From theory to practice: Onboarding digital labor in financial services

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August 2016


For financial institutions in a challenging market, using automation in repetitive, business rule-driven work to rapidly cut costs, improve quality and scalability, and operate 24/7 is obviously appealing. And there are success stories, for both administrative and technical applications.

But there are many more firms stuck in a proverbial “analysis paralysis,” perhaps even with multiple successful pilots but little movement toward broader adoption.

There are three big issues that firms tend to struggle with when implementing this technology:

  • By rushing in and looking for quick savings, they’re trying to solve the wrong problems
  • By operating in silos, they miss the opportunity to scale by learning from mistakes
  • By focusing on functionality, they don’t build a foundation of support for a broad rollout

Define what success looks like

If everyone understands the value of digital labor, why are so many firms stuck at proving the concept? There are many reasons, and they vary by firm, but several themes have emerged. In some organizations, champions haven’t mobilized the right people for approval. Sometimes, firms charge ahead to solve a transactional issue without really understanding the business case involved. Still others are concerned that digital labor could run afoul of a compliance process based on human activity. Ultimately, these are all change management issues.

Success, by design

We view the adoption of digital labor in financial services as a step in a larger transition: helping find those capabilities that truly add value, and spending less effort on those that don’t. In this way, we’re describing a change to a financial institution’s operating model. Though this involves software, thinking in terms of technology is short-sighted; understanding its effect on process and on people will be at least as important to the program’s success or failure.

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Kevin Kroen

Partner, Intelligent Automation Leader, PwC US

Michael Engel

PwC's Intelligent Process Automation Leader, PwC US

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