The robotics journey of Shop Direct – Interview with Lindsay Harrison

Shop Direct is the UK’s second largest pureplay online retailer. Head of Business Agility, Lindsay Harrison has worked for the company since 2006 and has been instrumental in pioneering RPA within the company. She is also a founding member of the Operational Agility Forum, the first forum for enterprise RPA. Harrison spoke about her experiences with RPA at the recent Future of knowledge based work- seminar in Helsinki.

Taking the first steps

Shop Direct started out with RPA back in 2007 without a set robotic objective. The company had merely recognized an interesting opportunity in robotics and started the journey out of curiosity. The first selected trials were obviously automatable processes – easy to identify, but to scale up the company needed to learn a new approach.

“We started to understand the true opportunities, as we learned what the software could do and how we could apply it. We added more structure and started to look at how we prioritize things. And how we can add value to the business in different ways, not just with cost reduction”, Harrison explains.

Today, opportunities for automation at Shop Direct are identified by Harrison’s team as well as through a continuous improvement ideas platform.

Making it measurable

Shop Direct’s key metric for RPA success has always been ‘hours back to business’. But potentially automatable processes are also scored to make well-educated choices in selecting new projects.

“We score potential projects by answering questions like: will it improve our customer journey, does it take away pain from manual labor, will it help to drive business revenue”, Harrison lists.

With the I.T. focus on long term strategic projects, RPA enables the business to address the long tail of tactical change requests from business users.

When asked for advice in implementing RPA Harrison quickly replies: “Always engage I.T. and look at RPA as a strategic model. Don’t dismiss opportunities even if they look difficult at first.”

The opportunities – looking passed cost reduction

“With RPA we have been able to test new ideas fast and without heavy up-front investment. For instance, as a tactical solution we implemented a process to support our credit teams which has now been progressed strategically. This helped to generate revenue and is a great example of business agility’’, Harrison explains.

According to Harrison, Shop Direct’s customer journey has also significantly improved and this has in turn improved customer satisfaction scores.

Today, Shop Direct looks forward to building new capabilities around RPA – that has already proven successful – and sees technologies such as AI as exciting addition to the ecosystem.


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