Transformation Through Automation

December 12, 2017   By Martin Ruane, Programme Director, ENGIE

Earlier this year, NLGN and ENGIE launched the Tomorrow’s Places report focusing on how councils can practically use technology-led infrastructure, data analytics, and networks for better outcomes. The research highlighted the potential for technology to help local government transform places and create more sustainable and empowered communities.

For ENGIE, robotic process automation (RPA) is a relatively new technology that has been transforming our public sector contracts since 2014, enabling us to rapidly improve customer experience whilst saving money which can be invested elsewhere.

RPA is simply a piece of software that can be trained to do mundane, manual, repetitive tasks that would normally require significant man hours to process. For example, North Tyneside Council’s benefits service integrated robotic automation with their online new claim forms – a first for a local authority, removing the need for any human inputting and almost eliminating customer complaints. The revenues service also used robotic automation to process online council tax direct debit applications. At North Tyneside, the first process was rolled out within five weeks of training and 87% of new claims were submitted online within three months of the benefit claims automation.

“Outwardly customers see a seamless service; there is no awareness that the processing is no longer carried out by a human. What is apparent is consistent decision making, efficient service delivery and resources applied promptly to deal with more complex cases where human intervention is required”
Andy Scott, Senior Client Manager, North Tyneside Council.

The council acted as an incubation site for ENGIE to develop an operational model and train staff culminating in the launch of a Centre of Excellence (COE) in 2016 and the first robotic process outside of the council went live at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) this October.

RPA has been used to automate part of MOPAC’s billing process, an area that handles thousands of transactions every year. The software cleared a four week backlog processing 1,200 billing jobs in its first week. Gerard Archdeacon, MOPAC’s billing manager has welcomed the change, noting that it has released staff to add more value elsewhere: “The RPA billing process automates all the mundane admin work, which enables us to redirect resource to higher value tasks that are often neglected. It ensures that reactive jobs are sent to our quantity surveyor as soon as we have all the costs in, helping us achieve our monthly billing targets and speed up cash flow. Ultimately, we’ve been able to change our focus from reacting to costs suddenly coming in to proactively seeking costs in order to further “feed” the automated process.”

The launch of this process is part of ambitious plans to roll out RPA across ENGIE’s 14,000 UK contracts. The business case is compelling; a digital worker is 80% cheaper than a human equivalent is available 24/7/365 and will save ENGIE approximately £10m over the next five years. Some processes can be fully ‘industrialised’ i.e. built once and deployed many times, which reduces development lead times and cost.

ENGIE’s RPA programme has been truly transformative for its business and staff across the UK; enabling a scalable automation solution has created more fulfilling work for staff whilst saving money and improving customer service. ENGIE will be launching a Public Sector Centre of Excellence to help other councils implement an accelerated RPA programme soon. If you would like learn more about ENGIE’s pioneering RPA programme, please contact Martin Ruane, Programme Director, on 07772 532101 or at martin.ruane@engie.com.

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