Leveraging automation as a vehicle to transform operations is no longer a new concept. With numerous examples of successful implementations across all industry sectors, organisations are now moving beyond “Automation 101” to strategically deploying automation for widespread business value and results, writes Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer, Kofax.
Indeed, there’s no better motivation than to look at the success achieved by firms which have implemented automation widely within their operations. By adopting a more strategic approach to automation, these enterprises are recouping their investment in automation technologies and digital transformation more quickly.
For instance, AMN Healthcare is using automation to process employee timecards and key credentials. The solution ensures healthcare workers can fill “high needs” positions and receive their pay on time. At the same time, it reduces workload for the company’s back-office staff, allowing them to focus on more value-added patient services tasks. As a direct result of these efforts, the company saved 5,400-man hours, experienced 100 percent system uptime and eliminated lost timecards and missed payments.
In another example, a South African bank adopted a mobile solution as part of its platform approach to automation, enabling customers to apply for an account without having to come in to a physical branch. New account openings are up by 50 percent. Automation is helping the company grow their market share and customer base, boosting their overall competitiveness.
According to a Deloitte survey, early adopters who’ve found a healthy balance between people and automation are realising outcomes including improved productivity (95 percent), improved compliance (93 percent), reduction in costs (91 percent), and improved data quality (77 percent).
For businesses looking to take the next step in automation, it’s useful to understand what differentiates enterprises truly ‘winning’ with automation from those only seeing small pockets of success. Some patterns are emerging that illustrate what a ‘winning’ approach looks like, and they provide valuable lessons for organisations beginning their own automation journeys.
A common thread is that successful enterprises take a strategic and integrated approach to automation. Analyst firm HFS defines integrated automation as a combination of people, processes and technology – “the effective melding of technology, talent, organisational change, and leadership to get to the promised land.”
Organisations that realise success with the integrated platform approach commonly take several specific steps. A key element is the rigour with which these enterprises target opportunities for automation. Another is they acknowledge the unique skills their people bring to the table. This practice further enhances their ability to identify where automation will add the most value and ensures measures are put in place to enhance collaboration between people and automation. Finally, they deploy the right technologies based on the nature of the problems they’re trying to solve.
Do your Homework First
Winning enterprises consider process reengineering and consolidation prior to automation (not after). From a business process and operations standpoint, organisations should start by evaluating how well-documented current processes are through a maturity model assessment. This step evaluates automation readiness from a technology and process perspective.
From a technology standpoint, IT should be heavily involved in this discussion from day one. IT stakeholders need to understand how automation technologies will fit within the larger IT framework and who’ll be responsible for managing it.
Next, an implementation journey map will help identify and evaluate potential use cases. There are two key factors to consider when evaluating candidates for automation: the technologies required and the business case. An objective evaluation of these two factors enables organisations to properly rank candidates and create a path for automation that will yield the highest returns.
Balance the Human and Digital Workforces
Winning enterprises will also focus on enabling people to work with automation, rather than against it. An integrated approach empowers workers by shifting them away from manual tasks and toward judgment-based activities that require strategic thinking.
Organisations that understand the unique skills of their people can use this knowledge to further enhance their ability to identify where deploying automation adds the most value. A proper balance between the human and the digital also demands that measures are put in place to enhance how people and automation can collaborate to create the maximum benefit.
Solve Problems with the Right Technologies
It’s also critical to deploy the right technologies based on the nature of the problems you’re trying to solve. An integrated approach brings together complementary technologies such as:
- Robotic Process Automation, to eliminate manual data entry and the associated errors.
- Cognitive capture, so you can ingest and understand any document and its information in any format and via any channel.
- Process orchestration, so you can orchestrate multiple actions, people, robots, policies and systems.
- Mobility, so you can communicate and conduct transactions efficiently and effectively.
- Advanced analytics, for visibility and insight into customers, employees, robots and business partners.
- AI that’s natively built into the system, so it’s tailored specifically to automation tasks.
For example, by integrating technologies such as cognitive capture, process orchestration and RPA for invoice processing, a global telco provider was able to digitally transform its mailroom. Today, 95 percent of accounts-payable operations are digitised and productivity per person has increased by 400 percent. Invoices are turned around in a single day.
Create a Center of Excellence
Creating a Center of Excellence is also crucial for sustaining the benefits of end-to-end automation. This team should include resources dedicated to each of the following core competencies:
- Leadership and vision: Oversees the entire team and keeps all relevant groups within the organisation informed and involved as intelligent, integrated automation efforts expand.
- Vendor and IT relations: Responsible for the relationship with the integrated automation platform vendor and internal IT resources to ensure the right software and systems are implemented.
- Platform enablement: Focuses on training and other elements to encourage the adoption of automation across the enterprise.
- Human capital and transition planning: The people impacted by automation must remain empowered, so these resources will proactively identify the people impacts driven by automation and how to address them. They also plan for any skills gap that may arise from automation through training and hiring.
- Program reporting: Resources also must be allocated to monitor and report on the impact of automation on the enterprise.
- Knowledge management and improvement: Establishing a defined set of best practices is the primary role of this group, which also ensures the organisation stays up-to-date with technologies.
Deriving Value from Intelligent Automation
Enterprises can measure the value of a platform-based approach through Total Automation Yield, which is calculated based on the financial, operations, workforce and strategic impact of automation on the organisation. Each of these categories have a number of quantitative and qualitative items that can be included, along with a variety of metrics. This means there isn’t a standard or required way to measure the Total Automation Yield. But it provides a framework for measuring the benefits of an integrated platform approach over multiple point solutions.
In example after example, companies making this calculation are finding that an integrated, platform-based approach to automation yields higher value than point solutions. This was evident for one European bank, which automated data gathering processes for Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) checks. Data-collection work that once took approximately 13 minutes is now completed in under 90 seconds on average – saving thousands of hours a week. Faster, more complete customer investigations have reduced costs and the risk of regulatory non-compliance.
Enterprises seeking similar results can learn from those who’ve been successful in deploying Intelligent Automation. By following in their footsteps and taking a strategic approach to automation that combines people, processes and technology, they can begin working like the digitally-enabled business of tomorrow today.
See also: Benefits of RPA: Robotic Process Automation is Useful, But No Panacea