Helen Bradshaw of Royal Mail : ‘If you’ve got routine, rule-based and repetitive processes you can automate them.’

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“Automation is about logical, information flows. If you’ve got processes that are routine, rules-based and repetitive you can automate them,” says Helen Bradshaw, director of business services of Royal Mail. 

Presenting her keynote ’Scaling robotic & cognitive automation across the enterprise’ at At UiPath’s Forward EMEA event yesterday, Bradshaw said that retailers should first asses what day-to-day processes can be automated, before integrating this approach into their businesses. As she said: “Our first thing [to ask] is what can we stop, simplify and standardise? There is no point of automating something that you can then find out you can stop because that’s a waste.”

“[Royal Mail] has started [automation] journey 18 months ago in business services, finance and within the HR-shared services and points of processes we wanted to automate,” she continued.

Citing new research ’The robots are waiting’ by Deloitte, Bradshaw pointed to top three-pronged barriers of automation that Royal Mail resonated with at the time including “process fragmentation, clear automation vision, and lack of IT readiness.” Addressing those challenges, Bradshaw has outlined three strategies that would help retailers to incorporate automation smoother into their businesses. 

Focus on small to achieve big 

Focusing on small, bite-size chunks, said Bradshaw, is the starting point of automation strategy planning.”We started doing some automation processes but focusing on large chunks. Our learning was-start small. When you look into the bigger process, how can you be sure that small bite-sized chunks are all knitted together, and there wasn’t any ’regret-spend’?”

Embracing the trial-and-error journey

When it comes having a clear automation vision, Royal Mail takes the trial-and-error approach. As she said: “In terms of the clear vision, for me, it is about the journey. We are very clear on our journey now.” Bradshaw said that the retailer is now looking at the automation in a different, more practical way. We see [automation] as a simplification of processes, system-enhancements or wider-scale system replacement.” 

Taking a risk to succeed 

Bradshaw encourages both start-up and established retailers to take a risk by introducing automation initiatives into their businesses. “We have more than 500 years of history; we have a complex legacy, technology, architecture and infrastructure. Our technology team is very protective of their infrastructure security and stability, so it took us quite a long time to get them on board.”

She continued, pointing to getting every department in the business onboard to identify areas that can be possibly automated: “We are now there, and the testament to that we have members of our technology team, who are now part of our RPA (robotic process automation) centre of excellence. We now have members of all disciplines leading [the automation] function.”

Automation advise: strive for perfection

“Our most important message is that [Royal Mail]constantly evolving. We didn’t have a one-set strategy, we constantly evolved and refined our approach as we have been set up to succeed. It is a constant journey, and I’m sure we will be evolving in the months to come still.”

Image: Royal Mail

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