Moving from the usual ways of working and doing business to more holistic, big-picture thinking can be daunting especially during this time of turbulence and uncertainty. Yet the cost and efficiency benefits of digital transformation have never been more relevant now that every industry is reckoning with customer demands for flexibility and service, more stringent cost controls and a reduced and/or increasingly mobile workforce.
And although your business challenges are likely much more pressing during these unprecedented times, they’re not brand new. It probably comes as no surprise that adding headcount will do more harm than good. You’ll incur greater costs, and it’s unlikely you’ll reach your efficiency and customer service goals. Nearly 60 percent of respondents to an Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) survey cited process delays as their primary problem.
This explains why robotic process automation (RPA) and AI are gaining traction for the range of benefits they offer - from eliminating process roadblocks to helping organizations make better use of their data. And as part of an end-to-end intelligent automation initiative, these tools empower organizations to take their digital transformation to the next level.
If we acknowledge that digital transformation can help organizations successfully navigate business operations, especially in today’s “new normal,” the next step is to ask the right questions. Take a moment to consider the following:
Do you have a solid grasp of how your organization’s processes actually work? Where are employees performing repetitive, manual tasks that could be delegated to software robots? Can you identify hiccups in your workflow likely to create service delays and frustrate customers? Have you considered using process intelligence to provide insights into automation opportunities that can reduce costs?
It’s prudent to make time to complete a self-assessment of business areas and operations right from the beginning. That means evaluating what’s working and, just as importantly, what’s not working from the front end to the back office.
As you look to improve business agility to navigate the “new normal,” here are 5 insights that can help your business find the best path forward:
1. Manual processes are holding you back in ways you may not realize.
Many companies still look to manual processes to handle essential tasks. Manual copying and pasting of information from one data source to another or manual application of rules throughout the workflow are just a few examples. This work is tedious and unsatisfying to employees, errors are unavoidable and overall operational efficiency inevitably suffers.
2. Most businesses could be automating in more places.
Despite advances in technology, many processes are still labor- and people-intensive. But many of these processes are ripe for automation.
With RPA, a software robot does the work like a human, the only difference is it never makes a mistake and works 24/7. In essence, the robots are a smart digital workforce working side-by-side with your employees. Unlike the inevitable errors humans will introduce to the process, RPA boasts 100 percent accuracy rates. RPA can also significantly improve throughput and operational efficiencies, with early indicators pointing to time savings in the 50- to 90-percent range, according to a recent report from IDC Financial Insights. And, employees can be reassigned to higher-value initiatives within the organization.
3. Make sure you understand what’s working—and what’s not—before taking action.
Process discovery can help you lay the foundation for RPA and enables faster time-to-automation. You must be able to pinpoint exactly where bottlenecks and inefficiencies exist in your business processes before you can decide which tasks are best suited to delegate to a digital workforce. Lack of visibility into how your processes are executing at every step is a major obstacle to business productivity, as well as compliance and resiliency—which is more essential now than ever.
Remember, it’s not enough to just apply process improvements with RPA and process intelligence—you also need to track and measure the improvements to achieve maximum results. When organizations lack a holistic view and metrics for their operations, it’s difficult to know and report the effectiveness of process changes in meeting your business objectives.
4. RPA and artificial intelligence are a smart combination.
The truth is that RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) are not nice-to-haves, but necessities to effectively compete for the long haul. The powerful combination of RPA and AI enables processing for all data types from any channel; that means electronic data, as well as unstructured data like documents and emails.
AI and optical character recognition (OCR) technology automate the acquisition, understanding, and integration of documents needed in business processes. This extends the capability of RPA, allowing you to automate more and more of your processing, while reducing operating costs, increasing productivity of existing staff, and ultimately, enhancing ROI.
5. You need the support of senior management and IT leaders.
Making the business case to your senior management and IT leaders and sparking their enthusiastic support is essential. The key lies in first understanding the perspectives and priorities of your senior management and IT leaders—understanding their goals and then presenting a compelling business case that aligns with their objectives. You should also be prepared to discuss the roadblocks encountered when attempting to reconcile repetitive manual tasks with automated processes used in other parts of the business.
The bottom line is that digital transformation doesn’t have to be daunting. And you don’t need to rip out the platform and systems core to your business. RPA and process intelligence can work side-by-side with your applications and knowledge workers to create a digital workforce and the ability to gain insight for further process improvements. You’re also setting the groundwork for more advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in the future.
Tyler Suss, Director, Product Marketing - Intelligent Automation, Kofax Intelligent Automation