Introduction to Robotic Process Automation

SINEM BATMACA | TEST SPECIALIST

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation(RPA) refers to the automation of computer-centric process using software robots. RPA aims to free humans of repetitive tasks by replacing them with a virtual workforce and enabling them to dedicate their time and effort to more complex and value adding tasks and provide oversight. RPA primarily targets processes which are highly manual, repetitive, rule-based and standard electronic readable input. Robotic automation uses robots to run application software in the exact same way that a human works with a software.

What are key market drivers?

Cost pressure, growth, outsourcing market saturation, customer expectations, new technology, compliance & regulations are most important market drivers that are forcing many companies to     re-evaluate their current operating model and the way they deliver functional and cross-functional processes to their internal or external stakeholders.

Companies are always looking out reduce costs and improve customer experience. Some industries, for instance high tech, are rapidly growing, so instead of adding headcount they are looking for smarter ways to scale up. New technologies, like RPA, AI, digital solutions have a big impact on the market and influence the way organizations choose to deliver their services.

Equally importing, outsourcing is becoming more saturated. There are new regulations that are constantly being put in place, which are forcing companies to look at these drivers and evaluate alternatives in service delivery.

What are key benefits?

  • The time needed to implement an RPA wave and the time to accomplish the ROI is much shorter compared to other technologies, like Business Process Management and Enterprise Application Integration.
  • RPA enables enhanced processes through enhanced process quality, compliance, security and continuity. All of those lead to an increase in the throughput and a boost in the overall productivity.
  • Better customer experience is achieved through augmented service quality that has the potential to reach an accuracy rate of 100%, given the high repeatability and zero fatigue.
  • RPA typically helps decrease the delivery time, with a prospective reduction of up to 90% in cycle times. Not only is the customer experience improved, but also the employees’ experience, as RPA enables companies to eliminate manual repetitive work.
  • The new army of virtual Full Time Equivalents (FTE) can take over the non-value-added tasks performed manually by humans, while they in turn become virtual workforce managers, monitoring the robots and handling the exceptions.
  • Cost reduction is another important benefit: an RPA robot costs a fraction of an FTE and can work 25/7/365, RPA is a non-invasive technology which has not got any major IT architecture changes or deep integration with the underlying systems (unlike BPMS).
  • Scalability and flexibility are two of the most important benefits. Once a process has been automated and deployed to a robot, it becomes a matter of minutes to mobilize additional robots to manage volume fluctuations. Scaling to robots up or down can be done quickly, for either no extra or minimal cost.
  • All the activities performed by robots can be logged and interpreted through customized reporting tools, for the most part providing visual dashboards that can be adapted for each operational requirement.

Which processes should an organization automate with RPA?

  • Processes that are highly manual and repetitive make the best candidates;
  • If the steps in the process change frequently without following a pattern, it’s usually not recommended to automate.
  • Standard readable electronic input is another important criterion in RPA suitability.
  • Processes that have images as input can also be automated, but they require the use of additional technologies to convert the input to a digital format that the robot can process. Although technologies such as the one provided by ABBYY FelexiCapture have proven themselves to be extremely useful in these cases.
  • It’s recommended to start with processes that have a high volume of transactions and highly frequent because they will, of course, save the most time if automated, and effort invested in creating the automation will have a much bigger impact than it would if monthly or annual processes with a low number of transactions were automated.
  • Mature and stable processes are ideal for RPA as they are typically standardized, well-documented, with low exception rates, and it is not expected for them to generate new scenarios or undergo significant changes through optimization, redesign or other improvement initiates that usually apply to younger processes.
  • It is strongly recommended to avoid automating a process that will be changed in the short term.

In every organization HR Services, Finance and Accounting, IT Services, Supply Chain processes should automate with robotic process automation tools.

  • HR Services include a variety of repetitive process, which are highly standardized through different form templates, and are occurring regularly and frequently. Some examples include recruitment, data entry, payroll, personnel administration and many more.
  • Finance and Accounting is an area where a significant amount of processes has already been automated by many companies. Processes like Procurement to Pay, Order to Cash, Vendor Management and many others have proven ideal candidates for automation; bringing important benefits such as cost saving, error reduction and faster processing.
  • IT Services is another department where RPA can be leveraged. Typical IT Support scenarios such as password reset, account unlock, and others can be easily automated, and for complex cases Chatbot integration can be a great solution. The biggest advantage is, automating these simple tasks allows the IT department members to focus on more important and sophisticated projects.
  • Supply chain processes are typically repetitive and time-consuming. Activities such as Inventory Management, Invoice and Contract Management or Work Order Management make good candidates for RPA.

