Cost optimization. Scale. Greater efficiency in operations. These are pretty typical outcomes that executives should expect with new digital investments. Right?  But so many technologies bandy these benefits about that it is becoming increasingly difficult for leaders to decipher which technology actually drives more results.

CogStudy_cover_webOne emerging technology that has grown at an accelerated rate over the past three years is intelligent process automation (IPA). Cognizant’s latest research as discussed in “The Robot and I” indicates that the adoption of IPA is on the rise, with 80% of organizations considering intelligent automation.

And according to Gartner’s “Predicts 2016: The Rise of the Machines Leads to Obsolescence of Offshoring for Competitive Advantage,” there are more than 2,500 firms in the machine-intelligence segment. And more than 35 major service providers are investing in the development of virtual labor. That’s a lot of firms in a small span of time.

So why the crazy growth? Is it really real or more hype? I believe it’s for real because of two facts:

  1. The days are really, truly over for simply throwing more bodies at the task to get it done. We saw it in industry over the last 40 years, then with the service industry, and we’re seeing it with software today. With powerful new automation technologies, workers’ outputs can be magnified exponentially by software. Organizations will embrace different process approaches for better outcomes, delivering higher impact. (Hint: It’s not about the number of people doing the process.)
  2. Standardization of processes can lead directly to scaling a business. Many organizations are starting to use robots as a powerful lever for process standardization, while leveraging skilled human workers for their unique talents. In other words, when robots can do the rote tasks less expensively, leaders need to take stock and shift people to more complex processes where applying innate human talents, creativity, and judgment is valuable in ways that robots are not.

Where do you begin? 

Great! It’s not (entirely) hype. How do you take advantage of it?

First, make sure you’re keeping business outcomes as the “prime directive” to drive, guide, scale, and test for success. Look for transaction-based or outcome-based pricing models (i.e., business-benefit-based contracting or gain sharing with a business-process outsourcer or moving from a people-based model to volume-based transaction pricing).

Secondly, consider extracting data (and distilling meaning) to drive process excellence. Leaders will prioritize data that drives down costs, improves understanding of customers, boosts speed and quality, and streamlines processes.

Revenue potential starts, not surprisingly, with customers. Use those processes to get started, and apply new technologies of automation and digitization to know customers as well as to focus on the right sets of data that help drive that knowledge.

Lastly, use approaches that can be compressed into as little as a week, especially around readiness for process automation. Pilots and testing can be compressed into two to four weeks of development to showcase results. Consider asking how to get rid of paper-based process inputs, such as invoices or claims, and make your process truly digital from the outset. Determine whether the people delivering your processes today add value or inject risk. What are you learning about your business or industry value chain as data is analyzed? Does it help smart people make better judgments?

When you use those processes to get started with these new technologies and focus on the right data, automation will drive cost optimization, scale, greater operational efficiency, and more. Next week, I’ll share a few starting points on how to assess process readiness.

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Robert H. Brown

Robert H. Brown

Robert Hoyle Brown is a Vice President in Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and drives strategy and market outreach for... Read more