The business case for robotics and cognitive automation: The devil’s in the details

Posted by Peter Lowes and Anthony Abbattista on August 3, 2017

Do the numbers add up when it comes to implementing robotics and cognitive automation (R&CA) – technologies that replicate human actions and judgment? They appear to, judging from the growing number of mail order houses, telecom providers, retail banks and others that already have software robots working alongside contact center agents. For those companies, bots are performing many routine tasks, such as validations and cross-referencing, that humans would have to do otherwise.

But what about for your organization – what’s the business case for R&CA? A good starting point is productivity. Assume you have a contact center with 1,000 agents and you deploy a robot that costs as much as the annual salaries of 10 full-time equivalents (FTEs). If the robot enhances the productivity of those thousand agents by 10 percent each year, you have a 10x return – 10 percent of 1,000 workers equals 100 FTEs.

On the surface, that sounds like a healthy return. But you have to dig deeper to get the full cost picture. An expense often overlooked in R&CA business case development is the ongoing maintenance and support of the robot. For example, on one recent project we determined that it would take about one third the cost of the robot’s implementation to maintain it each year – plus the cost of the underlying technology platform and operations support. Neglecting these costs would have thrown the client’s business case severely off-kilter.

Encouragingly, the ability to estimate these costs should keep improving in the days, months, and years ahead. As the R&CA market continues to evolve, the experiences of more companies in more markets can provide better proof points to support business case development.

Initiatives often stall not because they are bad ideas, but because they are poorly planned. If you approach R&CA deployment deliberately, recognize what you don’t know, and sensibly plan based on the circumstances at hand, you can create a business case that reflects reality both before and after you execute the plan.

Are you building a business case for R&CA? I’d like to hear about it.

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