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Automating with a solid foundation

(Image credit: Image Credit: Cordis Technology)

In an effort to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, many companies jump into automation without considering the bigger picture. They adopt one tool to solve a problem, and then another one to handle a different set of challenges. The end result is that organisations use multiple tools and technologies – many of which don’t co-operate and collaborate with each other – to handle different parts of a larger process.

What else causes friction in the business journey? Processes that exist but haven’t yet been automated. When asked about the untapped opportunity within their organisations, more than three-fourths of senior executives said 60 per cent or more of process work could be automated while nearly one in five said 80 per cent or more, according to a Forbes Global Insight survey.

Clearly, there’s still much work to be done to connect the dots and cobbling together solutions won’t cut it. That’s why a platform-centric approach is best. It eliminates the need to have humans fill the gaps in processes and saves the time and headaches associated with making multiple, disparate tools work together. What’s more, the flexibility of a single platform built on complementary technologies allows businesses to be more agile and meet the demands of customers, employees and suppliers today, next week and next year.

How to optimise the business journey

Of course, multiple technologies will always be needed to handle different parts of the business journey. It’d be great if this could be achieved with a single automation tool, but that’s not the case. For example, executives and managers need access to advanced analytics, while back office workers in accounting and finance often benefit the most from Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and cognitive capture. Just about everyone wants support for mobile (including external vendors and customers).

A KPMG and HFS Research survey found companies are investing in a broad array of these intelligent automation capabilities, but only about 10 per cent say they’re leveraging an integrated solution approach. Yet it’s a platform-centric approach which enables organisations finally to stop cobbling together solutions and close the gaps.

A combination of “smart technologies” – such as RPA, cognitive computing, process orchestration, mobility and engagement – designed to work together and integrated on a single platform, will transform your business, making it more agile and competitive. The following steps will help you make a smooth transition to a platform-centric approach and achieve end-to-end automation faster.

Step 1: Build a digital workforce

Repetitive, manual tasks bog employees down as they navigate between systems and copy-and-paste data. It’s inefficient and not a smart use of employees’ time. RPA uses software robots to automate manual, data-driven activities. These bots can easily integrate data from internal and external systems – including websites, portals and enterprise applications without the need for coding or months of development time. You can deploy digital workers quickly and scale as needed, freeing up your human workers to focus on strategic tasks that add more value to the business. The right balance of digital and human workers gives your business the edge required to stay competitive and stand out in the marketplace.

Step 2: Put documents to work

Processing documents and electronic data is another bottleneck in the digital transformation journey for many businesses. Cognitive capture, however, transforms how documents and electronic data are captured and processed. Multichannel document capture is combined with optical character recognition (OCR), delivering cognitive document automation (CDA) technology which enables organisations to quickly process documents, images and unstructured data. Artificial intelligence takes it to the next level, using machine learning and natural language processing to identify, classify and extract content and data from documents and records. Employees know exactly what a given document’s about and what information it contains, so they know what the next appropriate step is in the process. The application of these additional intelligent technologies also makes it possible to integrate CDA with downstream processes and make connections with other internal systems, such as CRM applications – all of which contribute to complete end-to-end automation.

Step 3: Cut out the middleman

It’s not enough to automate simple tasks. Truly successful organisations take automation to the next level, simplifying inefficient processes and creating a streamlined workflow that benefits employees, vendors and customers. You can apply process orchestration to a range of functions across the enterprise – including supplier and customer self-service, claims processing, compliance and regulation checks and customer onboarding.

Capabilities such as omnichannel document capture and extraction, mobile access, workflow automation and optimisation can improve employee productivity, increase operational efficiency and lower costs. Meanwhile, integration options and analytics can accelerate the customer journey and help you uncover new opportunities.

Step 4: Optimise the customer experience

Your customers want interaction with your business to be easy and on their terms. Mobile technology allows companies to engage with customers in their preferred communications channels and eliminates the need to enter information manually. Businesses can also leverage advanced analytics to optimise the customer experience and resolve issues faster at every stage of the process. A powerful mobile solution includes support for identity verification, document gathering, personalised omni-channel communications and e-signature within a secure end-to-end mobile experience.

Step 5: Infuse decisions with insights

With real-time information, you can make smart decisions and drive the business forward. Advanced analytics monitor and analyse information across business processes and systems. You’ll gain an accurate and comprehensive view of how the business is doing – and where it needs to adapt to the changing marketplace. Customer service and sales reps have the information they need to hold more engaging conversations with customers. Real-time data means problems are identified and addressed immediately, before they get out of hand.

Work like tomorrow

To work like the digitally enabled company of tomorrow, organisations need processes – not just tasks – to be seamlessly integrated and automated end-to-end. A platform-based approach eliminates the need to have humans fill the gaps in processes and saves the time and headaches associated with making multiple, disparate tools work together.

Ultimately, companies can achieve their digital transformation objectives the easy or hard way. Businesses can continue to cobble together solutions – or they can be more agile, dramatically accelerate time-to-value and improve ROI with a platform-based approach.

Chris Huff, CSO, Kofax