5 minute read 24 Jun 2020
Engineer hand using tablet

Automation for the people

Ean Evans

EY Oceania Intelligent Automation Leader

Robotics expert. Digital finance transformation. Working smarter, not harder.

Catherine Friday

EY Oceania Government and Health Sciences Managing Partner

Improving how governments work and deliver services. Mustang owner. Keen horse rider. Average but enthusiastic skier

5 minute read 24 Jun 2020

Connected automation gives governments a deep understanding of their citizens’ needs, the best ways to service them and a sophisticated means of planning for the future.

Imagine an intelligent data platform containing a single comprehensive view of each vulnerable citizen, enabling the right services to be delivered at the right time. Thanks to crucial data insights, citizens’ lives are improved. 

As the real-life scenario above shows, data is more than numbers in a spreadsheet. Properly stitched together, data can give governments a sophisticated picture of issues facing their citizens at the same time unlocking the most efficient opportunities for refinement and change. But collecting and organising the data is problematic, especially for governments with limited access to technology, outdated policies, and highly manual and siloed processes.

EY partner Ean Evans says Governments in Australia have the opportunity to be global leaders in better serving citizens. “It will require a concerted effort across multiple departments and agencies.

“While it is a daunting task that will takes courage to execute, it is achievable through a scaled digital strategy that upskills government employees to service customers in better ways,” he says.

“If Governments want the lasting improvements that come from better connections between their employees and with citizens, Intelligent Automation absolutely must be a critical piece in that puzzle.”

Reimagining the organisation of data is underpinned by Intelligent Automation, or ‘connected automation’. By bringing the disparate threads of data together, across all departments, governments can gain a clear view of their service delivery systems, how they are managed and the outcomes. Not only does it give governments a rich and specific view of how their citizens are being served but it allows for more powerful and accurate predictions of what can be done today and what will be needed in the future.

If Governments want the lasting improvements that come from better connections between their employees and with citizens, Intelligent Automation absolutely must be a critical piece in that puzzle
Ean Evans
EY Oceania Intelligent Automation Leader

While many transformation programs falter under the weight of inertia, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed that with strong political will, there is a capability to move quickly to reimagining the ways things have always been done.

In developing successful automation programmes for our clients we have come up with 9 lessons in improving processes and deploying automation to its best advantage.

9 lessons from succesful automation programmes 

  • Lesson 1: Cost reduction is not the only driver

    Organisations achieve significant benefits in a range of areas, cost reduction is not the only driver

    Automation projects deliver benefits whether they are small scale proof of concepts or within mature organisations. These benefits are varied and extend beyond pure cost reduction to include customer satisfaction and even staff experience.

    • Customer experience - “right first time” task completion and faster response rate
    • Capacity release - freeing resources to concentrate on value-add tasks
    • Growth – expanding revenues or market footprint
    • Cost reduction – reduction in costs (including headcount)
    • Build capability – upskill staff on automation
    • Digital transformation – strategy focused on the need to adopt new technologies
    • Open up new technology – improve compliance or utilise automation to monitor risks
    • Employee experience – removing manual tasks from employees so that they can enjoy their job
    • Cost avoidance – avoiding the need to incur a future cost
    • Data integrity – improving the quality of data 

    Organisations see a wide range of benefits from automation. Customer experience and releasing capacity and cost reduction are the  most common.  Considering how to realise these wider benefits is key to a successful automation programme.

    One of the important lessons from multiple case studies is that automation does not necessarily mean reductions in FTE. Nonfinancial benefits are key, such as improving  customer experience through reductions in processing time and freeing up staff capacity.

  • Lesson 2: Moving beyond Proof of Concepts is when transformation benefits begin

    Benefits only become significant when organisations move beyond Proof of Concepts and start transforming 

    In the early phases of automation, organisations will often deploy proof of concepts, however, they need to move beyond this stage if they are to realise significant benefits. The difficulty organisations face is moving beyond the initial proof of concept phase and beginning a true transformation using automation as a key tool.

    It is difficult to demonstrate the scale of an automation in any organisation. An organisation may have automated a single complex process, compared with another organisation which may have automated hundreds of simple ones. The proxy which is often used is number of bots deployed – although again this presents an issue as the complexity and scale of the work conducted by the bots is not shown.

    Organisations which are at the proof of concept stage need to be thinking to the longer term — and it is worth establishing a Centre of Excellence (CoE) even when at the early stages of development.

    Scaling up is necessary to achieve significant benefits and to transform an organisation.

    The following lessons set out how organisations scale up. 

  • Lesson 3: Automation strategy is key to focus teams on transforming

    Having a strategy on automation or a compelling set of targets helps focus teams on transforming

    Aligning teams with leadership around a vision is critical to scaling up automation projects.

