EMC: Winner of Excellence in Innovation Award



SSON Editor
04/15/2016

EMC's GBS team won not one but two Awards at a recent ceremony during Shared Services and Outsourcng Week North America 2016. The Awards were in the categories Excellence in Innovation and Excellence in Process Improvement.

We are delighted to share a summary of the winning application for the "Innovation" category below. [Also: watch the interview with the 'dream team' in which they describe their RPA implementation – here.]

Above: EMC's winning team collecting their Awards

EMC's Global Business Services

Director: Lori Hurley (second from right, above)

  • SSO launched in 2008
  • More than 1000 FTEs including captive and retained team members
  • 500-1000 outsourced team members
  • global responsibility
  • functions include finance and accounting [order to cash, procure to pay, record to report], HR, and pre-sales
  • Serving 12 business units and roughly 30,000 employees in 28 countries

Background

EMC is a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver information technology as a service (ITaaS). Fundamental to this transformation is cloud computing. Through innovative products and services, EMC accelerates the journey to cloud computing, helping IT departments to store, manage, protect and analyze their most valuable asset — information — in a more agile, trusted and cost-efficient way.

EMC ranks 121 in the Fortune 500 and had reported revenues of $24.7 billion in 2015, the largest revenue year in EMC's 36-year history.

EMC employs approximately 70,000 people worldwideand is represented by approximately 400 sales offices and scores of partners in 86 countries around the world. EMC has the world's largest sales and service force focused on information infrastructure, and works closely with a global network of technology, outsourcing, systems integration, service, and distribution partners.

Global Business Services

Global Business Services (GBS) is committed to supporting EMC’s cloud computing and big data management strategies. It supports this through multi-functional capabilities in Commercial, Employee, Financial and Customer & Professional Services. GBS’s goal is to evolve to become a strategic business partner that solves impactful problems for its customers.

Strategy

GBS wanted to innovate the way business services were provided at EMC by massively shifting from a labor arbitrage cost savings approach to one driven through digitization and automation. These same techniques were already being used by third party service providers to implement lightweight automation that improved process efficiency, reduced cycle times and improved quality. Typically, automation in captive environments is performed ad-hoc through partnerships with IT or in specific departments which happen to have a skilled resource experienced with basic desktop automation. These efforts drive limited value as they don’t scale well and atrophy without a solid infrastructure and resource base to maintain them. GBS at EMC was not an exception.

EMC’s new automation strategy was to start a small proof-of-concept, with a team of resources focused on desktop automation. They would be embedded within a services team, learn their processes and the business, propose automation, then implement and maintain it. As we proved the value, the team would grow and we would build out a business case for more sophisticated technology. This plan was received well and green-lighted to proceed.

The first challenge we encountered was sourcing the resources. Our internal IT organization was interested but already committed to existing automation initiatives and the immediate opportunities didn’t have the ROI to compete with large enterprise initiatives. Outsourcing suppliers were equally apathetic as this was a source of their competitive advantage and their potential returns were low. We decided this was too important to our organization to wait for, so we decided to hire resources ourselves and build the capability from the ground up.

The second challenge encountered was the pace of technology change in the industry. In mid-2015, there was an overload of information regarding Robotic Process Automation and how it was revolutionizing the services industry. We were days away from making offers to qualified candidates, but after participating in a demo from a leading RPA firm, we saw the potential to leapfrog our original strategy and approach this opportunity faster with a far greater impact. We put hiring on hold and developed a new plan.

This new plan for EMC’s GBS organization was to understand the RPA industry, evaluate potential suppliers and develop a comprehensive business case to go big, drive substantial cost savings and shift to an automate first mentality. In EMC’s Q2 2015 earnings call, they announced a plan to save $850M, so we had a clear mandate to innovate and find new ways of driving cost out of the business on a large scale.

