The concept of automation is well known; in fact, for many years organisations have integrated automation as a change lever to improve operations. How has the technology evolved over this time, and how should businesses take advantage of automation moving forward?

Advances in software and technology have made automation increasingly accessible to the business user.  There are a breadth of technologies that can now be used to automate a wide variety of processes, removing the need for even the smallest amount of manual interaction.

Intelligent Automation represents the next generation of enterprise automation solutions. It is the bundling of capabilities within an automation toolbox to extend the scope and degree to which processes can be optimised, while also maintaining the natural balance between work allocated to machines and people to maximise productivity. Furthermore, Intelligent Automation can be understood and designed by business users, positioning the organisation not only to drive productivity with a collaborative machine/people workforce, but also to operate automation technologies in a transparent manner.

Understanding IF you should begin to explore automation

In order to realise return on investment (ROI), business users must strategically identify how and where to apply Intelligent Automation, along with the appropriate capabilities to leverage. These capabilities must be driven by, and aligned with, the long term and strategic goals of the organisation. During exploratory stages, thinking about processes via the lens of a simple Acquire-Process-Analyse-Deliver (APAD) framework can initially inform what automation capabilities to focus on while maintaining an appreciation for the business problem at hand:

  • ACQUIRE: If a process begins with input data, how is that data ingested? Is it typically scanned in?
    Is it received in digital format via email? Is it in a standard format? Or is there variability? Asking these questions can illuminate whether it makes sense to use a capability like RPA to handle data ingest versus cognitive capture, or even a virtual voice agent.
  • PROCESS: Once data has been ingested, what needs to happen with it? Does forms entry take place across multiple systems? Does it need to be moved into a specific database? Answers to these questions will suggest the extent to which BPM workflow capabilities or RPA make sense within the Intelligent Automation solution.
  • ANALYSE: After initial processing of data, or even during processing, is there a requirement to synthesise information from many sources to draw an insight or make a prediction? Is it necessary to measure the sentiment or tone within processed data to influence what happens downstream? Clarity here will inform the degree to which a machine learning and advanced analytics capability is needed.
  • DELIVER: How should information be delivered back to the business user or the customer? What information points are most important to them, and what action do they need to take? This will inform not only what is delivered back to the appropriate personnel, but also how activity that takes place within an automated process is reported in order to drive transparency in automated processes and foster greater integration between automation and people.

Understanding HOW you should begin to explore automation

For every business objective, there’s a process—usually multiple, complex, legacy processes—that supports the objective, drives it and helps others understand if it’s working.  Experience tells us that organisations must approach process automation holistically rather than in silos in order to achieve the biggest impact.  This is especially true in established businesses where processes were implemented and have evolved over time to adapt to the changing needs of the business.  Always keep in mind the overall objective, look for new approaches and opportunities.

There is a need for collective alignment around which processes will result in the largest impact once automated.  Although it seems like an obvious point, it is easy to miss this in the effort to move quickly and achieve results, only to realise that a single process becomes subject to limiting factors from other business areas, or later realise that other processes might have made for stronger candidates.

It is true to say that optimised processes benefit most from automation.  Although many organisations have optimised their processes through experience, research and/or trial and error, they remain largely manual and there is still the opportunity to realise further improvement via automation. The next wave of productivity lies in evaluating optimised processes to determine which can be automated to further enhance service levels, reduce operational costs and drive productivity.

Understanding WHY you should begin to explore automation

Automation is radically changing the future of work. The next revolution is marked by enterprises that can intelligently and successfully deploy multifaceted automation solutions that work closely with their people to improve how services are delivered, how ideas are generated and how customers are served.

Although many organisations have already optimised processes, there is still much room to automate the numerous manual steps in them. Intelligent Automation is uniquely positioned to help organisations to optimise and automate their processes.

Whether Intelligent Automation is leveraged directly to improve service levels to customers, or more internally to recapture time for employees to spend focused on more mission-oriented work, the results can propel the business ahead and strengthen its competitive advantage.

This blog is based on Forbes Insights – Accelerating Business Value with Intelligent Automation: The 2019 Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmark Study.  We are grateful to Kofax for commissioning this report and sharing it with us.

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