These are, of course, just a couple of examples out of many, but a good starting point for any company that is looking to adopt RPA.

Sources

  1. https://academy.uipath.com/learn/course/RPAAwarenessTraining
  2. Van der Aalst, Wil M. P.; Bichler, Martin; and Heinzl, Armin (2018) “Robotic Process Automation,” Business & Information Systems Engineering: Vol. 60: Iss. 4, 269-272.
    Available at: https://aisel.aisnet.org/bise/vol60/iss4/1
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Step One Ahead of The Customer with eCommerce Analytics

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

eCommerce companies do not struggle with collecting data; instead that is exactly the problem! Lack of drawing insights and real-time actions from the data is the main trouble. How eCommerce businesses can use the data to their advantage?

According to Forbes.com, “Retailers who leverage the full power of big data could increase their operating margins by as much as 60%.”

There is a huge volume of data that businesses use to improve their customer experience. Here are the business needs that will shape the future of e-commerce:

  • Staying one step ahead of the customer
  • Analyze customer shopping behavior
  • Get valuable real-time insights
  • Predict what customer is looking for
  • Personalize customer experience
  • Identify next best product and/or price for customer

eCommerce companies will generate more leads and boost the marketing strategies utilizing the benefits gained by analysis in real-time and predictive analytics capabilities such as improved conversion rates, personalized customer experience and determination of buying patterns.

eCommerce analytics give you insight into your customer behaviours on your website –visited pages, time spent from site search to purchase, abandonment rates, cart to payment rates, bounce rates, etc. Knowing the customer journey, helps you convert your visitors to customers.

In addition to understanding customer behaviours, eCommerce analytics can help you analyze data from different sources – such as web analytics, social media, email marketing- and allows you to combine data streams to better understand customer expectations. This will let you increase relevancy and engagement; make adjustments to your products and processes that align better with customer wants and needs. It will also allow you to see customer buying patterns, predict purchases over time; make better marketing campaigns; plan the stock and inventory.

Big data and big data analytics in e-commerce are really helping to shape the retail landscape and help businesses and their sales and marketing teams understand how to plan their short-term and long-term strategies.

eCommerce Analytics on Streaming Data

eCommerce is a business managed real-time, Obase eCommerce Analytics solution is developed on streaming data with predictive analytics capabilities, employing big data principles and tools, marrying with MicroStrategy. Check out our eCommerce Analytics solution for more details.

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Data-Driven Culture for CEOs

data driven insights
Data-Driven Culture for CEOs
NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

Most companies focus on data, but fall short of being insights driven. CEOs around the world recognize the competitive advantage of technological advancement can present to their companies. Many CEOs expect to put significant investment into emerging technologies to transform their businesses and engage customers.

According to the 2017 Global CEO Outlook:

  • 48% expect major disruption in their sector from technological innovation within the next 3 years
  • 38% are planning to invest in data analytic tools over the next 3 years
  • 35% will put significant investment into their digital infrastructures
  • 59% expect their investments will help transform the business and operating models.

Lack of Real-Time Management

Continuously optimizing action is a big gap for all. Only 13% of CEOs reported that they have an ability to monitor and iterate on production models which is essential for continually executing insights in real time. 89% of the companies have limited ability for real-time insight to execution.

Talent is more of an issue when executive support is lacking. 64% of Leaders strongly agreed that their executive team takes an insights-driven approach to decision making. Unless the management understand, it does not make any sense trying to prove with analytics.

 

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Prescriptive Analytics to Understand the Future Demands

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

Prescriptive analytics can tell the organizations how to overcome future bottlenecks predicted by Predictive analytics techniques. Gartner reports that only 10% of companies are currently taking advantage of prescriptive analytics. However, they project this number will increase more than three-fold within the next four years.

The fundamental value of supply chain management is to control the manufacture, storage, transportation and sale of goods-services to meet customer demand. In most cases the goal is to have what the customer wants, when the customer wants it, and keep nothing else. Predictive analytics is the practice of utilizing a large amount of data to gain insight into possible future scenarios in order to manipulate a positive outcome.

Here are some questions that the prescriptive analytics can solve :

  • What kind of an offer should we make to each customer?
  • What should be my shipment strategy for each retail location?
  • Which product should I launch and when?
  • Where should I build a new factory?
  • Should I build a new factory?

Check out our Prescriptive Inventory Management solution.

 

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The Biggest AI Opportunity for SMBs: Chatbots

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

AI(Artificial intelligence) will have the biggest impact on society, individual consumers, and businesses in the next several years. The reason AI will be so impactful is that it promises one thing we just can’t get enough of these days: convenience.

