The repeated trends and keywords for the past couple of years have all been about digital business and transformation. The drive to make businesses smarter using data, faster using digital services and aligned through platforms is in high gear.
Your company may be taking its first steps with RPA today, or planning to roll out intelligent automation across an enterprise, but the key message from all quarters is to make the most of it at every opportunity.
Much of the focus has been on big data, grand plans for AI and chatbots, but coming up fast on the outside is the rise of intelligent automation, the modern take on robotic process automation (RPA) and a longtime friend of businesses looking to speed up repetitive tasks, modernize old processes and bring order to data that has lived in silos or been remote from validation and analytics.
The risk to a business is trying all these different technologies without a strategy, or letting different departments develop or adopt different systems. If the business is going to truly win, it needs a joined-up approach.
Stats show that AI and RPA combined can bring benefits of 9%, compared to 3% when using RPA the traditional way. That makes intelligent automation a must-have among companies looking to catch up with digital-first businesses that have been using AI and smart services since day one.
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Optimize intelligent automation efforts
The trick to successful IA is a ruthless approach to planning, execution and optimization on the road to meeting your business goals. The ultimate goal should ensure every process is linked and provides useful data across the business to help make smarter decisions. Those decisions can be enacted faster in a digital business, with bots and AI systems not only automated, but working with other systems to drive the company and its ambitions forward.
The collective opportunity sounds like a lovely theory, as most business IT-led projects do. But any company looking at wide-scale process automation requires a strong team or center of excellence, depending on the size of the organization.
Any effort should focus on easy wins, the obvious efforts that scream for automation, or tasks that people get no joy in doing. These help prove the value of the technology, then a drive toward sizeable efficiency gains that can help change the business, both in terms of how it operates and the underlying IT that drives digital change. These help transform the company and lead to further efforts, with the full array of RPA, chatbots, IoT and Big Data analytics tools working together to bring efficiency and dynamism.
The high expectations for intelligent automation need to be backed up through ongoing engagement across the business with leaders and stakeholders helping to drive the quick and substantial ROI. Beyond that, investment in the longer-term must run for the length of the project, with investment in people, tools and talent to maintain the effort, even as attrition and turnover take their natural course.
Finally, these AI tools are fast-evolving like other cloud and digital services, and so leaders need to see where the technology is headed and how it affects their plans, with agile evolution a requirement to stay on the digital bandwagon until all business goals have been met.
Avoiding the half-hearted approach to intelligent automation
Robot process automation sounds simple on paper, and early efforts may lull any business into thinking it’s a Band-Aid to fix some immediate problems and provide short-term solutions. But the true scope of what can be achieved with intelligent automation requires a broad and long-term vision of its capabilities.
Using IA with artificial intelligence analysis tools can help the business decide where to go next, and get there faster. Planning future office systems and processes with IA in mind can make them more efficient from the outset, and if you’re thinking three or four years ahead, when AI can improve processes and make decisions for itself, you’re looking at a business with levels of automation that will be the norm by the middle of the decade.
Cognitive computing as proposed by the likes of Canon for 2025 highlights the massive growth in digital things that any business will use and the need to efficiently manage them with AI, as the only tool that can react fast enough to maintain an efficient business. All of that from a tool that started life speeding up how companies scanned invoices and the like is an impressive achievement, but essential for businesses of the future to be aware of and capable of managing.
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