The latest member to join the archive team at the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training is a robot that gets all the routine tasks done. He's been named Bertil, and he was given a warm welcome by his new colleagues.
Archivist Elizabeth Linder, RPA expert Suad Vugdalic from EVRY, and senior archivist Ola Langnes-Øyen.
- It's wonderful to have a new colleague who works even faster than us, says Elizabeth Linder.
Elizabeth, an archivist in the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, is acting as mentor for Bertil, an invisible creature who has taken over the team's routine tasks.
- Bertil the robot doesn't make mistakes, never calls in sick and never goes on holiday. He starts work early and doesn't stop until the job's done, which is often late in the evening. He also works weekends, when there's time to run special processes like closing and logging cases, says Elizabeth.
This new team member is in fact a robot. Bertil joined the directorate last year, and his first job was to process access requirements. Now Bertil has learned other tasks, and works as an integral part of the archive team, despite that fact that he is installed on a PC and has no workspace in the office landscape.
More time for other tasks
Elizabeth is happy to talk about what it's like to work with the software robot Bertil.
Before Bertil joined, she and her fellow archivists spent a lot of time registering every e-mail and distributing access requirements internally. They also had to monitor case officers and reply deadlines manually.
Bertil was employed – or installed, to be more precise – to build a bridge between the systems. It was an effective way of automating without having to wait for extensive integrations and system changes.
- In the past year we've been able to work in a completely different way, largely because Bertil has taken over the routine tasks, Elizabeth explains.
Senior archivist Ola Langnes-Øyen is responsible for bringing Bertil into the team. Bertil's real name is RPA – or robotic process automation – and is a software programme that automates tasks and processes.
- Bertil has been given a warm welcome here. Not only does he do routine tasks for the other staff members, but he also registers the time he uses and which tasks he performs. And he communicates in Microsoft Teams, just like the rest of us, says Ola.
Bertil is reporting his late night work and wishing Elizabeth a lovely day.
Ola also explains that they used to spend a lot of time keeping statistics by hand. Now they use Bertil's log to calculate how much time is saved on each case. And the work goes faster because the robot performs that tasks in the same way every time, without spending extra time on interpretation and punching errors.
Bertil is a quick learner and is becoming better all the time
The better Bertil became at his job, the more new tasks he was given to do, because he could apply what he'd learned in the process for access requirements to other areas. Now Bertil issues documents and replies on his own. He monitors unanswered cases, issues reminders to anyone to doesn't reply within the deadlines, and registers data in the archive system.
Bertil has also been trained in quality assurance so that he can check that document references tally and that documents can actually be opened.
- In the next phase we want to add machine learning and teach Bertil to think for himself so that he can do an even better job. We're only at the idea stage so far, but we think a new development like that is very exciting, says Ola.
Will not replace humans
Ola has noticed the heavy focus in the public sphere on the potential for robots to replace humans. He stresses that this has not been part of the directorate's plans.
- The key success factor is that we've had a clear idea about how we would use the time that was freed up, says Ola.
- We also wanted to free up time for system development, analyses and training of users throughout the organisation. We have a lot of high expertise that is being used for the wrong types of tasks. Now we see our employees are finding their working day more interesting, too, he adds.
The senior archivist is proud that the directorate has been quick to start using RPA technology.
- There were some challenges in the pilot phase, but they were quickly resolved thanks to our close collaboration with EVRY. The fact that Suad Vugdalic, an RPA expert from EVRY, has worked closely with us on-site every week has been a decisive factor in the success of the Bertil project. We chose Robotics-as-a-Service, where EVRY operates and administrates the robotic processes, so that we could get started as quickly as possible, says Ola.
What is robotic process automation?
A software robot that performs rule-based procedures and processes. Well suited to tasks that are performed in the same way every time and in large volumes.
Is installed to work in existing systems and in the same interface as the case officer.
What is Robotics-as-a-Service?
A service whereby EVRY operates and administrates the robots at a fixed and predictable price. RPA is part of EVRY's service offering in intelligent automation, which also covers other automation technologies, such as chatbots.