“Automated Teller Machines are the most common example of a successful automation process. First installed in 1967, ATMs have come a long way to help the customers of Financial Institutions. As FIs were opting for ATMs, a section of banking staff- the tellers felt threatened by it. However, with time they realised the positive impact of these machines. ATMs took over the manual task of dispensing cash to provide the tellers with time to engage in other value-added banking activities. The demand for ATMs has created jobs for millions across the world. From manufacturers to ATM security guards and technicians, ATMs have helped countless people get employed while dispensing cash 24X7 to the valuable FI consumers.”
Businesses need to transform their processes to maintain and increase profitability while creating value for their customers. While it all starts with looking at the right use cases, technology is giving new options and is a significant enabler of change, and is fundamental to an organisations growth story. In today’s world, value creation is possible through the use of digital technologies. While B2B companies can gain efficiency through digital techniques, B2C businesses can provide convenience to the customers by facilitating digital homes. The need for transformation has further accelerated with the prevalence of the pandemic. Companies across segments have implemented new systems and solutions to overcome immediate challenges brought on by the pandemic.
While the existing processes produce output, technology integration would allow the workforce to engage in strategic value tasks. Looking at the talent crunch everyone is experiencing being able to concentrate the workforce on value bringing tasks and not only on day-to-day operational tasks is key to setting up the company for the future. Every organisation may have a distinct digital strategy; however, artificial intelligence and automation are integral to each one of them. Machine learning, Data Analytics, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), cloud computing and predictive and advanced data analytics are some of the digital technologies adopted by companies across segments. Combining these technologies can produce remarkable results. According to a global survey by Blue Prism, 94 per cent of decision-makers believe that RPA is important for driving digital transformation.
Robotic Process Automation is a process of using software bots to automate standardised and repetitive tasks. RPA gives companies a fast way to automate routine and mundane tasks to use their employees for higher-value tasks.For example, data entry, data verification and data migration/data exchange jobs are repeating tasks, which, if automated can help the employees work on creative and analytical projects that can add value to the organisation.
However, most RPA implementations suffer some roadblocks which at times prevents them from providing a successful output. Some strategies can help organisations navigate through these hurdles. Creating transparency on what automation means and giving employees a clear view of what it means for them and how their jobs will change for good, needs to be communicated. This communication around transparency is a human-to-human task, and it can never be taken over by a bot. So, while the technology provides the option to speed up their digitisation process, the organisations need to think about how to handle the change management so that all employees are behind these initiatives and gain value from them.
Another big obstacle in the successful implementation of RPA is companies want to start automating everything at the earliest. This is a blunder. It is imperative to choose the first automation targets wisely and start small, even micro. Everyone gets the biggest benefit by automating very small, high-frequency, heavily redundant, and mundane tasks. If you start small, the chances for success and acceptance are much higher than if you start with a big automation project that takes months or years to finalise and then potentially fails. The idea should be to think big and start small!
RPA can become further effective by infusing it with cloud and cognitive technologies such as Machine Learning (ML), Speech Recognition, and Natural Language Processing (NLP). This addition would automate higher-order jobs that needed the intuitive judgment capabilities of humans in the past. RPA implementations that require more than 15-20 automated steps are categorised under Intelligent Automation (IA). IA can perform multiple tasks with ease, and it can help the organisation increase productivity.
Hyperautomation is a notch higher than RPA and IA. It takes the concept of intelligent automation and extends it to include additional applications. RPA, when combined with AI, business process management (BPM) tools and analytics to create a workflow processing framework that directs decision-making and analysis towards AI algorithms while capturing data on the operations of the business, can be referred to as hyperautomation.
AI enables RPA to intelligently react to what is happening while calculating the response to what is happening. Moreover, the automation gets better every time something unexpected occurs as the AI model learns from it. While RPA typically relies on structured data, hyperautomation allows the interpretation of unstructured data like written text and pictures. This interpretation leads to new use cases that help in automating more tasks, most of all more complex tasks, and hence creates a greater value.
Over the next ten years, the integration of AI into RPA will increase dramatically. AI models enabled by cloud providers and the ease of integrating them into RPA using low code (with the help of AI models provided by the cloud) will change the way RPA is used. Moreover, with rapid acceptance and application, new RPA models would be more business-led and IT-supported than today. Also, the focus on the combination of RPA (task automation) and DPA (process automation) will be much stronger, as the benefits are tremendous. RPA and Hyperautomation will change the way industries operate and lead us to an era of transformed businesses.
This post is based on my input to the book "Decisively Digital: From Creating a Culture to Designing Strategy" and was developed in corporation with ATCS and Nagarro.