Automation for the people

Editorial Type: Feature Date: 2020-05-01 Views: 981 Tags: Document, Research, RPA, AI, BPM, Workflow, Kofax, Forrester PDF Version:
Now is the time to unlock new abilities to deliver by investing in digital capacity, argues Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer at Kofax

Within a matter of months, the world has changed. Many employees have shifted to working from home. Offices are closed, and customers seek ways to engage and transact remotely. Business leaders have had to act swiftly to stabilise their businesses and adjust their operating models in response.

This global disruption has been very painful. It has created a double-sided problem for business leaders: demand destruction and shortage of work capacity. Demand destruction has been driven by broad reductions in consumption as people go outside less and cut back on spending as a protective measure against uncertainty. Shortage of work capacity is a problem that has presented itself as organisations are expected to do more with less. In fact, some are dealing with demand spikes and customer outreach, which is overwhelming their existing workforce. They’re dealing with extreme constraints, and herein lies an opportunity.

In a book called “A Beautiful Constraint,” a constraint is defined as a limitation imposed by outside circumstances that materially affects someone’s ability to do something. The book goes on to explain that success in certain situations isn’t in eliminating constraints, but positively leveraging them to unlock transformative benefits and possibilities. The current constraints on businesses present an opportunity to look at investment in digital capacity to streamline internal operations and customer-facing experiences.

In what were previously ‘normal’ circumstances, knowledge workers around the world were challenged with ever-increasing responsibilities and tasks. Across many organisations, knowledge workers have felt common pain that comes from an inability to focus as much on mission-centric and valued work. Today those constraints are felt more than ever. There’s also a new sense of urgency to meet today’s business challenges, yet lay a foundation for continued success in the long term—and ensure a level of resilience to future business or market disruptions.

The question is, where’s the necessary capacity going to come from given the constraints of today? Digital technologies.

The good news is that, according to a recent Forrester study, for the second consecutive year, organisations are making considerable headway automating key front- and back-office operations:

  • 58% of organisations have deployed automation technologies to digitise information
  • 52% are using it to automate front-desk interaction
  • 49% have implemented automation for fulfilment and verification
  • 45% use it to perform rules-based tasks
  • 44% use automation for business spend management
  • 44% automate back-office tasks
  • 38% automate decisioning
  • 30% use it to automate Accounts Payable and orchestrate workflows

However, it’s a delicate balance to achieve — rapidly innovating and responding to the current challenges to meet customers’ demands while keeping costs in check. Forrester also reports that “an unintended consequence of acting quickly to solve the problem at hand is the creation of automation silos.”

Cobbling together a variety of solutions from different vendors can end up doing more harm than good in the long term because the depth of integration is usually lacking; this can be a huge hurdle to realising the full business benefits of automation. Forty-five percent of Forrester study respondents reported having deployed a patchwork of automation solutions from several vendors. And nearly all (98 percent) reported that a non-integrated automation approach created challenges such as high technical debt (46 percent) and delays in successful outcomes (35 percent).

At an inflection point

To date, most organisations have invested in specific technologies like RPA, based on their promise of managing ‘specific tasks’ like data entry. However, unlocking the ability to scale requires looking at broader processes and operations. This includes people, as well as a combination of complementary technologies supporting capture, processing and data manipulation.

We’re now at a point where many organisations have begun to acknowledge the potential for a combination of complementary technologies to provide digital capacity supporting people in getting work done. Enter Intelligent automation.

An intelligent automation platform is unrivalled in its ability to automate processes, improve employee satisfaction, enhance compliance and drive operational efficiency for organisations:

Process discovery: Identify automation opportunities from analysing patterns and tasks, and isolate and remedy potential challenges with compliance or regulatory issues.

Business process management: Build and run automated processes in collaboration with existing applications and human workers.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Reliably and efficiently automate repetitive, manual tasks across the enterprise, including through web interfaces and business apps.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning: Understand, classify and extract data including voice, text, chat and images. AI allows you to automatically recognise people and documents, and understand the content and context of communications to make more insightful business decisions.

Digital workforce management: Govern a growing digital workforce, including software robots that improve security, compliance, scalability and auditability, as well as a hybrid human-digital workforce to reduce process fragmentation and risk. According to Forrester, 35 percent of business leaders reported mitigating disruption to automated processes (due to changes in the underlying systems that automation interacts with) as an immediate need.

Advanced analytics: Measure the impact of intelligent automation across the enterprise and calculate ROI. Improved visibility, process intelligence and insight into customers, employees and business partners help organisations adapt to changing market conditions and customer expectations.

The case for a single-vendor approach

Choosing to work with a single vendor is considered the ideal approach to automation. In fact, 99 percent of Forrester study decision-makers expressed the belief that there’d be considerable value in having a single automation vendor and platform (47 percent very valuable, 20 percent extremely valuable, 32 percent valuable).

The benefits of automation can be seen throughout the entire business, both internal and external-facing, positioning the organisation to be recognised as an industry leader while navigating today’s challenges—and poised to capitalise on future opportunities.

Here’s a single-vendor benefits snapshot:

Enhanced experience for customers: Automation enables your organisation to deliver a more personalised customer experience and respond more rapidly to customers’ questions and needs. The result is improved satisfaction, loyalty and revenue. According to the Forrester study, improving the customer experience was the top response (54 percent) to the question of benefits achieved by adopting a single-vendor automation platform (versus a piecemeal approach).

Improved employee experience: Human workers enjoy the more thought-provoking and strategic work that automation allows them. Rather than performing the same tasks day after day, employees can focus on projects adding value to the organisation and spend more time improving the customer experience. Workers get more satisfaction out of their jobs when they can see the added value they bring. Increased employee productivity (52 percent) and improved employee experience (43 percent) were also top Forrester study responses when decision-makers were asked about the benefits of single-vendor automation.

Reduced costs:The intelligent automation of business processes and workflows reduces the time and resources needed to complete manual tasks, and cuts down on the number of errors. According to the Forrester study, improved operational efficiency (52 percent) and reduced operational expenses (42 percent) were chosen as single-vendor automation benefits by respondents.

Scalability: Automation transforms a manual or complex task into a highly reliable and repeatable process. A collaborative ecosystem of complementary technologies and humans working together generates exponentially better outcomes across the business. This is critical, as according to Forrester, almost half of decision-makers surveyed expressed a desire to expand automation from a single team or department and scale across departments.

Operational excellence: An efficient workforce comprised of the right blend of human and digital workers creates a flexible and agile organisation that can swiftly and appropriately respond to changing market conditions. Better compliance and transparency positions the business to promptly respond to any potential issues. In fact, more than half (51 percent) of Forrester study respondents said better security and compliance was a benefit achieved by a single-vendor automation approach.

Ultimately, executives who want to drive innovation and transform business processes should embrace an integrated intelligent automation approach. To get there fast, it’s recommended to look for an AI-enabled intelligent automation platform with integrated capabilities (ideally, single-vendor). This provides the smoothest path for organisations to navigate today’s challenges and work like tomorrow, today.