In partnership with EMC IT and procurement, we met with respected analysts from firms like Gartner, attended focused RPA conferences, spoke with CEOs from leading automation firms and met with other peer organizations that had already made this journey. In a few short months we came up to speed enough to select vendors and develop a proof-of-concept evaluation process. We also developed a business case that started with 50 virtual FTEs or bots that would be able to drive $2.2M in annual cost savings. We would educate 2-5 resources in each of our 4 service towers to enable them to perform their own automation, while establishing an automation Center of Excellence within our GBS organization with 3 experienced developers to perform architecture and SME roles, along with a senior manager to coordinate startup, project and run activities between IT, the COE and service towers.

Improvement Methodologies

Starting in early 2015, GBS began to look at the way it was doing business and the value it was adding to its customers. Traditional BPO and Shared Services methodologies were approaching the point of diminishing returns and leadership recognized that a new business initiative was necessary. The following approaches were taken:

  • Challenge managers and staff to find new ideas that added value to the business
  • Study our industry as well as other industries for new trends and technologies
  • Place more emphasis on innovation as a skill when hiring new people
  • Focus on increasing the velocity at which our initiatives move
  • Take more risks

During this timeframe we identified automation and subsequently Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a transformational technology that would result in a significant reduction in our operational costs. Although this technology was very new, our team recognized that it would become widely adopted and extremely effective in reducing the labor costs associated with providing our services; therefore, we moved forward aggressively. In the end we were one of the first global enterprises to implement this technology and reap its rewards.

This initiative (incubation to production launch) took less than ten months. During this process we used concepts and tools from many of the industry-leading practices including Six Sigma (DMAIC Process), Lean (7 Wastes), and Theory of Constraints (managing bottlenecks). We deployed these tools many times during the overall phase-gate process as follows.

Scoping -> Building a Business Case -> Development -> Testing and Validation -> Launch

Scoping Phase:

During this phase we performed the following:

  • Identify areas of the business where we think this technology is applicable
  • Define a demanding proof of concept phase the results of which point us to the right business partner for our business needs.
  • Identify infrastructure needs and costs

Building the Business Case Phase:

The information from the Scoping phase was used to formulate a business case that was presented to VPs and SVPs. The case was based on the transition of service work from FTEs to "robotic" FTEs resulting in significant cost savings. Immediate approval for moving to development was granted.

Development Phase:

This phase was broken into two segments described below.

Proof-of-Concept

During this phase we identified a number of business partners that were willing to take part in our proof-of-concept phase. We chose the Human Resource’s offer letter process and the Finance Team’s invoicing process. We also identified companies that were promoting themselves as the leading providers of the RPA software. We identified three companies whose software we would use to automate our repetitive processes and then contrasted these companies against each other using the following criteria:

  • Ease of Use/Training
  • Solution Reliability
  • Strength of the Business Partner
  • Cost of the technology

A validation document was created based on the criteria outlined, and in the end we determined a software supplier to move forward with. Automation Anywhere (AA) out of California was chosen.

Pilot Testing

During this phase we partnered with AA, IT, the Global Security Office, Risk Management, and customers to do the following:

  • Define and Build out the IT Infrastructure
  • Deploy the AA Software
  • Establish Governance and Robust Operating Procedures
  • Automate the Identified Process
  • Stress Test the Infrastructure, Governance, and Operating Procedures
  • Train Associates on the AA Software

As we went through the pilot testing, areas of weakness were discovered. The team worked together to find the best solution to dealing with these areas of weakness.

Testing and Validation Phase:

We partnered with business SMEs and the automation developers to establish a robust user acceptance test (UAT). These UAT plans were used to challenge the automations that were developed in the Development phase using the AA tool. Examples of items tested during the UAT were: Task Completion, Speed of Completion, Quality of Output, Disaster Recovery, Control Room Management, etc. In addition to specific characteristics being tested we ran the automations over and over again until we reached a statistically significant number of successful executions.

Launch Phase:

We have successfully moved the pilot automations into production and trained over 25 business associates on how to use the software to automate their processes. We have had no significant sustainability issues come up and are now pushing our outsourcing business partners to incorporate this technology into their operations so we can reap greater rewards.     

