hexaware then takes full charge of scripting, testing, planning, and even service after the bots have been delivered.


Belfius and Hexaware’s close working relationship was already largely virtual, so the COVID-19 lockdown hasn’t hindered its ability to deliver one bot a month.


The dedicated automation team in Belfius allows this enterprise-wide approach.


“Even when engaging with Hexaware, Belfius, or any similar client, could keep certain roles, for example, a SCRUM master, or Hexaware could cover all bases—but the key is that governance is run by a dedicated team.


—Chinmoy Banerjee, Executive Vice President & Global Head—Banking Vertical & Business Process Services, Hexaware




Belfius and Hexaware are pushing the scope of the bot factory beyond RPA


The bot factory started with attended automation, but it is integrating broader initiatives around machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and other forms of AI—alongside process mining and discovery, which HFS recently combined into process intelligence technology. It all comes back to the newfound structured approach and drive of the dedicated team that retains the enterprise-wide approach to new technology adoption projects.


Combined with a relentless focus on business cases, Belfius is going beyond what many enterprises are still stuck on.


“We’re creating awareness at the board and executive/management levels of the possibilities of emerging technologies—it’s not kept to the IT department—the real decision-makers need to know that OCR, RPA, process mining, etc. exist! Hexaware helps us to explain to the decision-makers they need to invest.”


—Martin Malengier, Head of Automation, Belfius Insurance


This approach also works when it’s the IT team that needs to be brought on board, showing again the criticality of business and IT collaboration that must underpin an enterprise-wide approach to technology.


“Interest in RPA [initially] came from the business department, not IT! We had to bring IT in as soon as possible to avoid conflict between the IT team and the RPA factory team. They didn’t understand each other—we needed to explain how it works and the advantages of factory model for RPA.”


—Martin Malengier, Head of Automation, Belfius Insurance


On the matter of bringing employees on board, tools like RPA must remove soul-crushing work rather than reduce FTEs, a fact that needs to be front and center of both the business case and how you sell it to your employees. No matter how much end-to-end automation you bring in, the real winners will always use man and machine together, which helps minimize internal politics and resistance. Build a business case around human-augmented technology—it’s a more robust case for the long term.



The Bottom Line: You need to answer the why, what, and how of automation and emerging technologies. Belfius and Hexaware have, and they’ve brought the whole enterprise onboard.                      


Figure 1: The why, what, and how for achieving success with automation initiatives

Source: HFS Research, 2020


The “why” is moving beyond faster and cheaper. The “what” needs to be an integrated, enterprise-wide approach. The “how” is prioritizing talent, which, in Belfius’ case, is a combination of external talent in Hexaware combined with its internal dedicated automation team.


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