It’s not a radical fantasy to view software robots that automate business processes as disruptors of the “old way of doing things.” Intelligent automation is here, today. And there are some tangible steps that you can take to get started – quickly.
The Center for the Future of Work published our take in the whitepaper “The Robot and I” on a new and important type of robotics emerging that we call intelligent process automation (IPA). With IPA, smart machines augment and extend people’s uniquely human capabilities – empathy, creativity, problem-solving and drive – to deliver superior business results, using increasing levels of built on AI and machine learning. To really get going, there are steps you can start to take on Monday Morning that will get you on the journey to the future of processes.
Taking small steps can and should be done help break inertia. For example, if you’re not doing robotics because AI seems so overwhelming you’re not alone. But applying robotic automation tools is one easy step you can take on an intelligent process automation journey to machine learning and AI to run algorithms to analyze real-time customer credit worthiness in banks that can drive millions in savings, or – more importantly, in an industry like Health Care – things like spotting tumors in medical scans that could save people’s lives.
You may think you’re already on the path. New models like IPA – as opposed to true digital change – do provide an on-ramp to new efficiency and quality thresholds to rote work. But the emphasis on sheer people power is different and changing fast.
How will you respond? Scan your process topography and target processes (or fragments or pieces of sub processes, say, auto-adjudication in claims management) that might lend themselves to being low-hanging fruit for automation. Consider the following as a simple, yet effective checklist to begin the assessment:
Perform an automation readiness assessment. Map processes to a level of detail that includes inputs, processes and outputs. Scan the market for tested and ready-to-implement technologies that have established tangible proof of success. Apply minimally invasive automation technologies for efficiency gain today, but keep your eyes on the prize for where transformation for differentiation makes the most sense tomorrow.
Analyze your company at the process level. Review in detail your processes as they exist today (new product/service development, sales and customer relationship management, operations, etc.). Infuse a digital process plan by re-imagining moments of customer engagement or constituent journeys. Target tangible process metrics: cost-per-claim, clinical trial yield, healthcare unit cost, fraud prevention rates, etc.
- Help humans evolve toward the work of tomorrow. Start by giving employees access to digital processes and machines that help them do their jobs better, smarter and with more meaningful impact to the business. It’s not about the number of people tied to “doing the process;” it’s about outcomes and making smart people even smarter.
Create, educate and inculcate “the vision.” Move from recognizing that something “needs to happen” to “making something happen.” Business processes — automated, digital or otherwise — are useless if they don’t support a business strategy. That means helping smart people make smarter decisions in support of differentiating activities. Get true alignment and buy-in to design, develop and deliver — and move fast to get “runs on the board” to maintain and sustain interest.
- Assign “tiger/SWAT teams,” including a mini-CIO (plus experience/design).Most IT professionals are hard pressed to fulfill the demands of current delivery, but there are likely many extremely valuable (and digitally-savvy) resources that would jump at the chance to become automation experts or join a digital processtiger team. Physically sit and co-locate these digital process change agents into the BUs.
- Keep them thinking about the new process anatomy, data and the “art of the possible,” including participatory design/research principles.
- Have them re-code moments of engagement (internal and customer-facing), using new technologies of intelligent automation.
Execute specific process projects — to learn fast, or “fail fast.” Be specific — don’t place resources and “hope for the best.” IT resources landing in a business unit without work assignments are often quickly marginalized and abandoned. Get creative and get moving — but within the “swim lanes” of the business or process strategy. Identify, develop and implement solutions for process automation or digital business transformation — fast — to successfully outrun the competition.
Make “meaning-making” mean something powerful — fueled by process data. The imperatives to “do analytics” or “use big data” are just too broad to be meaningful. Instead, focus on a specific business process. Whether it’s your underwriting process, clinical drug trials, wealth management service, supply chain or customer relationship management process, focus on work that shapes at least 10% of your costs or revenues. To seize competitive advantage, look at the data that is — and could be — exchanged and used for value.
IPA is here today – it’s quickly accelerating and disrupting the status quo. It sets a scene for smart automation built and operated by smart people freed from the humdrum who focus on creating greater business value. Understanding the symbiotic relationship between humans and robots is crucial to understanding what the future holds. After all, the human spark is, and will remain, essential to how knowledge work is orchestrated and managed. What’s different is that technologies can now create more effective knowledge workers while simultaneously generating and capturing data that can improve and even transform processes, along with eliminating wasteful steps.
Our research opens the aperture on the possibilities. Some of them are intriguing, some are mind-bending, but all will usher in profound change. This is one of the most important trends in business services, and organizations need these insights to help them win in the era of automation and digital processes. And like a good science fiction movie, whether you like it or not, it’s coming soon — to a process near you.
To learn more, our research in “The Robot and I” reveals new market insights that chart the progress in the journey so far, where process change is most likely to occur next in specific industries and, importantly, what you should do about it.