As a small business or startup, it is unlikely that you will invest on an expert to “do AI”. It is more likely to notive AI capabilities show up in the software you are using. Existing AI technology for businesses is already remarkable, but it’s not realistic for any business to invest in all of these AI tools at once. Here is the biggest AI opportunity for your SMB business: Chatbots.

Artificial intelligence has transformed chatbots more human like than ever before, and they are becoming extensive. AI talking chatbots are taking food orders, reserving rooms, and scheduling flights. Without training, these chatbots can apply the pattern to similar problems or different questions. This ability gives them the “intelligence” to perform tasks, solve problems, and manage information without human intervention.

You can maximize the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to improve service, save money, and increase engagement. Chatbots are rapidly moving out of the personal and into the business world and fall under the “Support” sections. According to the Facebook Messaging Survey conducted by Nielsen, 67% of people say they will message with businesses more over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat. To manage this massive interest in communicating with businesses via messaging apps, business will need chatbots.

80% of business decision-maker respondents to a 2016 survey by Oracle said they already used chatbots or plan to use them by 2020. Chatbots offer unique benefits for small businesses. It is a waste of money for small businesses to pay operators to answer calls or emails whenever they come in. AI-powered chatbots provide assistance to customers whenever they need it and immediately answer questions from potential customers, offering small businesses a way to simultaneously improve customer experiences and generate new business. They will enable businesses of any size to have scalable, convenient, 1-to-1 conversations whenever and wherever the customer prefers.

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The Biggest AI Opportunity for SMBs: Chatbots

NURAY GOKMEN KAHVECI | DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER

AI(Artificial intelligence) will have the biggest impact on society, individual consumers, and businesses in the next several years. The reason AI will be so impactful is that it promises one thing we just can’t get enough of these days: convenience.

As a small business or startup, it is unlikely that you will invest on an expert to “do AI”. It is more likely to notive AI capabilities show up in the software you are using. Existing AI technology for businesses is already remarkable, but it’s not realistic for any business to invest in all of these AI tools at once. Here is the biggest AI opportunity for your SMB business: Chatbots.

Artificial intelligence has transformed chatbots more human like than ever before, and they are becoming extensive. AI talking chatbots are taking food orders, reserving rooms, and scheduling flights. Without training, these chatbots can apply the pattern to similar problems or different questions. This ability gives them the “intelligence” to perform tasks, solve problems, and manage information without human intervention.

You can maximize the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to improve service, save money, and increase engagement. Chatbots are rapidly moving out of the personal and into the business world and fall under the “Support” sections. According to the Facebook Messaging Survey conducted by Nielsen, 67% of people say they will message with businesses more over the next two years, and 53% say they are more likely to shop with a business they can contact via chat. To manage this massive interest in communicating with businesses via messaging apps, business will need chatbots.

80% of business decision-maker respondents to a 2016 survey by Oracle said they already used chatbots or plan to use them by 2020. Chatbots offer unique benefits for small businesses. It is a waste of money for small businesses to pay operators to answer calls or emails whenever they come in. AI-powered chatbots provide assistance to customers whenever they need it and immediately answer questions from potential customers, offering small businesses a way to simultaneously improve customer experiences and generate new business. They will enable businesses of any size to have scalable, convenient, 1-to-1 conversations whenever and wherever the customer prefers.

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A Business Model on Sustainability That Makes a Difference – Leader Behind the “Coyuchi for Life”

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

One of the most important achievements I gained from my participation in this year’s NRF 2019 was to meet the CEO of Coyuchi, Eileen Mockus, and to talk about Coyuchi‘s vision in delivering a sustainable vision of home textile products.

Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.

Coyuchi provides organic home products including bed linens which was founded 30 years ago in Northern California, today headquartered in San Francisco. Coyuchi takes expert care to ensure that everything that bears the Coyuchi label is produced and processed to the strictest environmental standards in safe and humane conditions by relying on the USDA National Organic Program, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Fair Trade USA.

Eileen Mockus is Chief Executive Officer of Coyuchi, Inc. Eileen holds a Bachelor of Science in Textile and Clothing from the University of California, Davis and Master of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at San Francisco State University.  Before joining Coyuchi as Vice President of Product Development in 2011, she worked in textile production, sourcing and materials testing for The North Face, Patagonia and Pottery Barn Kids. Elenie Mockus was among the most active female leaders at NRF 2019 and attended “The power of negotiation” and “Is sustainable the new sexy?” sessions as speaker.

