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Citizen Developers Program: dtac’s key to a successful digital transformation and future-proof workforce

In the past five years, digital transformation has become a top agenda item at many organizations. The Covid-19 pandemic became a test on resilience and ability to transform in order to thrive in the digital battleground. The same is true for dtac, which has embarked on a full digital transformation journey since 2020.

Raewat Tankittikorn, dtac’s head of Channel Excellence, said that “dtac’s digital transformation efforts began with simplification and modernization, which required the organization to rethink its strategies, systems, and service-delivery methods. For customers, this means the in-store experience is continually improved with digitization. For example, today dtac shops are completely paperless, while the experiences on digital channels, such as dtac app and dtac One (app for retailers), are becoming more effective and seamless”

Curbing Disruption Impacts

“Over the past few years, the pandemic had forced temporary shop closures and reduced hours. Many dtac employees shifted to working from home,” Raewat said. “Thanks to our full-fledged digital transformation strategy, we were able to handle the situation well and successfully curbed impacts from disruptions, changing consumer behaviors, and natural disasters.”

dtac has integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into its work process in the past two years for greater efficiency. During the transition, the organization started to notice some gaps, as some types of work that required human presence had to be put on hold with office closures and work from home. Recognizing these needs, dtac started implementing Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to replicate human actions for manual, rule-based, and repetitive tasks. As a result, these tasks can now be carried out 24/7 with greater efficiency and fewer human errors.

RPA development has two formats: 1) Development by Center of Excellence or software specialists; and 2) Development by Citizen Developers or persons who do not have coding experience or knowledge. Contributions by non-experts are possible via low-code or no-code platforms.

“Citizen Developer is a global trend,” Raewat said. Throughout its digital transformation journey, dtac has striven to foster citizen developers. The initial efforts started with Botathon, an internal competition challenging employees with no IT skills to build automation software. Such a competition, however, is more like a fad because without continuity, it cannot produce concrete results or business output. dtac, therefore, decided to roll out its Citizen Developer program in April this year through its collaboration with world-class RPA platform developer UiPath.

Employees who joined Citizen Developer provided positive feedback about the program and can now apply knowledge and skills gained from the sessions at work and explore new ways of work with automation to boost efficiency. With this, dtac can help employees acquire future-ready skills and accelerate its digital transformation journey.

Automation: The Key to Digital Transformation

“Automation is not a new concept as everyone has already been familiar with the manufacturing sector’s machinery. Automation in the service sector, however, is ‘phenomenal’ as it promises to transform the way people work and deliver greater efficiency. Today, robots can carry out more complicated tasks. People, meanwhile, look for jobs with ‘more value’ as evidenced by their migration to positions requiring higher skils as has been happening across the world,” Andrew McBean, Director of UiPath Thailand, said.

“Automation is integral to digital transformation. Like a jigsaw piece, it completes the whole picture and holds other pieces together. The whole picture here is complete digital transformation,” he continued.

As an RPA guru, he has an interesting perspective towards citizen developers, comparing them to “warriors” who want t drive change within their organizations. In his view, these warriors need new tools.

In the past, all software development tasks went to specialists. But with the digital transformation, backlogs have been massive, while new business paradigms have made clear that time is precious. Organizations must become more agile, flexible, and result oriented. All employees should be empowered and equipped with tools to drive desirable changes. This is in line with a study by UiPath which states that citizen developers can account for 85 percent of work improvements within an organization, while specialists can act as facilitators to help them complete the work and ensure an app or program being developed complies with corporate standards.

“UiPath is a democratized, inclusive platform that trains people to become citizen developers,” Mr. McBean said.

From Manual Tasks to Automation

My job requires me to handle data of more than 2,000 outsourced employees. Between 21st and 23rd each month, I spend time compiling data for the human resource team to proceed with salary payments. It is a tedious and challenging task in the face of time constraints. And I had just three days to complete the task each month,” Watcharee Pankruat, a member of Channel Member Profile Management, dtac’s Sales Group, said. “This three-day period puts everyone involved under extreme pressure. Even If the period falls on a weekend, the team still has to work to ensure the 2,000 employees get paid.

After joining the Citizen Developer program, Watcharee started automating her routine tasks, changing the process of data compilation to be 100 percent automatic. By just uploading Excel’s data files onto an app, the teams can significantly reduce their workload. She said the task that used to take a few days can now be completed in less than 10 minutes.

“It was tough at first for people who have zero coding skills, even with low-code/no-code software. But fortunately, the program coaches were very supportive and gave me useful advice. After watching instructional clips several times, I was finally getting the hang of it. To me the experience is very much like playing a game. Eventually I got things on track, and the results are practical,” she continued.

“A part of my job is ring-back tone management. About 15,000 dtac customers have subscribed for this service. The big challenge was that tunes must be removed as soon as their copyright contracts expire. It sometimes could take up to six months individually remove expired tunes However, after developing a low-code/no-code software with the help of UiPath, the process can be completed in just 14 days,” Ekapol Rojratanavichai, a member of Platform Solution and Operation Department, dtac’s Marketing Group, said.

Future-Proof Skills

“dtac aims to automate half of its operations before the end of this year,” Raewat said. To achieve this goal, the development of citizen developers plays a crucial role. As participants in the first phase of the Citizen Developer Program have demonstrated impressive results, dtac has now set its sight on moving from Traditional Automation to RPA Full Automation in 2023. Backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI), this will help fast forward dtac’s digital transformation journey.

“Our roles at work will continue to evolve. In the future, people will be responsible for overseeing and developing robots to boost productivity and performance. Citizen-developer skills and a proper mindset will become requisites for future workers,” he said.

“Citizen Developer Program has a duration of 60 days. To join the program, interested employees must demonstrate logical thinking skills and submit a proposal of what they want to achieve. After completing the program, they must start implementing their proposal while continuing to perform their day-to-day responsibilities,” Raewat said. “We aim to produce 50 more citizen developers by the end of this year.”

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