What it’s like to be a bot at Axel Springer

Benedikt Böhme
Sep 24 · 4 min read

Work life in these days can be challenging for us humans. Constantly changing expectations and the rapid shift in the way we work due to the Covid-19 pandemic push many of us to the limit. One may think that the life as a bot might be much easier with clear expectations and no risk for Covid-19 infection (there has not been reported a single case of a bot being infected by the corona virus, yet 😉).

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Hi, I’m Robbie

However, the life of Robbie Bot, one of Axel Springer’s RPA bots is demanding, too. 24 hour shifts nearly every day, no time for lunch breaks, no vacations, and no time off on the weekends. Robbie simply has too much to do. His day kicks off early in the morning when dozens of download jobs from different (Web) Applications wait for him. After collecting, editing and sharing the data with all relevant stakeholders throughout the business, Robbie starts to process yesterday’s orders and complaints. Before lunchtime (and without a single cup of coffee) Robbie Bot checks his inbox to see whether he received additional tasks that have been transmitted in the standardized format he knows. From the afternoon until the end of the day the bot continues to work by processing all cancellations Axel Springer received for its different news subscriptions. Of course he is always sad to see subscribers leave but he processes all cancellations without complaint.

Robbie’s colleague Roberta Bot seemed to have a slightly more relaxed life over the past weeks as she has a timeslot of eight hours each day for ad-hoc tasks, that is only partly used. However, recently colleagues from StepStone asked us to extract and analyze the meta data of all their current customers which took Roberta her entire free time for over 10 days.

Despite the huge amount of work to be done Robbie, Roberta and their digital colleagues keep calm and always stay motivated: “So far, we haven’t made a single mistake, yet, and we are keen to keep up that statistic.”

What is Robotic Process Automation

Robbie, Roberta and their colleagues are part of the Axel Springer RPA Team. RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation and comprises a technology that allows to build bots that emulate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA bots utilize the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like humans do. They interpret, trigger responses and communicate with other systems in order to perform on a vast variety of repetitive tasks. Thus, RPA is a way of automating high-volume, low-complexity, routine processes so that recurring and manual digital work is done by software robots, or bots. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.

Examples of these processes include updating employee contact and payroll data or transferring data from one software program to another, such as from a spreadsheet to a CRM system. RPA can improve the speed and accuracy of these processes and simultaneously save valuable time that can be used for more valuable tasks.

According to Gartner, RPA has been growing exponentially over the last few years. Today, it is the fastest-growing segment of the enterprise software market.

Axel Springer RPA

At Axel Springer, RPA evolved from a project in its Customer Care division. As we were able to show that the technology was capable to process most of the cancellations of subscriptions in the digital news media business, we applied the technology to other Customer Care processes. In summer 2019, it has been decided, that Axel Springer builds up its own RPA Center of Expertise offering automation solutions to all parts of the business.

So far, over 25 processes have been automated via RPA. Thus, every month more than 40.000 cases are being processed by Robbie and his bot-colleagues. Systems being automated include SAP, Salesfoce, Excel, Outlook, Novomind iAgent and diverse databases, web applications and proprietary software.

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Developing RPA bots — that’s how the Workbench looks like

Get to know Robbie

If you work at Axel Springer and know there is that repetitive task that bothers you and/or your colleagues, why not ask Robbie or Roberta for their help and introduce RPA in your team.

To find processes that are RPA-eligible, look for tasks that can be ranked rather on the right-hand side of the following chart:

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Process evaluation — is your process RPA-eligible?

If you successfully identified one or many process candidates, the Axel Springer RPA team evaluates the automation of each process regarding its value as well as its automation feasibility and its automation complexity. Afterwards you will be supported in creating the process definition before Robbie is taught how to take over.

Axel Springer Tech

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