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How automation can provide a foundation for digital transformation

(Image credit: Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock)

UK businesses have been falling short when it comes to digital transformation. A recent study from Kyocera found that UK businesses, particularly small businesses, were lagging behind their European counterparts when it comes to digital transformation. Meanwhile, a joint report from Oracle and the Confederation of British Industry found that ‘big businesses’ failure to adopt disruptive technologies could be costing the UK economy up to £100bn. This highlights why digital transformation is so imperative on a national scale.

In order to get digital transformation initiatives up and running, UK businesses should start by considering automation. Implementing automation technologies, such as robotic-process automation (RPA), can streamline business processes, providing gains in both efficiency and productivity and having a transformational impact on businesses on its own. This can act as a springboard for wider digital transformation initiatives.

Below are some top tips for how automation can provide a boost for businesses struggling to digitally transform.

Driving productivity

One of the primary aims of any digital transformation process is to enhance workplace productivity, and this is where automation can make a big difference.  Automation is not about replacing humans with robots. It’s about changing the tasks that humans carry out so that they can focus on purposeful work, thus optimising workplace productivity.

The best results are achieved when humans work alongside robots and AI to enhance complementary capabilities. Robots or ‘digital workers’ work best when they perform transactional, data-intense and highly repetitive tasks; allowing people to focus on the more innovative, creative, and strategic tasks.

With a recent report from McKinsey estimating that up to 45 per cent of the tasks that humans currently perform at work could be automated using existing technology, it seems that there is a vast opportunity to increase productivity while also freeing people up to concentrate on value added work.

Increasing efficiency

Rather than be seen as a ‘quick win’ used to deliver cost savings and a fast ROI, automation should be seen as a strategic tool businesses can use to iron out their particular pain points. One of the main benefits of automation is its scalability. This means that organisations can identify the necessary areas where automation can make a difference and use these select few as a testing ground before up-scaling their automation projects throughout the rest of the business.

In instances such as these, organisations should consider implementing automation on a robot-as-a-service model. This flexible approach works for businesses who need rapid deployment to scale up and down for short periods of time.

Security & compliance

Concerns surrounding security, and compliance to strict modern regulations, are two of the biggest challenges faced by contemporary organisations – and are issues that cannot be overlooked when organisations launch digital transformation initiatives. Automation can take away the pain associated with tasks such as security testing and data handling needed to maintain compliance, giving IT departments the opportunity to focus on the rest of their digital transformation project.

With regard to compliance, implementing digital workers to perform the mundane, highly repetitive, and data intense tasks required to maintain compliance with strict regulation such as GDPR can not only make the process more efficient, but also less error-prone. This not only reduces the errors, but will also boost the productivity of organisations security teams.

Accelerated operations

A great deal of organisations already have some level of automation in place; even if it is simple scripts. Despite 83 per cent of IT decision makers saying workflow automation is an integral part of digital transformation, a large number of business owners have still kept their operations fairly manual. This leads to error-prone and slow running of processes.

Establishing workflows that can have automation introduced to them can have a huge bearing on consistency and efficiency in business operations. Implementing automation to back-end processes also reduces errors and frees up valuable time that can then be spent on more meaningful tasks that require human work.

Aligning automation

One of the main selling-points of automation is the adaptability and scalability of the technology. However, this can also be its downfall, with organisations often launching small-scale automation initiatives in silos that stagnate and fail to realise the technology’s long-term benefits. Instead, implementing automation must be a carefully considered long-term strategy that seeks to meet specific business requirements. Organisations should identify a long list of potential processes for automation before they begin to implement. Businesses can still start small and scale up, but this must be tied to a long-term vision and strategy.

Businesses keen on digitising their organisation should also consider the following before embarking on this process: relevant policies and services, cost models, potential integration issues and security and access requirements. Considering these factors would enable the organisation to reap the benefits of automation and ensure these will be in line with the overall digital transformation goals.

In order to give all of these components the necessary consideration, businesses should consider adopting the ‘hub and spoke’ model. This approach sees a central ‘hub’ take responsibility for choosing which process should be automated, the allocation of funds, the application methodology, managing the technology platform, risk assessments, compliance, and instructions and guidelines for the rest of the organisation. Meanwhile, smaller teams, or ‘spokes’, are responsible for the operation and maintenance of automation bots at a more local level.

Not only will this model help to ensure automation initiatives are considered from every aspect, but it will also help to ensure that businesses automation initiatives are aligned with their digital strategy.

James Ewing, UK Sales Director, Digital Workforce