Is hyperautomation the answer to alleviating the COVID-19 threat to business?

It is no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly affect every business in every industry, in some way. Company executives find themselves under significant pressure to navigate the short-term impacts of slowing growth - and a how-to guide for surviving this is yet to be written.

Many urgent decisions needed to be made to ensure reductions - whether that be permanent or temporary - affecting staffing levels, discretionary spend controls, and scaled production in order to keep businesses afloat.

In some cases, unnatural spikes in the volume of transactional work can cause these pressures to be exacerbated, particularly when it comes to increasing insurance claims, cancelled appointment correspondence or rising contact-centre calls. Navigating the problem, with a slimmed down workforce, stalled investments and slower production, is becoming increasingly challenging for business executives. So how can this be overcome, particularly when some industries find their workload dramatically increasing and less staff to handle it?

There is no time to ponder

Almost one year ago, I wrote an article that spoke of UiPath as a Dreamy Business, with almost unlimited upside. The conviction for that statement was born from the steadfast belief that hyper-automation will unleash the creativity and potential that was often locked up in teams, restrained by mundane and repetitive tasks. In short, hyperautomation accelerates human potential.

But of course, as has been proven time and again…necessity is the mother of all invention. We are at a unique point, in that the rules of time itself have changed. We don’t have the time to take our time.

Nations are building industries in front of our eyes. They are building hospitals within 10 days. They are reinventing production lines to roll out critical components, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment. Necessity is also driving our hospitals to automate clerical work to put extra capacity back into care. It’s driving the systematic organisation of testing for the virus and updating patient triage. It’s dealing with the wave of benefits claims. Of business loans. Of repatriation of citizens and the abundance of screening and onboarding volunteer workforce. It’s humanity at it’s best. And it’s accelerated.

Mitigating the coronavirus threat by unlocking the door to automation

The urgency of now is understood by UiPath, and our sense of responsibility to help has bound all of us.

With that in mind, UiPath has been providing our end-to-end hyperautomation platform free of charge to specifically help the front line of the fight against the virus. For the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin, we have extended our vision of a robot (digital assistant) for every person, to the specific requirements of a “robot for every nurse”, which is reducing the time the nursing team spends on clerical work by 30% each day; 30% more nursing capacity right now feels like a blow for the virus. Software robots are now logging into the laboratory system, applying relevant disease codes to tests, and inputting the information back into relevant systems and reports. Several additional healthcare institutions from around the world are also directly seeking our support and we are doing our best to step up.

We have also made available the free-of-charge UiPath Health Screening Bot, launched in several Asia-Pacific countries and being rolled out in Europe, Middle-East and Africa too. It keeps track of the employees’ health whether they work from the office or from home. Instead of putting HR people under a lot of strain, the robot sends out a survey and keeps track of who has and hasn’t completed it. Also, it proactively follows up every hour via various communication tools (Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp) to those who haven’t made the check. The Health Screening Bot organises all the data in a summary report at the end of day. The data summaries are presented in an easy-to-read visual such as pie and bar charts — making it easy to see where employees are working (at home or in the office) and their temperatures.

The airline industry has been grounded and with it, a massive number of requests for cancelations has been hitting contact centres. One of our European airline customers is using UiPath to allow agents to pull data faster by using attended automations and combining it with back-office automations to streamline the customer experience.

For one of the biggest online US retailers, ten unattended robots help with the selection process as they needed to add 100,000 full-time and part-time positions in warehouse and delivery roles to keep up with the sudden increase in online shopping and delivery. They have been processing 800,000 to one million job applications under time pressure and UiPath is automating much of the process and reducing the time to resolve screening and onboarding.

The tables are turning

Although it doesn’t seem like it now, there will be a time, after the virus has been defeated, that the world will turn to a ‘new state of normal’, and the technology we have depended on will weave its way into our everyday lives, forming a critical part of the new-stack of productivity tools and accelerating human achievement.

Now is proving to be the time to strengthen the human-machine collaboration, helping businesses to get through these unprecedented times, while adding capacity to the workforce and ensuring business continuity of systems, processes and tasks.

Hyperautomation is certainly alleviating the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses, and will go some way to safeguarding companies in the future, too.

Business executives should use this time to build the workforce and the workspace of the future that will emerge through this crisis, as there’s no doubt industries will develop a greater dependency on automation and innovation. The future workforce is one that is augmented with digital assistants and a workspace that is largely automated, working alongside humans who shape the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gavin Jackson is Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA, UiPath. We started small, then became the world’s leading RPA software company.