By James Hobley, Consultant, Deloitte

In August last year, one of our clients approached us to ask if we knew anything about robotics – or more specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) – and how it might apply to mobility. For those new to this area, RPA is the use of software to replace the need for humans to perform repetitive rules-based tasks; tasks that we in mobility will know all too well - think annual COLA reviews, compensation manipulation, package updates, etc. It is a self-evident ‘slam dunk’ for mobility practices. Other than having time-intensive tasks completed in a fast and accurate automated fashion, you can also free up advisor time to focus on more consultative work.

Having agreed to work together, we started by providing our client with a broad overview of the concepts involved, before working with them to identify specific processes where RPA could help. This was then followed by a series of workshops with both the client’s mobility team and the external vendor responsible for their workflow management tool, where we reviewed client processes in detail and identified a number of ways in which robotics could help.

Although our focus was on the use and application of RPA, interestingly, we also discovered areas where increased efficiencies could be produced without even using robotics. A key example of which is their work to review and manage the source data used in the preparation of cost projections and assignment documentation – processes which currently include a number of manual checks. Although it initially appeared easier to automate these checks to reduce the manual effort involved, we challenged ourselves to think smarter: why should we simply replicate these processes? Is there a smarter, more efficient way to source, collect, and use data? Can we mitigate the entire need for these checks in the first place?

We explored a number of potential approaches that might negate the need for these manual checks – from investigating whether it was possible to ensure accuracy of data by sourcing employee and compensation information directly from HR systems, to implementing a more rigorous collection of candidate information for cost projection purposes. By being ‘smarter’ and looking to increase the quality of data sourced for mobility processes, we found that it was possible to strip out what could be redundant checks and process steps, thus creating efficiencies – all before implementing RPA!

For any of you who were able to join us at our recent GES EMEA Client Conference in Copenhagen, you may have heard this story first hand from our client and will know that they’ve started to implement these changes and now have one robot up and running with another ready to launch soon. Having worked in Mobility for a while now, it’s amazing to see the changes and opportunities and I’m excited to work with others who are also looking at this.



James Hobley, Deloitte

I am a Consultant in Deloitte’s Global Workforce team, focusing on transforming Global Mobility and Business Travel programmes. As well as robotic process automation, recent projects have included the design of a comprehensive global business travel risk assessment solution (covering tax, immigration, and regulatory compliance) and advising on ‘digital mobility’ and how technology could disrupt the way organisations move talent around the world.

I’ve been fortunate to have lived and worked in both Canada and the US, but now live in London, UK where I can be found playing Viola in several different orchestras.

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