ABSL discussed with Ruxandra Stamate, part of the EMEA Sales Operations at HP Inc. Romania and a big promoter of RPA within the organization.
- How important is innovation for your company?
As stated in HP’s vision, ‘keep reinventing’ is our operating system. Whether we are talking about HP’s products, customer and partner engagement models or business process, innovation is the platform based on which the company builds and develops.
- How does your company “encourage” innovation?
With innovation in its DNA, HP encourages and helps proliferate a growth mindset prepared for the challenges of the 4th digital revolution.
HP brings on display its state-of-the-art product designs and business strategy in events like International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), EMEA Innovation Summit or HP Reinvent.
There are Innovation Week events hosted in the most important regional sites where all employees have the opportunity to become part of the way HP is shaping the future – they get first-hand information from HP technologists and industry influencers about innovative initiatives and how these align with the megatrends shaping the industry, they interact with fellow colleagues involved in the main areas of innovation and are encouraged to get actively involved in bringing innovative solutions back to their daily tasks.
Every year, the Reinventors Award recognizes the most prominent innovations across all company functions.
People are constantly encouraged to practice a growth mindset through access to dedicated learning paths, re-skilling opportunities, and sandbox platforms where they can put at test their creativity.
- What are the main areas of innovation?
3D Printing enables the digital manufacturing journey of companies across multiple industries. HP has customer support Virtual Agent using artificial intelligence. HP devices are designed for cyber-resilience in the context of the workplace of the future and automation. Education and re-skilling or up-skilling play a crucial role in enabling business operations activities to be assisted by bots handling the most redundant tasks and allowing HP employees to nurture their creativity and problem-solving skills to increase the value that HP creates for its customers.
- Are these innovations designed in/for Romania or the global market?
The business operations centre from Bucharest has since last year boarded the journey of robotic process automation (RPA). With a team of 10 RPA developers, all of them being re-skilled employees who left their operational roles to become certified developers, we now produce robots that autonomously handle business processes for the entire EMEA region.
- Do you have R&D / Innovation departments both in Romania and at central HQ?
The CTO sets the company’s R&D strategy; however, innovation hubs are present in multiple site locations across different organizations.
The Bucharest site doesn’t have a dedicated innovation department, however, there are 2 focus areas that dominate the innovation landscape – business intelligence and business process automation.
- Which are the out of the box/innovative global projects made for your customers?
Beginning of 2018 we started the RPA initiative for the Bucharest site. Since the HP site in Bucharest is an important business operations centre for EMEA, with more than 1,300 people handling hundreds of business processes for all EMEA countries, robotic process automation – RPA – seemed the obvious solution to increase the employee engagement. The vision is to have robots autonomously handling repetitive and non-judgemental process tasks and allow employees to free up time for re-skilling purposes and focus on value-added business activities.
- How did the Romanian team bring its contribution to the above-mentioned projects?
In March 2018, the Innovation Week was kicking off in full speed to make Bucharest employees aware of the numerous possibilities that RPA brings to the table. Right after the 1st event, the interest around this domain has boosted – most of the people in attendance to the Innovation Week events and sessions already had in mind ideas to automate business processes while some others were ready to shift their career paths and become RPA developers.
A couple of months later, 10 employees were selected to participate to the RPA training and certification program and to act as innovation ambassadors within their organizations. This how the first 7 RPA projects were born aiming to automate over 20K manual transactions across multiple processes – opportunity creation, partner onboarding, pricing, compliance.
The developers started the close collaboration with the business analysts and process managers to come up with the best possible functional designs for the automation opportunities – feasibility assessment, process re-design, process documentation and business rules exceptions.
Despite the uncertainty that dominated the process, the team remained focused on the objective of automating in a scalable and sustainable way the proposed processes by continuing their learning paths on RPA best practices.
- Please describe the most important, brand new (or just new) project, the time you spend developing it, activities, teams, specializations and information about the client (if possible).
In less than 6 months since the developers got certified and were able to start developing RPA bots, the EMEA Sales Operations was getting the first results in February 2019 – 5K transactions counting for 5 FTEs were no longer handled by employees but by robots. In May-2019 the number of transactions performed by robots doubled to more than 11K and the FTE impact increased to almost 12 FTEs. The activities performed unattended by the robots are covering a wide range of business processes: correction of compliance rules on existing bids, creation of bids for printing supplies, validating pricing requests coming from HP’s partners with the Sales Representatives, creating MS Dynamics opportunities on behalf of Partners, checking profitability conditions before renewals and running BI reports. Entire EMEA Sales force and HP’s partners benefitted indirectly from these robots – the operational teams were able to pick up additional tasks and nurture their business know-how in order to assist the Sales representatives and Partners with the best services.
- Where do you place Romania on the global innovation scale (in business services sector)?
According to the Global Innovation Index, Romania ranks 49 out of the 126 economies being indexed. The business services sector is the main driver of the score, benefiting from the advantageous conditions with regards to the number of graduates in science & engineering sectors and being the main engine for the high-tech net exports.
My opinion is that innovation in the business services sector from Romania has a good growth potential being fuelled by a competing and capable workforce in the tech domain and not only. However, we must keep an eye on the upcoming competition generated by the rise of Asia which will create an exodus of highly skilled workers willing to expand beyond the borders of their continent in order to access better wages and living standards.
- What are the major changes and challenges of our industry in terms of innovation?
Despite the awareness around innovation that is being raised on multiple communication channels – workplace, social media, professional events and publications – the self-preservation instinct of the human individual becomes the main lever of the innovative spirit. It is normal for people to be afraid of the long-term implications of what today we label as ‘innovation’ – robots, AI, machine learning, 3D print.
The natural questions arising are – will I still have a job in 10 years’ time? how will this job look like? will my boss be a robot? if I will be lucky enough to be part of the execution of what today we consider innovations – will I contribute to other people’s displacement from the workforce?
The companies will have the heavy responsibility of demonstrating to the people that innovation is not a limited resource but a renewable one.