It is not a coincidence that in a year of heavily disrupted markets, intelligent automation (IA) has made a leap forward in reputation and taken centre stage in the investment plans of businesses. Emergence research from this year has found that 40% have increased investment, and no wonder: during turbulent times, many organisations must get by with smaller or more inundated workforces, burdened with an overload of manual, repetitive activities that waste their uniquely human skills. Senior executives are gradually realising that integrating intelligent automation into the workflow can bring people closer to the work that brings value to the organisation, and helps deliver on its overall mission.
Companies can hit gold by striking the right balance between their human employees and a digital workforce powered by automation. This has been shown to increase both the quality and the quantity of work carried out by people. According to an Everest 2020 study, more than half of outstanding ‘Pinnacle Enterprises’ were able to create more than FTE 100 work capacity after integrating intelligent automation into their processes.
This kind of capacity increase can be a saving grace in the face of sudden demand increases. In the UK, over 20% of NHS Trusts have been meeting increased demand with intelligent automation solutions that operate in harmony with NHS staff, to automate, streamline, expand and accelerate all types of tasks. In essence, investments in automation can remove the risk of dependence on humans and help organisations rapidly adapt to demand fluctuations.
COVID-19 has made automation a boardroom imperative, but not in the ‘shiny new toy’ context in which AI and automation has too often been viewed over the past decade. There is a realisation that a strategic approach to intelligent automation can form the backbone of long-term corporate resilience. Our 2020 survey of senior-level executives revealed that 30% acknowledge a lack of strategic thinking as damaging to the chances of successful investment. “The time to take a long view of automation is now,” as Forrester’s 2020 report The COVID-19 Crisis Will Accelerate Enterprise Automation Plans from this year aptly put it.
Doing so is the only way to achieve the integrated, end-to-end intelligent automation that can completely transform an organisation. Process and task mining using IA technologies, such as those some RPA vendors offer, enables businesses to pinpoint processes that are good candidates for automation, while optimising the task allocation between human operators and bots during downtime gives businesses more ability to easily scale the digital workforce during peak demand. Intelligent systems can be set up to constantly scrutinize and predict risk, and redesigned workflows can systemise and codify best-practice to ensure business continuity in the event of sudden disruption. There is almost endless opportunity for exponential growth once these initial processes are structured and refined.
But these are strategic gains that cannot be achieved with single use cases. Those that achieve profound transformation do so by constantly increasing the scope of integrated automation: 50% of Everest’s Pinnacle Enterprises have deployed IA in more than five business use cases.
IA is a strategic imperative in the new normal. The real imperative within that, however, is process design that optimises human expertise and automates the right processes to deliver lasting value and resilience.
Ensuring these best practices are solidified may take a little more strategic planning up front, but long-term and exponential gains will be the reward for those that do. For a truly resilient automation initiative, take the long road to success.