Vodafone Shared Services: Exploring RPA Opportunities

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Vodafone's Shared Services has a long and respected history. What started with finance services in Hungary 8 years ago with a "one centre, one function" strategy, today operates from Europe, Africa and India employing roughly 20,000 staff and serving 30+ countries with Finance, Supply-Chain, Sales & Marketing, Technology, HR, Analytics, and Customer Operations services. Throughout, Vodafone has adhered strictly to a 100% captive sourcing model, doing all the planning and development in-house.

Salvatore Russo is Head of Strategy and Engagement for Vodafone Shared Services (VSS), where one of his priorities is to monitor and analyze the latest trends and technologies in the Shared Services and BPO industry that can be applied to VSS operations to maximize the benefits to customers.

VSS strategic objectives are to maximize cost arbitrage, increase productivity and capitalize shared services teams’ knowledge to improve Vodafone profitability.

One of the key initiatives to enable Vodafone to optimize cost of operation and improve service quality is the implementation of RPA in shared services operations.

"Robotics became attractive not just because of the opportunity to take cost out out of the process but also because it will "liberate" our people from boring and repetitive tasks, giving back the time to focus on more interesting activities that require higher competencies. It also helps to release some of the pressure on our centres in terms of office space and recruitment," Salvatore explains.

"If we can source robots to support our business services in future, we may be able to reduce the need to hire for low complex activities, giving our people the ability to concentrate on more interesting and appealing work that creates a bigger impact for our customers."

The first RPA pilot was launched a year ago, to test the impact of robotics on customer operations. "Our focus was on managing different interfaces and queries coming from our customers," Salvatore explains. "We very quickly achieved a 40% reduction in overall process cost and a significant quality improvement, which proved the concept right there."

Following the success of the initial pilot, VSS is currently working on proof of concepts for Finance, HR, and enterprise services.

RPA is only the first step in a long-term strategy towards cognitive and artificial intelligence being used across Vodafone's support services, Salvatore explains. To ensure that the right framework is being established today to support this long-term strategy, Vodafone has set up a Centre of Excellence. Made up of international team members, this COE supports robotic implementations across services lines, and will create opportunities to easily deploy the acquired knowledge to retain processes, as well.

"The big opportunity will be working with our affiliates to selectively implement robotics within the retained processes," Salvatore explains. "We don't want to hide this capability in the Shared Services team alone. We want local markets to be able to capitalize on our knowledge and experience in deploying RPA – with our support."

What’s certain for Vodafone’s team is that RPA is here to stay. Today VSS talks to different providers, each of whom has their special area of expertise. In future, there is not going to be one technology for all purposes – but rather a technology for each purpose, Salvatore says. Partnering with multiple providers to get the best mix of solutions is an advantage, he explains: "We want to optimize the technology landscape and leverage multiple RPA solutions to deliver the highest value and best customer experience possible."

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