In the Middle East and Africa region, which traditionally has been oil-dependent, the adoption of automation is growing. It is driving increased focus on cost and operational efficiency across sectors. Drivers of digital payments in the region include rising mobile phone ownership, e-commerce sales, presence of payment operators and changing consumer preferences due to Covid-19.
This trend is playing a role in the growth of tertiary service industries like e-commerce and digital payments. With nearly half of existing customers likely to increase online shopping in 2021, e-commerce and digital payments are going to see a rise. As cash payments become less common due to the pandemic, and as government policies take shape, mobile payments are here to stay.
With enterprises being challenged by Covid-19 pandemic, traditional processes and product lines are being reimagined. This evolution is leading executives to adopt automation that leverages bots to handle repetitive, human intensive tasks. Not only is this trend enabling enterprises to bridge supply and demand gaps, it is also empowering employees with new skills to add value.
Looking for opportunities around these trends, is Network International, which has been in business for more than 25 years. It has a network of 80,000+ merchants and 200 financial institutions spread across 50+ countries. It enables commerce across industries by providing payment products and services.
Network International is achieving its goals by leveraging automation to adapt to the changing shared services and outsourcing landscape in the region.
Automating processes through robots
While robotic process automation has been used to optimise costs, Network International is now expecting efficiency, accuracy and control. It is engaging employees, to be the biggest change driver.
By integrating automation in its processes, Network International is helping clients to enable mobile-based payments for their customers and merchants across channels. The company required standardised processes for efficiency. Network International opted to leverage robotic process automation as it recognised the impact that automation can have.
The journey began by leveraging automation for real-time processing of emails from merchants requesting for statements, pre-authorisation releases, refunds and sales, on a daily basis. The company initiated the automatic classification of these processes by bots; whereas earlier, employees had to manually identify what a customer was asking for.
Network International is now using RPA to manage account fulfilment requests and CRM process requests to offer efficiency benefits to its employees.
By the end of 2020, Network International’s automation deployment had spread out to 70+ processes, including business and IT operations, and 150+ sub-processes in other geographies such as the UAE and Egypt.
With more than 120 bots in production at present, there have been visible results. There has been a 70% reduction in manual processing time and chargeback requests are automatically processed now.
Employees and change management
The company accelerated its RPA programme by getting employees involved from the beginning. This included a comprehensive training programme on how to build, run and manage bots. Trainings such as this obtained employee buy-in. It enabled the first set of business operations in the UAE to be automated within two months.
The company also assured employees through two-way communication from the leadership that RPA would not take away their jobs. It demonstrated the benefits of automation such as time savings and increased productivity. It also showcased benefits for customer experience that resonated with employees.
This is the first step in the democratisation of automation, which is where the evolution of automation is headed. For Network International, training and involving employees from the beginning was a turning point as it enabled adoption of automation and made employees feel empowered as change drivers. They were part of the process, and not the outcome.
It is clear, if automation is only used by IT teams and a few select champions, its impact can be restricted. It may offer positive returns and productivity for some. However, to achieve the true potential of automation, democratisation is the key. By making automation skills easily accessible for employees, their personal and professional lives can be significantly uplifted.
The following are key takeaways that can help in the automation journey:
- Transform culture to encourage employee-initiated automation
- Grant every employee access to RPA education
- Encourage innovation through crowdsourcing
In 2021, finance and IT operations will continue to come under the purview of automation at Network International. The Operations Command Center team is conducting a proof of concept around the monitoring and processing of alerts. It is also looking to integrate automation to handle merchant onboarding processes.
Network International is also moving forward with the implementation of Automation Anywhere’s IQ Bot, which will be used for document processing in Arabic.
The company has learned that an automation-first mindset does not come from top-level executives. It comes from empowering employees instead. Giving employees the ability to identify and correct inefficiencies with automation is the best way to achieve long-term objectives, while transforming the organisation.
- Network International has been in business for more than 25 years with 80,000+ merchants and 200 financial institutions.
- Network International enables commerce across industries by providing payment products and services.
- An automation-first mindset does not come from top-level executives.
- Automation-first mindset comes from employee ability to correct inefficiencies with automation.
- The journey began by real-time processing of emails requesting for statements, pre-authorisation, refunds and sales.
- Network International’s automation has spread to 70+ processes, 150+ sub-processes, and 120 bots in production.
- There has been 70% reduction in manual processing time and chargeback requests are automatically processed.
- Training employees from the beginning was a turning point as it made employees feel empowered as change drivers.
- If automation is used by IT teams and a few select champions, its impact can be restricted.
- To achieve the true potential of automation, democratisation is the key.
- It is moving forward with implementation of Automation Anywhere’s IQ Bot to be used for document processing in Arabic.
A leading regional payment processor has tackled process efficiency and merchant expansion by empowering employees with skills to begin robotic automation.