    There are a number of ways in which organisations drive the adoption of automation, some make it part of their overall corporate strategy and others make use of centralised targets (such as cost reduction or service improvement) to drive middle management, some do both.

    For example, an organisation may develop a four-level strategy; updating its physical infrastructure, integrating its systems through automation, personalising its services and utilising its data to drive decision-making. This clear integration of automation into the corporate strategy means that it isn’t an option for business areas, they need to utilise automation in order to align with the wider company. However, they do have the latitude to make their own decisions on exactly what to automate.

    Centrally driven targets are also helpful, with business areas left to decide whether they wish to use automation as a tool to achieve a goal.

    Even if centre is driving the automation strategy, business areas need to own the change.

    Teams know which of their processes are their pain points and when they are thoroughly engaged they often welcome the opportunity to improve their ways of working. For example, manual processes are often seen as a blocker to scalable growth. While this is a typical issue for organisations as a whole, it is also frustrating for the individuals who have to manage the processes therefore welcoming the opportunity to automate one, or many, of their tasks to free up their time to focus on value-adding roles. 

  • Lesson 4: Real benefits and ROI can be realised, in the short term and beyond

    Short term benefits can be realised. However, transformative programmes can run for years

    Automation is often sold as a quick solution; however, successful organisations invest in the longer-term in order to deliver business-wide impacts.

    Companies which specialise in automation will emphasise how simple automation is to do and how quickly a bot can be trained to conduct a process. Automation is often seen as a way to achieve rapid improvements and cost saving.

    It is certainly true that automations can be very rapidly deployed even for a highly complex process. While these very rapid improvements can drive significant benefits, organisations need to commit over the longer term, as with all programmes, it takes time for benefits to accrue.

    Automation is not primarily a tool to rapidly cut costs, it is a way of improving an organisation over time. As such, organisations need to invest over an extended period. 

  • Lesson 5: Organisations need a strong central team to support automation delivery

    While the business is encouraged to change via centrally set targets and a clear corporate strategy, the delivery model functions at its best when a Centre of Excellence is established to act as an enabler to the wider business and to support it through its transition.

    CoE’s are critical in large multinational companies, and help companies unlock the potential of automation, without imposing on the business. A large organisation such as Government should consider having multiple CoEs at a departmental level to build capability. Individual business areas can develop their own CoE in order to deploy automation. These can become “hubs” and are responsible for governance, opportunity identification, and development. A central CoE provides IT infrastructure and supplier management and avoids duplication of effort.

    Process identification and prioritisation: A team is established to assist the wider organisation to deliver against the strategy. This phase may include delivering proof of concepts, but its main focus is business units developing a long list of processes as candidates for automation, which are then prioritised.

    Detailed process analysis: The selected processes are mapped in very fine detail.

    Agile development: This is the stage in which the processes are automated.

    UAT: The developers work with the users to verify that the solution is viable.

    Deployment: The process goes live.

    Operations: Once the automation is completed, it will require ongoing maintenance. This takes two forms, if they are attended, the bots will need to be managed by a team. They will also need to be updated in line with changes to the wider system.

    Agile delivery: An agile approach is common to both software development and traditional process improvement.

    A clear delivery model, using a tried and tested agile approach is a key element of any automation program, providing teams with the capacity and methodology to deliver. 

  • Lesson 6: Automation is a catalyst of successful end to end programs

    Automation is primarily focused on improving organisational outcomes and improving the processes that enable the delivery of services. There are broadly two approaches that organisations take. The first is to take an existing process and apply automation to the manual steps. The second is to review the entire end-to-end process, and reimagine it using Lean techniques and the application of appropriate technology.

    Automating a poor process can increase the speed of a process, and remove repetitive jobs from workers. However, reimagining the process is key to transforming an organisation.

  • Lesson 7: It is important to pick the right technology for the business problem

    RPA is the foundation upon which intelligent automation needs to be built, and consequently is the starting point for organisations conducting an automation. However, it must also be considered that there are other technologies beyond automation which can be used – a new ERP system may be more appropriate for a particular problem. It is up to the business to decide which technology is appropriate for the business problem at hand. Different technologies serve different purposes, by starting with the business problem and choosing a technology to resolve it organisations are far more likely to achieve benefits than by imposing a standard piece of software.

  • Lesson 8: Automation links together data sources, providing new information

    As organisations automate, how they unlock the data, which has been embedded in their systems and allow staff to utilise it becomes critical. Access to new information could change key management decisions.

    In part this is as simple as receiving information more quickly. The ability to access data in real time is providing some of the greatest benefit such as losing time reviewing legacy systems to find answers.

    Utilising data is not a stated objective however, it is a key benefit of automation – automation is fundamentally about connecting pieces of information. When organisations make use of this data they can unlock unexpected benefits.

    Many organisations are still learning about the benefits the wealth of data automation makes available. However, given the potential benefits seen it is to be expected that this will form the next frontier in automation.

