Walgreens’ Prescription for HR Services Efficiency

By Shail Khiyara

For Curt Burghardt, vice president of HR shared services and systems for Walgreens, RPA (robotics process automation) started out as a way to remove some transactional tasks from his team, so they could better support the company’s 230,000+ U.S.-based employees. And since implementing Blue Prism’s enterprise RPA digital workforce, efficiency in the HR shared services group has jumped 73%.

But, as he explained to this month’s Café audience members, the initial proof of concept made it clear that RPA would be much more than an efficiency play for the 117-year-old retail drug store chain’s HR shared services group, it would underpin the transformation of the overall HR function.

1280px-Walgreens_Logo.svg[1].pngFor example, approximately 2,000 Walgreens employees are on leave of absence on any given day. Blue Prism automatically loads the necessary data, including whether it’s a paid or unpaid leave, into all the required systems. In the workman’s compensation process, digital workers instantaneously feed data back and forth between Walgreens and its claims management service provider.

But the company is also exploring how enterprise RPA can bring a consumer-type experience – aka Alexa and Google Home – to its employees and team members. For example, whether it’s done by voice or text, a Blue Prism RPA solution could manage a chatbot-driven process. That would give the team much more time to serve employees and make everything move more quickly and easily.

In Curt’s view, whatever the process, and whatever combination of cloud-based and home-grown on-premises HR systems need to be tapped to perform the process, “shared services often plays the connector, and Blue Prism enterprise RPA becomes the glue that ties the different pieces together.”

A Different Approach to the Business Case

Most business cases call for the business to fund the RPA initiative. But after learning from other organizations how difficult that can be, Curt and his team decided to self-fund the whole robotics initiative for Walgreens’ HR shared services group. This eliminated any expectations of reducing team headcount to fund the business case, and put them in the roll-out driver’s seat.

But since the concept of digital workers can be so difficult to grasp, he shared an idea that can help those who do need to secure business case funding from the finance team. “Finance deals with macros quite a bit, given this if you explain that RPA can be considered a macro on steroids, they’ll be able to understand more what you’re actually talking about.”

Partnering for Success

Even though Walgreens’ HR shared services funded the digital workforce transformation, various groups are contributing to its success. IBM is the systems integrator for the new, cloud-based core HR and payroll systems Walgreens is implementing. Because it’s also a Blue Prism partner, IBM has been able to help with the digital workforce modeling questions and has direct access to Blue Prism engineers if it runs into something it’s not certain about. All of the modelers come from Curt’s team, and they all went through Blue Prism’s extensive training program. But because of its extensive Blue Prism knowledge, IBM has also delivered some additional training and provided the Walgreen’s team mentoring while shadowing their early deployments.

Walgreens’ internal IT department has also been deeply involved in the entire robotic initiative. It not only helped in the initial selection of Blue Prism because of its robust modeling and system reconnection capabilities, but also conducted exhaustive reviews to ensure Blue Prism would adhere to data privacy laws, wouldn’t cause any network security issues, and that the solution would be able to scale across other portions of the company, beyond HR.

Walgreens’ RPA Success Story

Click here to view the webinar, and hear all the details Curt shared about his company’s RPA journey.