Before Mockus started working, Coyuchi was mainly a wholesale company. Mockus has paid attention to the development of the e-commerce channel and recently the volume of e-commerce has reached a much higher volume than all other channels. When I asked Mockus how they were benefiting from digitalization and e-commerce, she said that they started getting feedback they couldn’t get about the customer before thanks to e-commerce. On the other hand, thanks to digitalization and mobile, they can follow the quality of the product and the source from the field.

Their latest impact-driven initiative is “Coyuchi For Life”, which allows customers to buy a subscription plan for new sheets or towels every six, 12, or 24 months, depending on customer preference, for a small discount off the retail price. When their rental period ends, customers send back the sheets to Coyuchi for a new set, and Coyuchi cleans and mends the used set and then sells the used sheets to customers at a discounted price at their retail location. “Coyuchi For Life” balances their customers desires to have “newness at a faster pace,” while allowing the brand to have a “longer-term relationship with and take responsibility for the product. Coyuchi satisfies people who are sensitive to contribute less waste to the world.

Mockus emphasized the importance of the digital channels for Coyuchi to interact well with customers who love organic products and prefer quality and end added that the same customer segment probably buy organic food, eats at high qualified restaurants and wants to know the origin of their foods. It is obvious that this segment has similar preferences in clothing, food and other retail products and there is an opportunity to create a value.

Mockus continued her speech that digitalization had a positive effect to evolve more business partnerships. They list their products at leading marketplaces like Wayfair and Amazon. Being available at Amazon since 2017, leading to more than 50% of products searches from Amazon and Amazon Prime is a good option for some of their customers. The other digital platform to reach the end customer is Zola which offers wedding products and services. They also use e-catalog, google and facebook channels to engage with Coyuchi customers.

Mockus, with the vision of being the most reliable and largest organic textile brand, stated that long-term reliable relationships are very important for Coyuchi and they supply a significant portion of the products used in are supplied from outside of the United States. One of the major suppliers for many years they were very pleased with the ongoing product quality is based in Turkey. I asked if they want to offer their products in Turkey  and was answered that the biggest obstacle was different bed sizes to sell their products abroad. For this reason, they do not feel ready for markets outside the North American market.

While digitalization is threatening for many companies, for a wholesales company like Coyuchi it is strengthening the company with a single store in the headquarters with a growth of 20% per annum and a long-term connection with the end-user. Today 20% of Coyuchi’s revenue is from online sales. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, there is 13 million tons of textile waste each year. EPA predicts that recycling these waste will create as much effect as cleaning 7.3 million automobiles’ carbon footprint. There is a customer segment who cares about sustainability and despite of the increasing competition in the retail, there is always an opportunity for companies such as Coyuchi can appeal new business models to make a difference.

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PLF During A Record-Setting Holiday Air Travel Season

More people than ever before will fly on U.S. airlines this Christmas holiday season – nearly 46 million of them – according to a new projection from the industry’s Washington trade group. With less than a month left in 2018 it now is almost certain that the average inflation-adjusted domestic round-trip air fare in America this year will be the lowest it has been in at least nine years. In order to accommodate the expected demand and to predict customer demand for specific flights on specific days, airlines should use advanced data analytics.

PLF (Passenger Load Factor) has always been an important metric for profitability which is highly effected by this holiday season. PLF measures the capacity utilization for airlines. It indicates the efficiency of the airline; filling seats and generating revenues. 80% of passenger load factor is considered as standard in the domestic airline industry.

PLF can be increased by improved forecasting of future demand or more appealing offerings. A high load factor, in itself, does not necessarily mean profitability. But in general, the lower the load factor, the lower the profit.

Considering the airline industry dynamics as cancellations of reservations, multi-leg flights complexity and the openings of new flight routes, forecasting PLF becomes even harder. Yet it is attainable by building airline-specific models to forecast the aggregate passenger traffic in a certain time frame, region or an individual flight. The model delivers an optimum revenue and enables the business units to cleverly act on price and campaigns.

The improvement of PLF is a direct impact on the bottom line. The bettering of this KPI effects the plan and costs of complimentary functions; such as workforce, fuel, catering and ground services.

Take a look at our PLF solution, which is developed on R and the visualizations are developed with MicroStrategy, to see how we can help you grow your business.

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Don’t Cover Under Your Shelf(!) During the Christmas Shopping

There is no official start date for retailers to begin launching their Christmas holiday season sales. In fact, each year, different retailers set new standards to follow so the Christmas/holiday retail sales season is dynamic and continues to evolve. Retailers should be prepared for holiday shopping seasons.

