Enterprise Transformation for Operational Resilience

SLK rehauls a US based bank’s automation program unlocking USD 250 million in value.

Case Summary

Rapid organic and acquisition-led growth for a US-based bank led to evolving processes, changing rules and regulations, and newer products and service offerings. A tactical approach to deal with this change strained the ecosystem of people, processes, and tools, creating issues around quality, speed, costs, and business continuity. The adoption of Robotic Process Automation to cut costs and improve quality while increasing scalability seemed to cater to the need of the hour; however, a simmering undercurrent soon took center stage with the advent of the COVID-19 era.

The Challenge

The bank’s automation program had been in action for over four years. Yet, there was growing dissatisfaction between the sponsors, process owners, operators, and teams developing and maintaining the automation. Sponsors found that automation benefits were less than projected and took longer to break even. The frustration either stayed or amplified for the operators as their pain points were not prioritized. With a longer lead time to automate, they could not meet automation goals, and the automation backlog piled up. In addition, with no upgrades to the automation technology chosen at the start of the program, the solutioning range and variety were limited.

Taking a closer look, the SLK team was able to diagnose the underlying factors contributing to this state:

Automation Focus:

The bank had tactical/as-is automation only focused on saving effort and fixing quality issues. They did not prioritize business goals such as improving employee experience, straight-through processing, etc.

Assessment of Automation Potential:

They only had manual assessments that were slow, inconsistent, and unable to project possible automation

Speed to Market:

Fixed automation capacity and tool capability limited the speed and took a minimum of six months from backlog to production Automation Program: A waterfall approach combined with a centralized CoE limited the ability to scale on demand

Automation Technology:

No evolution of features or capabilities of the technology chosen at the start. This state could have been maintained if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that threatened business continuity.

Over-reliance on manual processes, limited automation, and inability to scale securely left the bank in a lurch.

The Solution

The SLK team worked on a six-pronged approach to solve these problems:

Strategy Rehaul:

We shifted the approach to focus on straight-through processing, driving customer and employee experience, and risk reduction. We also created a governance structure for business units to choose the priority of their automation pursuits.

Automation Solution Rehaul:

Optimize First, Hyper Automate Next: We weeded out the non-value add tasks from the process by applying lean techniques. We then evaluated the automation solution levers – application enhancements, RPA, AI/ML, NLP, OCR/ ICR. We also expanded the tool options within the bank for these levers for swift solution realization and lighter maintenance.

Awareness and Alignment:

We created awareness and alignment of business, operations, IT units on the approach and mechanism of automation. We also leveraged champions from business and IT teams for higher relatability and engagement.

Automation CoE, Federated Squads, Run Center:

We adopted a federated delivery model, with the option to scale teams on spikes in business priorities. The separation of support services created the right orientation and skills needed to support digital workers.

Agility and Dexterity:

A governance and change management structure was implemented to enable reprioritization with changing business needs.

Multi Contracting Models:

We engaged partners in different contracting models to complement the priorities and goals in pursuit. This shift from the previous process and risk agnostic single model led to price efficiency and value delivery

Business Impact


Critical processes assured business continuity


Speed of ideation to automation success


Value delivered through efficiencies

SLK’s Efforts Showed Quick Results:

The SLK team successfully demonstrated that automation at scale is possible. The efficiency, resilience, and quality influence of automation delivered much higher value than the direct cost savings targeted earlier. The efforts equipped the bank to deal with the pandemic’s incoming second and third waves and delivered a value of over USD 4 Mn within the first six months.

  • Turned over 20 high-risk processes reliable with automated processing
  • Helped automate processes that were previously non-automatable with the right toolsets that also enable
    rapid automation
  • Eliminated the overhead supporting legacy automation technology with a repeatable model to re-platform into the preferred technology. Got business buy-in to ensure that operation criticality, evolving processing needs, and regulations were accounted for with the rebuild
  • Reduction of tech debt made it easier to find the right talent
  • Applied new concepts such as automated process discovery to accurately assess process complexities and variants. Lean mindset coaching across business and IT helped validate and draw optimal processing steps to automate for maximum impact
  • The right tools, people, and methodology in action brought down the turnaround time from ideation to solution realization to 3+ months

The rehauled automation prioritization, solution approach and demonstrated outcomes created a new appreciation for the program within the business teams. They have now become champions of automation-driven transformations across other units. The bank is now on cruise mode, set to attain value goals of USD 250Mn induced by operational resilience and customer and employee experience.