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New Kiwi company aims for mid-market with RPA and AI

31 Jan 2019

Newly launched Kiwi company Virtual Blue is providing two of the hottest digital transformation technologies - Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) - to create end-to-end solutions for mid-sized to enterprise businesses seeking to achieve more from their digital roadmaps.

RPA provides business process automation based on the use of software robots to free up human workers from repetitive, monotonous tasks to instead focus on value-creating tasks.

Virtual Blue’s services include intelligent automation consultancy, with RPA delivery and implementation, production support and maintenance. 

The company will be partnering with global RPA providers to ensure New Zealand businesses have access to the best global solutions locally.

The Auckland-based company has been founded by Sam Osborne and Sharyn Catt, two of New Zealand’s most experienced RPA professionals who have been working in the RPA market since its inception in New Zealand three years ago.

Osborne, who takes on the role of Virtual Blue managing director, fronted New Zealand’s first RPA programme in 2016 as the general manager of robotics and automation for Quanton, and previously worked with companies including Vodafone NZ, 2Degrees and BNZ. 

Catt, who is Virtual Blue’s Director of Customer Solutions and Operations, was previously head of consulting services for Quanton and has more than 15 years’ experience as a business consultant. 

“Many of the companies we’re speaking to have approached RPA and AI as two separate pieces of the transformation process, but they should be two parts of the same solution,” Osborne says.

Catt cites the example of companies using AI-based chatbots, which can answer questions but can’t then go away and process any of the information.

“The real value lies in having RPA and AI working together and that is a key area where we will be focusing: Showing Kiwi businesses how they can use both technologies together from the start rather than doing discrete projects and trying to bring it together later on.”

Both Osborne and Catt believe 2019 will see a strong move towards the combining of the two technologies, providing a powerful opportunity to help ‘take the robot out of the human’.

“What we have seen over the last couple of years is a real focus on RPA, but now organisations are wanting to combine robotics with the complementary technologies, such as AI, to help create even more efficient, productive, workforces. 

“It’s about ways to provide the robot with the information in a more efficient, streamlined, cost-effective way.” 

Osborne stresses that RPA is not about reducing headcount.

“In our experience, we have never found that organisations are business casing RPA to get rid of people. They’re looking at the technology to take away the mundane and repetitive work and help create more efficient workforces,” she says.

Virtual Blue’s launch comes as Kiwi companies are increasingly starting to raise the bar with their digital strategies.

“We’re seeing a lot more demand from both mid business and enterprise around how to do both RPA and AI as part of a whole digital strategy,” Osborne says.

 “Internally, organisations understand digital strategy, but I think we will see much wider take up this year. RPA and AI are no longer emerging technologies, they’re becoming a mainstream part of digital transformation and are now being seriously considered by business.”

Osborne says through engaging with partners for end-to-end solutions, rather than doing multiple small projects on their own, companies can create more cost-effective, justifiable RPA projects, with a solid return on investment.

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