It’s coming into focus that automation and digitization are disrupting business as usual, stoking fears of the massive unemployment (see McKinsey’s take, Oxford’s analysis, and MIT’s view). But while intelligent automation can mean fewer humans required, it also drives productivity to breakthrough levels by empowering people to do more in less time and with greater accuracy, freeing costs and unlocking significant value embedded in a business process.
So, as a business executive, how do you approach intelligent automation in a way that eliminates the zero-sum nature of the debate?
We recommend that you take the time to scan your process topography and to target processes (or fragments of sub-processes, such as, for example, auto-adjudication in claims management) that might lend themselves to being low-hanging fruit for intelligent 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 or service development, sales and customer relationship management, operations, etc.). Infuse a digital process plan by reimagining 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 on 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 quickly to get runs on the board to maintain and sustain interest.
- Assign tiger/SWAT teams, including a mini-CIO (plus experience and 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 process tiger team. Physically sit and colocate these digital-process change agents into the business units. Keep them thinking about the new process anatomy, data, and the “art of the possible,” including participatory design and research principles. Have them recode 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 within the confines of the business or process strategy. Quickly identify, develop, and implement solutions for process automation or digital business transformation 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.
The content in this article is an excerpt from “The Robot and I: How New Digital Technologies Are Making Smart People and Businesses Smarter by Automating Rote Work.” Download the full study to learn more about three key data sets and findings to substantiate why automation helps drive new efficiency and quality thresholds and improves the way companies operate.
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