Software robotics - endless options for improvements
The team from Norian, that has developed RPA for Sanoma Group, is now a part of ECIT Automate. This is their success story.
Today, Sanoma is a company that utilizes top modern technologies, and the importance of data in its business is irreplaceable. Management with up-to-date and always correct information has become the key to operations.
"In June 2018, it was discovered that the manual tasks of our finance department can be made more efficient with the help of automation. At the same time, it was determined whether other departments would have needs to utilize robotics," says Anu Vasara, Head of Consumer Sales Support team at Sanoma Media Finland.
In her department, a lot of manual work had been done, for example processing customer data related to orders. The team, which has been working for five years, was 11 people in size. The team has always been overworked, and the amount of work has constantly increased.
"When we were asked to join, we immediately noticed the opportunities related to robotics," Vasara recalls.
A safe choice of partner
Sanoma investigated various software robotics platforms, and finally decided on UiPath's technology. In the spring of 2019, they decided on whom their partner in software robotics would be. Sanoma chose Norian due to its ability to meet Sanoma's needs in a customer-oriented manner.
Norian's started the collaboration with Sanoma by helping with the setup of software robotics infrastructure in the cloud environment together with Sanoma's team. On top of the new platform, we started building automations enhancing business processes based on a plan created together. The development projects were chosen so that their benefits can be measured using either qualitative or quantitative measures.
"At the beginning of the collaboration, we set the goal of optimizing business processes and improving the quality of the information produced in them. At the same time, we tried to reduce routine manual work", says Damian Kedziora, who has been managing the project from Norian's side.
"We have very well achieved the goals we set at the beginning of the cooperation. Sanoma's automation capability has developed well during our collaboration," says Meri Kukkurainen, Head of Sanoma's RPA Center of Excellence (CoE). Over the past couple of years, all Sanoma’s RPA development projects have been delivered by this unit. Along UiPath 's software robotics projects, Norian has also developed Power BI and Excel reporting for Sanomat.
"A lot is constantly happening around software robotics. It is important for us that our partner is Norian, with whom we can implement new solutions as needed," says Kukkurainen.
Robotics increases the quality of information
Software robotics has significantly improved data quality. This has been achieved by the fact that software robots perform, among other things, the recording of subscriber data, transfers between systems and reporting in a regular and standard way. Human errors are eliminated when data is automatically copied between systems. Automation has also significantly improved turnaround times.
One example of improving the quality of information is the transfer of data from telemarketing partners to Sanoma's system. It used to be an error-prone manual job. Now the robot reads the files from the sftp server, checks them and converts them from xls format to Sanoma's customer management system. Only those cases that are not processed by robots are transferred to manual work.
"Before, it took our employee 3-4 hours a day to do this, and now the work is done in less than an hour. Previously, we had separate support services for Helsingin Sanomat and magazines, but now the work is done in one unit with much fewer resources," says Vasara.
The employees have given positive feedback that the meaningfulness of the work has improved when the numbing manual work has been automated with robotics.
Thanks to robotics, experienced customer service support personnel can participate in the development processes of working methods in a completely different way, when their time is freed from manual work. Employees also have the opportunity to learn a broader job description than before, which has also improved the meaning of the work.
"We have received a lot of ideas from employees of Sanoma on how we can make their work more meaningful with automation," says Kedziora.
Employee engagement enables change
The success of any change requires strong commitment to the changes that will come with the new way of working.
"Our operating model, in which Norian's development team works in close cooperation with an RPA analyst from Anu Vasara's team and a representative of our competence center, produces good results for us. Division of work and communication work all the time," Kukkurainen says.
The role of the RPA analyst is to constantly listen to those whose work is affected by automation, and also actively communicating planned changes to those affected by the changes.
"Of course we had challenges in the beginning, but as soon as we got several processes into production, the benefits gained from them have improved the meaning of the work," says Vasara.
Sanoma has automated more than 20 processes that, in addition to financial management and subscriber management, include HR management and procurement.
Strong expertise with the nearshore model
Norian has produced all automations for Sanoma using nearshore model at its center in Torun, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania. This model guarantees scalable resources, so that there is always enough specialized expertise for each project.
"Our experts are highly trained world-class software experts, each in their own field," says Kedziora with pride in his voice. He himself has a doctorate in Industrial Engineering from the Technical University of Lappeenranta and has also extensively studied software engineering.
A real-time view of the business
After experiencing the use of robotics at Sanoma for a couple of years, Kukkurainen has a clear vision of what has been behind the success.
"We have created a working cooperation model, thanks to which the automation of the processes has been implemented at a steady pace," says Kukkurainen.
A good example of projects that bring clear benefits is the resending of incorrect invoices and the updating of customer information, as well as the automation of processes related to e-invoicing. The automatic and up-to-date processing of more than 2,000 cases per month significantly streamlines the customer service process.
"Previously, the service center spent two weeks to correct errors. Now the robot processes them daily, so errors are corrected in a timely manner. The robot also does a lot of things in the process that were not done in manual work before," Kukkurainen says.
Good experiences encourage new development
Because the cooperation has been going well, new things are being developed all the time. The proof of concept of automating the regression testing of the order system is currently being worked on, among other things .
"In the ordering system, we regularly test certain things when there is a version change. They cover many of the implementations we have done with software robotics. That's why we're finding out if we could support the testing of version updates using software robotics," says Vasara.
There is also something new under the hood of the automation.
"This year, we aim on building artificial intelligence elements at robots for those applications where artificial intelligence produces business benefits," says Kedziora.
Cooperation with Norian has been effective for Kukkurainen: "Things are progressing well in our close cooperation model. A team of developers specialized in each project is important. They quickly accumulate in-depth information about the implementation in question."
"Norian's developers have been very proactive. The quality of the work has been good, and the cooperation works commendably", Kukkurainen sums up.
Cecilie Fossum Haug
Marketing Coordinator, ECIT.Læs flere indlæg fra Cecilie Fossum Haug
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