A headshot of a man smiling at the camera in a blue shirt standing outside an office building.
Conor Wallace. Image: Deloitte

‘Robotic process automation works best alongside people’

16 Aug 2021

Deloitte’s Conor Wallace discusses his role as a business analyst within the intelligent automation team.

As part of the recent Automation Week on Siliconrepublic.com, Deloitte’s Allison Rose Barry told us all about her job as a robotic process automation (RPA) developer. RPA is essentially technology that enables software or bots to carry out repetitive and rule-based digital tasks.

Barry works within the company’s intelligent automation team along with business analyst Conor Wallace, who works closely with client stakeholders to assess the potential for process automation and document those processes to be automated.

He tells us more about his role and the innovative applications of RPA.

‘Being able to explain complex solutions in a simple and straightforward manner is key in this role’

What are some of the most exciting RPA projects you have worked on?

Working on projects in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been some of our most rewarding work. RPA is able to provide fast and immediate benefits ,which have proved highly beneficial to some of our largest clients when facing the challenges of Covid-19.

Working with one of Ireland’s largest public sector bodies to help some of most vulnerable in our society has been hugely fulfilling – RPA had a very positive impact due to its fast delivery times and adaptable nature. RPA projects are normally very fast-paced and impactful, which is why I find them so exciting and rewarding to work on.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day for you?

No day is the same, although the majority would involve at least some combination of certain tasks. Responding to client questions and queries on the RPA processes already in production would be part of most days – this is usually followed by an hour or two of calls assessing potential processes for RPA suitability.

The business comes forward with processes or ideas that they feel RPA can help with and a large part of my job would be to advise on the suitability of the process as well as the capabilities of RPA so that the business invests in RPA solutions that they will get the most benefit from.

When not discussing and assessing processes, my day then turns to documenting them. Process proposal documents are used to evaluate potential processes, and once given the go-ahead from the client, more detailed process definition documents are required by developers to start work on the RPA solution.

The part I most enjoy is delivering RPA demos. We regularly speak to different client departments on what RPA can do and what it has delivered already. I thoroughly enjoy the discussion on the capabilities and potential for RPA that these presentations create.

The majority of my day is people-focused and involves a lot of discussion and problem-solving, which are some of the most enjoyable aspects of the job for me.

What skills and tools do you use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis the most important skill I use is communication! A key part my role involves discussing and assessing how best to implement RPA. A lot of client stakeholders have a variety of opinions and suggestions and it is a rewarding challenge to find an agreement between those parties on how best to proceed.

Thinking analytically and being able to explain complex solutions in a simple and straightforward manner is also key in this role – your audience may not always appreciate the complexities of RPA and it is only once you explain and help them understand that you will get consensus and progress.

What are the most exciting applications you foresee for RPA?

To date I have mainly focused on ‘pure’ RPA, ie simply automating keystrokes and mouse clicks, although I recently attended a document understanding training course by UiPath and was hugely impressed by the power of combining AI with RPA.

Using optical character recognition (OCR) and AI to fully automate an expenses system was just one of the examples that was providing real benefit. Upon submitting a photo of a receipt, the solution was able to scrape and process the information from the receipt before using it to update accounting and payment systems. The accuracy of these systems is roughly 75pc out of the box, but with machine learning and image recognition, the scope for this technology is endless.

Currently the majority of Deloitte clients are only starting the journey with RPA, but I am excited to see how we can further assist clients by rolling out more advanced AI solutions in the future.

Are there any common misconceptions about RPA?

One of the huge misconceptions is that staff are redundant with the introduction of RPA. It’s a common pushback we get from staff when working within an organisation.

RPA is a very powerful tool but there are many examples of processes that RPA cannot automate. I see RPA working best alongside people, and the majority of us would only be happy to concentrate on the more complicated and challenging daily tasks that require cognitive thinking rather than the repetitive and straightforward tasks!

We also work with clients to upskill their people in RPA, providing them with the skills to not only work alongside automated processes, but also automate some of their own tasks – I believe this provides huge benefit.

RPA software such as Blue Prism and UiPath are simple drop-and-drag automation platforms, meaning they don’t require advanced development skills to automate simple tasks.

When you first started working in this field, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

What honestly surprised me was how little many people knew about this very powerful technology. Most clients considered software delivery projects as taking months to deliver and requiring numerous changes to existing processes.

I was surprised to learn how important a 30 to 45-minute summary presentation was to give any new individuals you were dealing with a quick rundown on what RPA is and what it can do.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

I thoroughly enjoy the communication and problem-solving aspects of my career.

I love presenting and chatting to clients about how we can best provide a solution to their business problems. Questioning and trying to foresee issues or better solutions is a key part of the job and I enjoy trying to mentally piece the puzzle together to ensure there aren’t any missing pieces when we get to the end.

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