  • Lesson 9: Staff engagement is integral in reimagining your workforce plan

    Automation requires engagement from staff in the short term and a longer term plan to reimagine your workforce

    While automation changes the way a process works, it is the workers who run the process, and understand it in enough detail to allow automation to occur. All change programmes encounter a degree of resistance from those impacted. 

    There are two main things for business leaders to consider when undertaking an automation:

    1. What is my change management approach? How will I communicate and keep my staff engaged?
    2. What is my people strategy; what is my talent strategy, how do I need to change my organisation structure and what skills and behaviours will my people need in the future?

    Change management

    Change management is important for two reasons, firstly staff understand the process and will need to pass this information to the developers and secondly, they will need to understand how to utilise the new system.

    It is important for an organisation to recognise the importance of a supportive workforce for a successful deployment. When considering which processes to automate, leaders can review the likely benefit but need to factor in the local team’s support for automation in their decision-making.

    People Strategy

    An automation programme should release staff capacity to focus on value-add tasks, while also providing an opportunity to develop new skills. It can also reduce the reliance on contractor support, leading to a rebalancing of the workforce towards internal staff. 

    Focus on value add tasks

    By utilising automation, organisations can free up FTE of manual effort allowing staff to focus on areas of value such as customer service and reviewing compliance.

    Upskilling staff

    When driving automation through a central CoE organisations can also take a bottom-up approach, encouraging its workforce to implement their own small-scale automations. By providing training to staff to upskill them on RPA for example, organisations can gain greater benefits and engagement.

    Reducing reliance on contractors: Updated systems using RPA often has the benefit of boosting staff availability and when reducing the reliance on contractors, cost savings can be achieved.

    Automation presents an opportunity to change the nature of an organisation’s workforce, upskilling staff, focusing them on value-add work and reducing reliance on third parties. Staff will welcome these benefits if a clear change management strategy is followed which engages them and makes them want to drive the change. 

Governments have traditionally increased headcount to handle peaks in demand while at the same time customer and employee satisfaction are at all-time lows. The ability to attract intelligent automation skillsets is extremely challenging. But automation can alleviate the need to increase headcount, to increase citizen and employee satisfaction and to attract highly skilled employees.

As the following case studies show, government as well as industry can benefit from properly implemented automation technology.  We know from our experience that multiple benefits can be realised with a more complete approach and the development of automation capabilities across all of government.

How the 9 lessons are being applied by Australian organisations

  • How automation saved millions for an aged care provider

    How does an automation journey plough through productivity?

    A large Australian Aged Care provider approached EY to help them begin their automation journey. After an initial scan, EY identified nine processes with potential for over $3.6m in productivity uplift and ongoing benefits of almost 12,000 hours a year. The key aims of the automation, and the principles that underpinned the proof of concept included: reducing manual work and saving time; reducing process latency; increasing compliance and decreasing risk; improving staff experience and improving data quality.

    Identifying future automation opportunities reaps millions in productivity

    In the initial 16 weeks, nine processes were automated within the HR function. One particular process was related to the payroll function, and saw a saving of 50,000 hours. The overall process automation saved $4m+ and 12,000+ hours in annual productivity benefits. In addition to delivering the automated processes, EY identified 21 process with automation potential in HR alone, and is now performing a scan across Finance, IT, Procurement and Property to identify further value. At its core, this means releasing staff to support the quality of life for those that they care for.

  • How automation is enabling universities to operate at speed

    How are bots speeding up university operations?

    EY is helping an Australian University use intelligent automation technology and Robotics Process Automation to improve the operational efficiency of back office and customer facing functions and achieve cost reduction goals. EY teams collaborated with the University to set up and operationalise a global award-winning automation and innovation CoE (Centre of Excellence) that will eventually transition into a federated operating model within the university.

    The university’s targets were to:

    • Increase compliance
    • Improve staff and student experience, and
    • Save time

    EY assisted the university in developing five proof of concepts, resulting in 101 bots running 125 processes for multiple departments. The team supported the infrastructure set up, ran DevOps, process automation development and process assessment and prioritisation, as well as defining the university’s CoE operating model and building out their machine learning capabilities. This resulted in a scalable RPA platform for additional bots, on-premise hosting for virtual machines and integration of cloud-based third-party cognitive services around text and facial recognition.

    Better operations means universities can focus on what’s important – the students

    End-to-end business process automation supports enhanced operations so universities can focus on their customers – their students. Establishing a robust run support function delivered a significant range of benefits to the university through automation of back office and customer facing functions, including service improvements, improved risk and compliance controls, tangible productivity outcomes and cost reductions. Together with EY, the university took out a global automation award for best newcomer across all sectors. 

  • How RPA is transforming telco customer service

    How can RPA transform customer service?

