Automation
Nov 02, 2021

Advice for the enterprise: How to automate intelligently

Automation isn't new. For decades, enterprises have automated manual processes to improve productivity and reduce costs. But the scope and capabilities of automation continue to grow, and the demand for automation has significantly increased, which keeps my conversations with customers exciting.

I've focused on creating better ways of working with people in terms of productivity, technology, collaboration, and satisfaction throughout my career. As a result, I've been lucky to see how automation has evolved firsthand.

Here, I'll share what it means to automate intelligently, how to assess your automation maturity, and how to use automation to create better experiences for employees, customers, and partners.

The journey toward intelligent automation

The most digitally mature enterprises have moved beyond robotic process automation (RPA) to intelligent automation – automation enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI).

I think of the human body as a good representation of intelligent automation. RPA bots that take over repetitive, complex tasks are the arms and legs that physically get the work done. The next layer is machine learning – the eyes and ears that take in information such as built-in intelligent character recognition and enable the bots to do their jobs. However, these elements can't reach their potential alone; they still need an orchestration layer to act as a central nervous system and AI to enable true intelligence.

With intelligent automation, it becomes possible to explore largely unsupervised automation that continuously learns and evolves. With this approach, automation becomes a trusted partner, a dependable co-worker for the people behind an enterprise's digital transformation.The most digitally mature enterprises have moved beyond robotic process automation (RPA) to intelligent automation – automation enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI).

Assessing your automation maturity

Enterprises in every industry can benefit from intelligent automation, but how you get there depends on your digital maturity.

Enterprises beginning their RPA journey will be asking:

  • What technologies will we use?
  • What operating model will we set up?
  • How do we engage the business?
  • What processes should we target?

But enterprises with a solid RPA foundation will be wondering:

  • How do we introduce AI to increase the impact of our investments?
  • How do we secure stakeholder support to expand automation?
  • How do we scale to other business functions or regions?
  • How do we move beyond accelerating a process to reimagining a process?

Despite these differences, there are considerations every enterprise – regardless of its automation maturity – must keep in mind.

Three considerations for success

The secret to successful automation is balancing technological feasibility with stakeholder support. For every automation project I've been involved in, these three considerations have helped enterprises find that perfect balance:

  1. Focus on the why: Some businesses automate for the sake of automating. However, "we need to automate" isn't a good enough reason to embark on this journey. They need to have a vision behind the move, through which businesses identify their desired outcome up front. Why are we automating this process? Cost savings? Employee satisfaction? A competitive edge? Answering these questions up front is critical.
  2. Connect automation to business objectives: Automation doesn't exist in a vacuum. It must align with a business' larger strategic goals. For example, intelligent automation inevitably frees up time for employees to focus on more high-value work. So, how will they use that time? If revenue growth is the top business priority, how will intelligent automation enable employees to contribute to that objective? This clarity will ensure support from all levels of an organization.
  3. Keep people at the heart: People are the core of any successful business transformation. Unfortunately, resistance to change is expected. But automation shouldn't elicit fear – especially if you educate and engage employees and stakeholders early and often. It's also crucial to generate excitement among employees – the people who will co-work alongside automation. Here, businesses should position intelligent automation as an augmentation – not replacement – of the workforce, focusing on how it will improve the employee experience.

About the author

Ben Chance

Ben Chance

Intelligent Automation Specialist

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