Software automation is becoming a value driver for South African businesses

Johannesburg, 19 Nov 2021
Read time 4min 20sec
Vargha Moayed, Chief Strategy Officer, UiPath.
Vargha Moayed, Chief Strategy Officer, UiPath.

Leading South African organisations are moving beyond using robotic process automation (RPA) to improve individual processes, to deploying automation to streamline entire workflows and drive measurable business value.

This emerged during a high-level round table webinar on software automation hosted by leading enterprise software automation company UiPath in partnership with ITWeb this week.

“Everything that can be automated, will be automated, and we are seeing leading enterprises taking a business-driven approach, using RPA to get short term and clear outcomes,” said Vargha Moayed, Chief Strategy Officer at UiPath.

“For years, companies digitised and automated according to function, but companies now realise they need to digitise according to workflows. We are moving into an era of workflow digitisation with co-production between IT and business departments. RPA is the cornerstone of the low code no code movement, and UiPath is a major player in this sector.”

He said the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders were changing as the journey evolved. “Business often starts with low hanging fruit in back-office functions; but eventually for scaling they need to engage and work hand in hand with IT, who should develop the most complex cross functional automation, provide guidelines and standards, curate automation and guide training.”

We are moving into an era of workflow digitisation with co-production between IT and business departments.

Vargha Moayed, UiPath.

Vodacom, which has matured its RPA journey over the past three years and now has an established RPA Centre of Excellence (COE), has been among the country’s early RPA champions. Atenkosi (Ati) Ngubevana, Group Executive at Vodacom, said the group was using RPA to achieve three key business objectives: operational efficiency, revenue enablement, and employee and customer experience. “Each business unit has its own priorities within these objectives, and we are using RPA to help them achieve these,” she said.

Noting that approaches must be agile in a fast-changing world, she said: “If a business unit is going to achieve value for the next three months, we will do it. But we are not attached to the bots – if it makes sense, we will also switch them off. We use RPA to enhance value for every business unit, helping executives and managers perform better. RPA has been key to enabling significant, measurable business value.”

Ngubevana added: “The next phase of the RPA journey and a developing trend is the converged use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and RPA, with humans in the loop. It will be man and machine in the next level of transformation.”

The Foschini Group, now two years into its RPA journey, is deploying RPA with a focus on process optimisation. Mo Kola, Head of Business Services at The Foschini Retail Group, said the group now had put in place a COE and was scaling up its RPA deployments and upskilling programmes.

Michael Law, Sales Manager, UiPath.
Michael Law, Sales Manager, UiPath.

“RPA was the underpinning strategy to achieve some of the business’s process improvement objectives,” he said. According to Kola, some of the measurable value RPA has delivered include automating the most common IT helpdesk processes such as password reset requests, and optimising certain payroll processes to replace a manual process that took three-weeks to complete with anr automated process that takes one hour.

We ... need to be creating opportunities for young people and teaching RPA in schools and universities to start building a pipeline to meet future hyper automation demand.

Mo Kola, The Foschini Group.

He noted that organisations – and the country as a whole – needed to invest in developing RPA skills. “When an organisation starts its RPA journey, it does need to get out of the starting block with vendors who know what they are doing. But you need skills transfer and you need to invest in internal skills development to build enough competence internally,” he said.

“We as South Africans also need to be creating opportunities for young people and teaching RPA in schools and universities to start building a pipeline to meet future hyper automation demand,” Kola said.

Michael Law, Sales Manager South Africa at UiPath, agreed. 

“RPA can address a number of issues we have in South Africa and help us grow as a country. Skills development is important to us, and UiPath offers free courses and has a fully-fledged Academic Alliance, which we are continuing to bring into local universities," said Law.

"As of September 2021, South Africa is the first country in the world to formally recognise ‘RPA Developer’ as a job title and has included it in its national qualification framework. MICT SETA has developed 11 fourth industrial revolution (4IR) future skills qualifications and RPA Developer is one of them. We are confident this will open up opportunities for the youth in this country and boost employment."

The UiPath Academic Alliance works with educational institutions to develop their RPA courses, offering curricula, free software and certification. In South Africa there are already 11 educational institutions enrolled in UiPath’s Academic Alliance program.

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