On Shelf Availability(OSA) is one of the important metric for every retailer’s performance measurement during these seasons. OSA is defined as availability of product for sale to a shopper, in the right place he expects and at the time he wants to buy it. OSA is impacted by many different factors, all along the supply chain.

Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment are mostly used collaboration efforts between retailers and manufacturers in order to reduce the out-of-stock rates. While there are some marginal improvements, the truth is that many of the problems are self-inflicted wounds. Retailers are not constantly putting the right products on the shelves. Key reasons for this are:

  • Store replenishment procedures fail to replenishing shelves on a timely basis
  • In-store inventory counts are inaccurate
  • Forecasting and assortment processes and systems do not adequately account for local demand
  • Space planning and planogram processes are not readily adaptable to local store footprints and demand

As a result, the consumer does one of four things: buy another brand at the same store; buy a completely different type of product; look for that brand in another store; or, simply, not buy anything. If the consumer does not (and cannot) buy your product because it is out of stock, you don’t sell. And, provide an opportunity for your competitors to gain your consumers business and loyalty.

There is a lot that retailers can do to get their own store in order for better on-shelf availability while they pursue collaborative supply chain efforts. The time is now! The complexities of delivering on consumers’ omni-channel demands for seamless and consistent shopping journeys will not go away, they will only become more complex. And as more retailers gear up to satisfy these demands, consumers are becoming even less tolerant of delivery failures. The time to transition planning and store operations to accommodate these increasing demands is now, or else you will be left behind as customers shift their loyalty to those retailers who best meet their expectations. For more information on improving on-shelf availability, check Obase Replenishment – Smart Inventory Management solution.

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Leading Retailers by Kahn

BÜLENT DAL | CEO

The first of the last two major revolutions in the retail sector began with the creation of “ever day low price” slogan led by Aldi and Wal-Mart. In the mid-1990s, with this philosophy Wal-Mart led the  “Food Retail Revolution” to start in USA. After a while Amazon showed that providing customer friendly and support giving shopping experience was as effective as pricing on customer decision making process. The “Customer Experience Revolution” pioneered by Amazon has led many leading retailers including Wal-Mart to reshape their business models to facilitate a good customer experience.

The destructive transformation process that Amazon has pioneered continues uninterruptedly. Barbara E. Kahn, Marketing Professor  of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania published on June 2018 her thoughts about how successful retailers win customers in an era of endless disruption in her “The Shopping Revolution” book. Professor Kahn explains in her book that the customers enter the gravitational field of different retailers depending upon their own needs. She lists two principles that influence a customer’s shopping decision.

  1. Customers want to buy something they value from someone they trust.
  2. They buy from retailers who provide superior value.

She starts with two basic principles. The first is the principle of customer value. In the retail world, it means that customers want to buy something they value from someone they trust. That forms the columns of Khan matrix — product experience and customer experience. The second principle is the principle of differential advantage. They want to buy from retailers who do it better than anybody else. They can either give more pleasure or take away pain. That provides the rows of the matrix.

Below in Kahn Matrix according to two principles there occurs four pole retailer clusters. Top left  “Product Brand” row lists the digital native vertical brands, really cool customer experience brands like Warby Parker, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nike. The product quadrant would be things like brand or luxury or design or technology or something that’s really super-cool about a product that you’re willing to pay a premium price or even a luxury price.

On the top row, which is benefits or pleasure, the product quadrant would be things like brand or luxury or design or technology or something that’s really super-cool about a product that you’re willing to pay a premium price or even a luxury price. It’s the importance of in-store touch and feel. That quadrant would be retailers like Sephora or Eataly, which provide incredible, state-of-the-art customer experiences in the store.

On the second row, Walmart is an example of take away pain and offer low price. Walmart, Costco, TJ Maxx would be in that quadrant. Take away the pain from the customer experience is what Amazon did really differently, and they made it convenient. In Amazon’s case, their differential advantage is collecting a lot of customer data so that they can constantly simplify and personalize and customize the experience to make it easier and easier for the customer. In the matrix, that’s how she can define things. But the strategic implications of the matrix are something else.

When we looked at the winning strategies, each one of the winning retailers were the best at something. But they leveraged that leadership advantage to be the best at something else, too. Khan calls that the two-quadrant strategy. You have to be the best at two things and good enough at everything else. Retail is very, very hyper-competitive now. If you can’t make it, you’re really going to go out of business.

Source: “The Shopping Revolution: How Successful Retailers Win Customers in an Era of Endless Disruption”, Barbara E. Kahn, June 2018.

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