To grow, you need a strategic approach to automation

process automation

Businesses are embracing automation. But you’re most likely to find it thriving in discrete pockets throughout the organization, rather than integrated into every process. One initiative might automate the routing of customer emails to the right agent, while another might help the payroll team process timecards faster. Whilst these solutions to point problems are innovative, their limited scope means they fall short of full-scale automation.

For proof, consider that only 17 percent of businesses have scaled their intelligent automation technologies, according to a recent report from HFS Research, and 90 percent aren’t taking an integrated approach. If organizations want to grow their business, it’s critical they abandon working in silos in favor of a strategic, holistic approach to automation.


Break through organizational barriers

Why do so many struggle to get their Intelligent Automation to scale? There are two main barriers companies need to overcome before they can make progress: lack of a clear organizational vision and the talent gap. To achieve an integrated Intelligent Automation solution that effectively scales, businesses need to address their deficits in both of these areas.

Define and inspire: According to HFS, "meaningful change such as elevating customer experience and unleashing data to drive real-time insights and topline growth have become the new 'why' -- the inspirational rallying cries for enterprise investment in IA." To align and gain the full support of the entire organization, it’s essential to have a clear strategy and leadership mandate that explains why Intelligent Automation is important for the entire company in the first place.

Broaden your view: The problem with siloed approaches that are focused on specific tasks or processes is that they don’t scale. Hence, an enterprise-wide view is needed. In doing so, organizations will be able to identify the best practices in the business and combine them with technologies for greater benefits across departments. One example of this strategy is the shared service model. When operations like administrative and accounting services are consolidated and built on integrated Intelligent Automation technologies, the organization can optimise resources, cut costs and deliver a higher quality of service.

Find the right balance: While digital technology is important, human talent still plays a critical role. Claims reviewers, for example, often spend a fair amount of time reviewing documents and verifying information. But when robots assume these tasks, these employees can shift to more impactful work. By finding the right balance between human talent and digital workers, organizations can deploy their human talent to value-adding, strategic projects that can’t be handled by their digital colleagues.

Take it one step at a time

If you’re struggling with how to begin addressing these issues, this simple, methodical framework will help you avoid getting waylaid by the pitfalls and silos that delay success.

Build a cross-functional team

Every IT project starts with a business champion, but to scale Intelligent Automation across the enterprise, you’re going to need more people on the A-team. A cross-functional team will help you gain the holistic enterprise view you need.

The team should include representatives from across the business, especially the executive level and IT. Business and process owners (customer service, marketing, sales, finance, accounting, HR, operations) who deal with manual practices and have a vested interest in change also need a seat at the table. Finally, don’t forget external stakeholders, such as suppliers and vendors who are impacted by your processes. While they may not get a final vote, their opinion is important to making smart decisions around automation.

Identify where you’ll have the most impact

Where will automation have its most immediate and noticeable effect? Taking customer onboarding to the next level could have a profound impact on your ability to drive revenue. Imagine being able to deliver in minutes services that your competitors can’t deliver for days. It would be an industry game-changer.

That’s why you need to think about the areas where Intelligent Automation will have the greatest impact and identify the business goals it will help achieve. Determine where your organization will see the biggest benefit. Maybe your pricing will become more competitive, your compliance reporting more timely or your Cognitive Document Automation more accurate. Be prepared to provide quantitative (decrease costs by 10 percent) and qualitative (improve customer service) reasons for automation, and be ready to answer objections.

Once the pitch is set, thoroughly research vendors, making a list of those that provide an integrated and scalable platform across multiple automation technologies.

Start small but scale fast

It’s okay to start small by focusing first on a proof of concept. Choose a simple, yet impactful, use case because small projects quickly yield results. Once optimized, immediately scale. For example, if you began by automating the onboarding process for one supplier, be poised to automate across all suppliers. Prioritize areas identified across the enterprise and deploy, optimise and scale.

True success goes beyond IT and cost savings

Scalability demands a cross-sectional team of leaders who take the message of Intelligent Automation and elevate it above technology and mere cost savings. Intrinsic organizational benefits like improved vendor and partner relationships, and a more engaged workforce with better morale are also important success markers for any business-wide digital transformation initiative.

Breaking free from the silo approach may seem overwhelming, but with a broad, strategic vision in place and the right people, you’ll soon start working like the digitally enabled company of tomorrow.

Tyler Suss is  Product Marketing Director at Kofax. He is responsible for delivering global product positioning, sales and partner enablement, and go-to-market strategy for the Kofax Intelligent Automation platform (RPA, process orchestration, cognitive capture, advanced analytics, and mobile engagement).

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