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TransUnion is embracing RPA to ‘make humans relevant again’

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Companies overwhelmingly embraced digital transformation as the pandemic took hold last March. According to a Statista survey, 97% of companies say the outbreak sped up transformation processes in their organization. Meanwhile, Gartner says 69% of boards accelerated their digital business initiatives following COVID-19-related disruptions.

TransUnion is no different. The Chicago, Illinois-based consumer credit reporting agency, which was founded in 1968, underwent a major transformation to support its corporate evolution after years of using robotic process automation (RPA) to drive operations. As a part of the company’s broader intelligent automation efforts, TransUnion says AI and RPA are helping it manage 90,000 data sources and more than 3 billion updates per month across a database of 1 billion consumers and 65,000 businesses.

RPA automates monotonous, repetitive chores traditionally performed by human workers, while intelligent automation encompasses the use of AI, machine learning, and process automation to create business workflows that think, learn, and adapt on their own.

Forrester estimates RPA and other AI subfields created jobs for 40% of companies in 2019 and that a tenth of startups now employ more digital workers than human ones. According to a McKinsey survey, at least a third of activities could be automated in about 60% of occupations. And in its recent Trends in Workflow Automation report, Salesforce found that 95% of IT leaders are prioritizing workflow automation, with 70% seeing the equivalent of more than four hours of savings per employee each week.

“We ultimately have several goals in pursuing intelligent automation across the enterprise. Clearly, we want to improve our process efficiency, reduce costs, and better scale our growth while also improving the customer experience,” SVP of operations Tim McCarthy told VentureBeat via email. “However, the ability to reduce costs and better manage increasing customer expectations with automation can also be thought of as favorable outcomes in pursuit of a larger goal: employee happiness. We find that our employees are most happy when they can optimize creativity and human innovation. This requires that meaningful blocks of time be available for that deeper level of thinking.”

Applying automation

TransUnion’s automation capability spans the spectrum of intelligent automation, according to McCarthy, including RPA. The company leverages RPA specifically to accomplish tasks that are highly predictable and repeatable, including employee onboarding, financial report generation, and daily data moves and hygiene. TransUnion’s data science team is also looking to employ more sophisticated techniques involving machine learning for processes like translating customer requirements into machine execution instructions.

“The variability in customer input and requirements requires [AI] techniques to handle a wider array of options from the customer without having to precode all the ways a customer might ask for a particular dataset,” McCarthy said. “By reducing and hopefully eliminating the time needed to perform routine tasks that don’t require much ‘humanness,’ and being intentional about ensuring that this freed time is put toward creative endeavors, we think we can make people happier — which will lead toward all of those beneficial outcomes.”

For each of the processes TransUnion automates, it first collects metrics on how long it takes a person to complete a particular task. Then it multiplies that figure by the number of times the process occurs in a year to yield the total time saved. The company reviews these findings with its business partners across the enterprise and highlights how each individual unit is using the hours saved toward “creative endeavors.”

“By focusing first on how to translate time saved into initiatives versus only driving toward cost savings, we are putting a spotlight on the innovation being driven as a result of time freed by automation,” McCarthy said. “We are purely focused first on using automation to make people’s chosen careers more fulfilling. Nobody wants to do mindless tasks for work. The happiest employees are those that can be challenged to use their creativity and innovation to better create and deliver industry-leading products — not ‘push paper.’”

The benefits don’t stop at creative fulfillment. Everest Group reports that top performs earn nearly 4 times on their RPA investments, while other enterprises earn nearly double. And Gartner estimates that by 2024, organizations can lower operational costs 30% by combining automation technologies like RPA with redesigned operational processes.

“We want our people to think of TransUnion not as a job, but as a way to fulfill their career goals. We want to push our people to utilize their best skills when they come to work — automation can help us do that,” McCarthy said. “As we like to say, our goal is to use automation to ‘make humans relevant again.’”

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