    EY is helping a Fortune 500 Teleco deploy disruptive technologies to transform its customer service. Operating in over 100 countries with over 100,000 employees, this global telco was facing cost pressures in key markets. The EY Team embarked on a journey to deploy RPA to save time, speed service delivery and improve quality customer service. Commencing with a detailed feasibility assessment for all processes within customer operations function, our team then developed a business case and shortlisted high value processes to design an RPA solution deploying over 90 bots. The team also established a self-sufficient RPA Centre-of-Excellence (CoE).

    Higher efficiency means higher customer satisfaction

    The telco’s initial goal of significant cost reduction was achieved through a perceive current state review and RPA of high frequency repetitive manual tasks, resulting in more than 25 FTE increased productivity. The turn around time for critical processes was more than 20%. The telco’s personnel also saw improved capability, volume handling, quality and consistency of customer service.

  • How RPA halved operational costs for a global insurer

    How can RPA slash operating costs?

    EY helped a large global insurer achieve 51% cost reduction and 25% capacity release in 12 weeks. To deal with margin pressure and growth challenges, the insurer engaged EY to deliver significant cost reductions and productivity gains. The team identified RPA as a means to automate the most complex, labour-intensive back office processes within parts of their global business. Following a successful proof of concept, EY teams assessed and prioritised the processes that would deliver the most tangible benefits. They also advised the client on the most appropriate Centre of Excellence (CoE) design for their global business, and helped implement the CoE.

    Increased efficiencies equals decreased expenses

    In under 12 weeks, the full implementation achieved:

    • 51% cost reduction for delivery of high-frequency tasks
    • 25% capacity release within operational team
    • Improvements to quality, control, audit and timeliness for automated processes
    • Accelerated delivery time and reduced cost to meet customer requirements
    • Reduced pressure on a major platform releases due to reduced operational dependencies, as a result of improved process timings through automation

    The client’s personnel are now trained to run the program themselves and have additional time in their day to dedicate to serving their clients.

  • How robotic automation transformed the banking agenda

    How does robotic automation transform banking operations?

    EY worked with a large Australian bank to improve productivity, client service and risk performance through a process transformation agenda. As well as addressing operational breaches and minimising risks, the bank also engaged EY to mitigate increased overtime and staff numbers needed to work through these issues. Challenged also with legacy systems that were costly and time consuming, EY began automating operations to reduce manual mistakes and improve function and cost efficiencies, while ensuring the process did not impact critical customer service.

    EY Professionals identify numerous productivity and service opportunities through robotic automation

    Focusing on the areas of the greatest potential, EY professionals led the establishment of the RPA capability in the bank, with end to end responsibility for process analysis and design for automation of 10 high priority processes. As well as delivering on the investment, the implementation freed up staff to focus on their clients. The implementation of RA reduced operational risk by minimising human interaction and created an additional capacity of 24 FTE as well as related productivity improvements for the existing team. 

  • How multiple intelligent technologies reformed child protection

    A cloud-based CRM encompassing a myriad of intelligent technologies majorly reformed the child protection framework

    EY teams helped an Australian Government Department migrate large volumes of legacy data from multiple platforms to a single cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform to build an information system used to provide a 360-degree view of a child. This single source solution allowed efficient decision making by caseworkers, the Government and relevant parties who could access the right information at the right time to provide a safe, permanent and stable homes for children.

    Gathering information from multiple critical data sources – justice, welfare, police, social services, health care - and using the latest data and analytics technology - artificial intelligence, geospatial analytics, graph database technology, cognitive computing, real-time analytics and predictive analytics - the intelligent data platform created a comprehensive single view of each vulnerable citizen providing rapid insights into individual cases. The focus shifted from support services for the most vulnerable children to proactively delivering the right services at the right time in the right places. 

    The Citizen Intelligence Solution focused on reallocating investment based on evidence, redesigning service delivery models and implementing an intelligent data and predictive analytics platform that provided crucial insights when needed

    Through predictive analytical modelling the EY Data & Analytics team prevented unconscious biases at play during data gathering and modelling to improve judgement and applied end to end stringent data quality governance and reconciliation mechanisms to develop and implement a governance model and fully operational PMO of the $100m program. The process required complete confidentiality of private information, completeness and accuracy of data.

    The outcomes stretched beyond the individual to helping Government formulate better policy, allocate budget more effectively and deliver stronger services directly improving the lives of many vulnerable children


The savings governments and business can realise from automating their processes are enormous. But the programs need to be rolled out with strong governance, systematically and with a clear strategy for the future. 

About this article

Ean Evans

EY Oceania Intelligent Automation Leader

Robotics expert. Digital finance transformation. Working smarter, not harder.

Catherine Friday

EY Oceania Government and Health Sciences Managing Partner

Improving how governments work and deliver services. Mustang owner. Keen horse rider. Average but enthusiastic skier