Background: When essential systems are a productivity drain
The bots are coming – and we’re embracing them. The majority of surveyed business leaders agree that automation saves time (71%) and improves productivity (63%). From finance to healthcare to retail, more businesses than ever are incorporating Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as part of their digital transformation.
Our retail client, a popular clothing and accessories company with 300+ stores nationwide and a thriving e-commerce business, is among those starting an automation journey. The catalyst? Like other businesses that have grown organically but exponentially, its tech stack and processes had too. “Clients at this stage often see business teams and IT teams under increased pressure to use multiple systems,” says Sicheng Peng, iSoftStone’s RPA client partner. “A lot of that usage has become menial and stretches resources lean. However, these tasks — while tedious — are often the basis of data and information for downstream systems. It’s important to complete them quickly and accurately the first time. That’s where RPA can come in and help.”
Another advantage of RPA is the minimal upfront investment compared to large application implementations. With a partner like iSoftStone leveraging UiPath’s out-of-the-box API connections and the talent of our onshore and offshore resources, it’s fast too. We can turn around a use case in under two months.
Our service and solution: Discovery to go-live in two months
At iSoftStone, our experts know that building starts with listening. We brought our 12+ years of retail experience to the table and, working closely with our client, swiftly identified use cases. Three focusing on product lifecycle management (PLM) software and one addressing sales batch uploads into the client’s accounting software. For each use case we examined existing business and system processes with our client, mapping them and understanding them. Together we imagined ways to automate and optimize those processes — then our UiPath experts started building.
Merchandising and business use cases:
- Style creation: Each season, our client’s merchandising and design teams manually uploaded 3,000+ styles into the PLM. It was an enormous amount of work that required an estimated total of 10,000+ clicks to complete. Now, a bot enters a spreadsheet, gathers the appropriate information, and runs the uploads. Just this one automation represents an approximate saving of 400 working hours per year.
- SKU creation: No more manually generating multiple SKUs. The bot processes the styles, searching and selecting the style number. Users receive a success/fail report outlining which styles have been processed and the reason for any failures.
- CAD image upload: All that time it took designers to manually upload thumbnail images when they could be busy designing new, bestselling styles? Reclaimed. We created a bot that searches for the correct Adobe Illustrator file, finds the image, converts it, and uploads it.
Finance use case:
- Sales batch uploads: Instead of taking a member of the finance team anywhere from 30 to 90 mins to manually upload the daily sales information from our client’s 300 stores, a bot pulls information from a shared .DTA file and inputs it into our client’s accounting system, taking the balancing and date logic tasks off user’s hands. The potential time saving is 250 hours per year.
The bots run on a virtual machine, automated at the days and times that best suit our client’s working cadence. For most of the use cases, that’s overnight. Users log on to begin their working day and see an email notification that the tasks they used to dislike doing have already been completed.
As a key part of our service, we provide hypercare support documentation specific to our client’s business, teams, and use cases. Comprehensive and user-friendly, it outlines everything an employee needs to know about the business process, running the automation, and potential issues and exceptions. The goal is to ensure every question is anticipated and answered, and that new hires and seasoned employees alike will be set up for future success.
These tasks are often the basis of data and information for downstream systems. It’s important to complete them quickly and accurately the first time. That’s where RPA can come in and help.
Sicheng Peng, RPA Client Partner | iSoftStone
Impact: Efficiency, clean data, happy business users
After just six months, our client was already seeing returns in those hundreds of saved hours. But the ripple effects of improved data quality and employee engagement were equally valuable.
When bots mimic human interactions like clicking, typing, and copying, the data accuracy rate reaches close to 100%. Eliminating errors before they happen means less chance of small mistakes like typos flowing downstream to other systems causing metaphorical (and real) headaches for users and the business.
With the proven success of the use cases and the satisfaction of being able to focus on higher-value tasks, our client’s stakeholders are keen to explore what else the future might hold. As Peng notes, “Business users who were traditionally ‘too busy for IT’ are coming back to our client saying, “Hey, look, when can we talk to iSoftStone again? Let’s get this going!”
How often have you wished your IT team could just wave a magic wand and remove all those boring, repetitive, rule-based tasks for business users and improve data accuracy? RPA could be your wand. Essential work for the business, completed overnight.