Benefits Achieved

The successful pilot testing and launch of the RPA initiative has redefined the way GBS will do business. Historically, the key metric for the group has been "cost per transaction". New initiatives were quoted in terms of how many FTEs it would take to support it. With RPA, the direct labor cost associated with the ongoing operations has been reduced by an order of magnitude. This has allowed us to increase the number of services per dollar of cost as well as provide new services at no incremental cost to the company. The RPA launch has resulted in:

Financial Benefits Already Totaling $2M per Year:

  • HR Offer Letters: reduced the required FTEs resulting in a yearly cost savings of $125,000
  • HR Open Ticket Report reduced the employee workload by 6%
  • Automating Renewal Quotes saving $600,000 annually
  • Automating Tech Refresh resulting in a yearly $50,000 savings
  • Negotiated with outside service provider to communicate that they need to implement RPA as well resulting in yearly savings of $1.2M

Organizational Benefits

  • Established RPA Center of Excellence with a worldwide presence
  • Created a new group of agile automation experts that are imbedded within the business units
  • Shifted the cultural thinking from being a "lift and shift" labor arbritrage service provider to developing innovative solutions leveraging automation technologies and becomming more of a strategic business partner to our customers

Customer Service Benefits

  • More competitive on quoting support for new services based on automated solutions. This cost effect varies but can be as low as 95% less than the non-automated cost
  • Improved the quality of the output. The robotic process is 100% correct
  • Freed up FTEs can focus on more value add, judgement based services

Process Benefits

  • Established RPA tool within all (4) GBS Service Towers
  • Established RPA capabilities in our low cost service provider in India
  • Provided consultancy services to the GBS outsourcing partner to establish RPA capabilities within their group
  • Propelled the GBS organization to a transformative, value-added type of group versus a low-cost operational group

In short, GBS was able to:

  • Decrease the "cost per transactiont" significantly
  • Increase accuracy of the automated process outputs to 100%
  • Increase new business opportunity close rates due to significant decreases in cost
  • Change the perception of GBS from a low-cost internal provider to an innovator

Summary

EMC GBS created a completely new capability with our automation Center of Excellence, working closely with teams in EMC IT, our GBS service delivery towers and third party services provider. To do so, we overcame a steep learning curve in technology, methodology and organizational change management.

Our new team is technology oriented, including skills not traditionally found in a GBS organization. Given the lack of interest internally and externally with existing partners, we had to build new relationships with third party technology companies to learn the industry and source the skills we needed to get established.

We needed to define the new roles with clear demarcations where IT was responsible for the infrastructure, the COE responsible for the application software, development methodology, standards and architecture, and the service delivery towers responsible for automating their processes, running/scheduling the automation, creating the bot identities and handling exceptions.

3 Lessons Learned

1. The historical belief that you should wait for new technologies to be proven before implementing can negatively impact your ability to move a business forward at the pace necessary to stay competitive. Having a talented team in place that recognizes this is key.

2. Moving through a new technology project that has many unknowns at a very high rate of speed can be unnerving. Those risks can be mitigated by assembling a team of talented people and then empowering them to make the decisions necessary to launch the initiative successfully independently of senior management.

3. It is really important to stay connected to those in the industry that are willing to test and report on new technologies. Leveraging groups like SSON with their research data and forums for member interaction accelerate our ability to identify and implement new solutions like RPA more quickly.

The wave of automation we anticipate over the next 12 months will have disruption similar to what was experienced with labor arbitrage. It was critical to get in front of it and develop the change management strategies and communication required to guide our teams through it. Our goal has always been to drive efficiencies so that we could take on growth and additional scope or focus on more value-producing activities for EMC, cross-training and redeploying resources wherever needed.

NOTE: We recognized early on that this technology, although in its infancy, was going to change the way our industry did business. Our team had the courage to adopt this technology and ensure that the initiative was launched successfully. Others are waiting for the technology to mature or not understanding the potential scale and are thus missing the opportunity to be at the forefront of the change in operating model. Our team has a considerable appetite for change and risk but we also have extremely talented people who can understand and mitigate those risks. This approach will always keep us ahead of the competition.

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