Case study: RPA at a leading Australian university
Our EY colleagues in Australia worked with a leading Australian university to implement RPA to improve service quality across the institution. The goal: university leadership sought to improve the student experience while increasing efficiency. As part of the effort, university leadership set up an innovation unit within the Finance office and had the EY team work with Campus Infrastructure, Finance, Human Resources, Research and Student Administration to identify and implement automations that could enable university employees to spend their time on higher value-added activities, with the goal of improving service quality and increasing customer satisfaction.
The joint client-EY team has team identified more than 100 potential automations and worked with functional leaders across the institution to prioritize those with the most promising cost-benefit trade-offs. See the box below. Within six months, the combined team was able to develop and implement 33 automations, which spanned allocations across the spectrum of back-office hybrid, and fully student-facing functions. The university is now scaling and augmenting RPA automations with machine learning.
The university saw tremendous benefit from its RPA implementation. Automating student document uploads improved processing time by one and half times, completely eliminated manual processes and reduced process touch points from 40 to 1, saving the university 1,330 hours of manual effort per year, and more important, improving service time and reducing errors.
Case study: a large public US higher-education and health care system
Curious about the potential benefits of RPA across the system, a large forward-thinking state system with 10-plus institutions enlisted our EY team to develop a set of RPA test pilots with the potential for system-wide impact. After an initial list of pilots, largely focused on back-office functions, the system saw promise in three of them.
- Cash control reconciliation: The largest health care institution implemented a cash-control reconciliation automation, reducing monthly manual processing hours from 100 hours to 2 hours.
- HR position reconciliation: The same institution implemented an automation to reconcile HR position numbers between two human resources systems, reducing monthly manual processing hours from 25 hours to 5 hours.
- Department reconciliation — review and validate: A health care institution implemented an automation to reconcile department revenue, payroll, budget, and journal entries, reducing monthly manual hours from 960 hours to 309 hours. A portion of this process was able to be replicated at another institution, saving 100 hours of monthly manual effort.
Leading practices for institutions looking to implement RPA
An increasing number of domestic and international institutions are now considering RPA as a key part of their service quality and efficiency improvement “toolkit.” These institutions are learning from early implementations, allowing them to more effectively implement new RPA automations. There are a few early lessons from RPA innovators in higher education.
- Work cross-functionally with support from the top: in order to get the most out of RPA, an HEI should start with a cross-functional team — this will allow the HEI to identify projects where RPA will have the most value and will also help adoption. It is important that this cross-functional effort is supported by leadership at the top. Strong leadership vision is required to ensure that implementation is smooth and that released capacity is used to further improve the HEI’s value proposition to its constituents.
- Early wins are essential: as HEIs decide on which RPA projects to tackle first, they should start simple but be high-value projects that can be implemented quickly so that employees can see the results and potential of RPA. The first handful of proof-of-concept projects are essential and allow teams to brainstorm further about how RPA can help their work.
- Ask if improvement is needed prior to automation: it is worth thinking about whether to improve processes before implementing RPA, but it is important that process improvements are enacted swiftly. RPA can be a great catalyst for process improvement, but trying to create the perfect process before implementing RPA can hold up project timelines and reduce the impact of RPA.