Guest Column | February 10, 2020

3 Ways To Accelerate Digital Transformation And Automation

By Chris Huff, Kofax

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Business owners have put an awesome level of commitment to serving their customers well. In that effort, they have increasingly looked to a wide range of automation technologies as levers to make information more available, support decision making, personalize service, and improve operations in their respective businesses. However, there is an inverse relationship between the number of digital transformation technologies a business implements and the ROI it realizes from those technologies IF they aren’t integrated to an adequate degree.

For business owners, this can translate into difficulty in scaling results from automation and even supporting existing investments. What’s more, investing in multiple technologies, each of which is designed to solve a specific problem, can add up in terms of cost and resources. As integration and configuration costs creep up over time, a “fit-for-purpose” approach can ultimately become a more expensive route.

However, business owners can head off such issues with a more considered approach to planning for digital transformation. This comes down to a three-step framework which we’ll step through in this article: evaluating readiness of the business for automation; sizing up business problems and taking an integrated ‘platform approach’ to automation; and putting processes and a program in place to support the scale of benefits across the company.

Step 1: Understand Where You Are Today

Conduct a maturity model assessment by evaluating automation readiness from a technology and process perspective. Involve IT early in the discussion. They not only understand how automation technologies will fit within the larger IT framework, but they’re also responsible for managing the technology environment and keeping it secure.

Be sure to assess how well documented current business processes are during this stage. Automation’s most powerful when deployed against processes that are already running properly; it isn’t intended to ‘fix’ or alleviate the pain points around broken ones. In other words, optimize first and then automate for the best results.

Step 2: Establish A Business Case For Automation And Adopt A ‘Platform Approach’ From Day One

After conducting ‘process readiness’ assessments above, establish a business case for automation. Start by clearly making connections between automation and corporate strategic, workforce, operational and financial objectives. Then, rank use case candidates based on their potential to yield the greatest return. This allows you to determine which technologies are required to develop an automation platform that solves the unique business problems you’ve identified.

Such problems may include improving the way information is captured and extracted or taking action on that information in downstream systems/applications. The technologies that solve these problems drive significant value for a company when bundled and integrated into a platform. Some examples are:

  • Cognitive capture: Ingest/understand any document and extract relevant information via any channel.
  • Process orchestration: Integrate people, automation technologies, systems, applications, etc. along a broader workflow in a business-user intuitive manner.
  • Mobility & engagement: Engage customers efficiently and effectively via web or mobile devices.
  • Advanced analytics: Provide data-driven insights with respect to outcomes as driven by automation.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Automate complex decision making and personalize service to end users.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a hot topic these days, and understandably, a point of interest in many digital transformation initiatives. In fact, the battle over which vendor’s RPA tool has the most gadgets and widgets has become somewhat of a proverbial “street fight”.

But those focused at this tactical level can lose sight of the bigger picture – and the ultimate cost. Rather than explore stand-alone technologies for use within pockets of the business, organizations are now trying to digitize entire processes. Thus, to truly get ahead with digital transformation initiatives and solve a wider set of business problems, companies need a platform automation capability that allows them to optimize operations end-to-end.

“RPA provides a terrific band-aid to fix current solutions; it helps to extend the life of legacy. But doesn’t provide long-term answers,” said analyst firm HFS. “Integrated Automation is how you transform your business and achieve an end-to-end Digital OneOffice.”

The integrated approach saves your employees from the need to learn multiple solutions and your finance team from having to manage a myriad of vendors. Thus, by adopting an integrated platform from day one, business owners increase their ability to reduce costs, time to value and complexity, while at the same time maximizing customer and employee satisfaction.

Step 3: Create A Centre Of Excellence

It’s important to create an operating model around automation that fits your business, otherwise known as a Centre of Excellence for Intelligent Automation. This team guides all things related to automation – including maintaining and overseeing standards across the business, training, vendor management; establishing best practices, and so much more. Business owners also have flexibility in how they structure their programs. There are three main models:

Centralized: A single team is responsible for running and controlling all aspects of the program.

Decentralized: The responsibilities for running the automation program are replicated across separate business units within the company.

Hybrid: Some aspects of the automation program are run by a single, centralized team, while others are replicated across business units.

There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Businesses should start with the model that makes the most sense given where they are today, and adjust down the road as needed.

With an integrated platform approach, business owners will realize automation gains such as improved productivity, faster decision making, personalized service to customers, and a more empowered workforce. Look ahead, plan for the future and work like tomorrow, today – with an Intelligent Automation platform.

About The Author

Chris Huff is Chief Strategy Officer at Kofax.