Business processes automation in telecommunication enterprise with X1 RPA Platform.

Pawel Nowak is a Process Automation Lead Specialist at T-Mobile Poland. In his current RPA project, he relies on the Enterprise Process Automation Platform XceleratorOne (X1) from the German software robotics provider Servicetrace. In the interview, he explains why.

As Software Developer Automation at T-Mobile Poland, Pawel Nowak is a professional when it comes to process automation and knows the strong RPA players on the market. When he tested the Enterprise Process Automation Platform XceleratorOne (X1) from the German software robotics provider Servicetrace at the beginning of 2020, he quickly recognized what distinguishes this RPA solution from the competition: “X1 takes RPA out of the IT silo and involves the business and project members much more than comparable tools. The process automation platform provides full RPA project lifecycle management, including team members role division and clear and controlled guidance through all stages of bot’s implementation.”

X1 platform enables controlled team collaboration throughout the RPA lifecycle

X1 offers a collaboration platform for all stakeholders involved in process automation and guides them in a structured way through the different stages of the RPA lifecycle – from the initial evaluation of automatable processes to the productive go live of the RPA bots. The multi-client solution with a mature role and rights concept enables controlled access of all project participants to their respective workspace. “It is a unique approach to bot’s implementation compared to other RPA tools. During my first encounter with X1 it felt like the product is well designed and embeds some fresh ideas,” explains Pawel Nowak. “With X1, the progress of an RPA project remains transparent and comprehensible even from a business perspective.”

For example, process owners from the business areas can actively participate in the “process evaluation” phase and explore the automation potential in their departments together with the RPA developers, prioritize RPA projects based on relevant criteria and fill the RPA pipeline. The actual implementation of the automation, i.e. the design of the process logic and the building and testing of the bot workflows, is then taken over by the RPA developers.

Robotic Process Automation at T-Mobile Poland: 3 use cases

When the automation project kicked off in beginning of 2020, Pawel Nowak decided to implement RPA with X1. “Not only because of the unique lifecycle management that X1 offers, but also because of the well-engineered software robotics technology that the RPA solution brings.”

X1 offers a unique RPA lifecycle management along with a well-engineered software robotics technology.”

Pawel Nowak | RPA Lead Specialist | T-Mobile Poland

X1 comes along with diverse functionalities that enable the automation of a wide range of use cases. “Let’s start right away with the first process we converted from manual to automatic: the validation of supplier invoices as a part of booking process.”

1st RPA use case: Stable process automation despite format diversity

For this use case, an RPA workflow has been developed for checking incoming emails from vendors including attached invoices and sending automated notifications to the vendors accordingly. The X1 bots open the email, read out the invoice number in the subject and identify the language, then open the attached PDF and read out the invoice number and amount here. The data extraction is done by the intelligent OCR functionality integrated in X1. The invoice number in the subject is then compared with the invoice number in the PDF. If the data match is correct, the X1 bot sends a confirmation email to the supplier – in the appropriate language. The X1 bot then sorts the email into the “Correct” folder. If the X1 bot detects discrepancies between the data in the subject and the PDF, it lists the missing or incorrect information and also sends it to the supplier with a request for correction. It then sorts the email into the “Incorrect” folder.

Validation of supplier invoices: The X1 Bot a) opens email, b) identifies language and extracts invoice number from email subject, c) opens attached PDF and reads out invoice number and amount, d) compares invoice numbers in email title and PDF, e) sends confirmation or correction email to the vendor, f) sorts email in „correct“ or „incorrect“ folder. If the X1 Bot cannot extract the proper information, the task is handed over to a clerk for manual processing.

“This sounds simple at first,” Pawel Nowak comments on the “bot job”, “but the big challenge here is the enormous variance in data input.” Each of T-Mobile’s roundabout 1000 different vendors has its own invoice PDF format, both in terms of the language and the layout and structure of the document. “A somewhat suboptimal starting situation for an RPA bot, because it actually aims to process standardized and structured data.” In this case, very smart desktop recognition methods are needed for successful data extraction. “X1 makes it possible to customize the working of Intelligent Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which performs in the process very well. Text read by OCR is then analyzed with the help of string recognition algorithms.” The X1 Bot can process around 80% of supplier invoices fully automatically; the remaining mails end up in the “manual processing” folder for checking by the clerks, whose previous workload for invoice validation has been reduced to a fifth through automation.

Around 270 emails per day are processed by the X1 bot, “even on Saturdays and Sundays, day and night, because unlike our clerks, the X1 bots work around the clock, seven days a week”. From November 2020 until February 2021, around 19.500 emails were handled automatically.

software-robot

80%

fully automated processing

270

emails in one day

19.500

emails in 4 months

2nd RPA use case: reliable and fast web app automation

The day-to-day business process “validity extension” adjusts employee contracts and configurates and activates phone numbers. All these tasks are done in three different web applications. This process has now been fully automated with X1’s Web Session. “A great functionality for the stable automation of web applications,” explains Pawel Nowak.

Typically, software robots operate at GUI level. But because the user interfaces of web apps change frequently, thus requiring continual adaptation of the pattern search at GUI level, it is much more efficient to automate here using XPath expressions at the static HTML object level. “X1’s image and pattern search undoubtedly work great. But for this use case, automation via XPath elements needs much less maintenance.”

Currently, 68% of the use cases are done by the bot. Moreover, compared to a human employee, the bot executes this task 2/3 faster. From end of November 2020 until February 2021, the “Validity Extension bot” has handled 920 requests and processed 1071 phone numbers, including a peak of 156 tickets within one day right before Christmas.

software-robot

920

requests in 4 months

1.071

phone numbers in 4 months

156

tickets in one peak day

3rd RPA use case: scale fast with automation templates

In the third automated process, the X1 bot loads invoices from vendor portals and sends them to the vendor invoice mailbox. “Here we took advantage of the fact that the seven different supplier portals are structured quite similarly.” Pawel Nowak and his team only created one automation workflow as a template and stored it in the “Activity Library”: “And then we simply copied it for each of the supplier portals and only adjusted the image searches and the XPath expressions. This made it easy to map several process variants from one RPA template and we were able to put the automation into production very quickly.” By January 2021, all vendor portal automations were set up. In this month alone, the X1 bot handled 361 invoices.

software-robot

1

template

7

automations

361

invoices in one month

Future-proof business with process automation

Especially for telecommunications companies like T-Mobile, digitization and process acceleration are key competitive advantages. For this reason, Robotic Process Automation can be a real “business booster” for this industry, provided that the chosen RPA solution is able to reliably automate a wide range of different use cases. With the extensive features and functionality offered by X1, T-Mobile Poland has successfully automated an initial set of different business cases, laying the foundation for an expandable RPA roadmap.

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