By Chris Chelliah
SVP Customer Strategy, Insight & Business Development,
Oracle Asia Pacific & Japan
FACED with a manpower crunch and challenged supply chains (and budgets), amongst other things, organizations are seeking to rapidly put in place new processes to help improve labour productivity and plug gaps.
Intelligent Automation delivers the power to help business leaders balance the dual goals of cost reduction and agility. But just how should you look to reap its benefits, beginning but certainly not ending with enhanced productivity? Chris Chelliah explains.
Advancing with intelligent automation
Automation has been helping businesses be more efficient for years. Now, the next advance, Intelligent Automation (IA), is making its presence felt.
According to a recent global pulse survey from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Oracle, IA is already being used in virtually every department in an organization – from automating repetitive and cognitive tasks to free up resources for more valuable work, to simplifying approval processes and improving the decision making process.
This rise in usage can’t come soon enough.
What makes intelligent automation (IA) different is that unlike its predecessors, it isn’t hard-coded into any system.
Instead, Intelligent Automation uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create systems that work autonomously, learn from their experiences, and adapt to moment-to-moment conditions. Relying on real-time data, they are also much more flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing conditions and business environments.
Alex Clemente, managing director of Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, says, “Organizations are already reaping the benefits of intelligent automation, beginning but certainly not ending with enhanced productivity. By establishing these proof points, many are now engaged in how to scale their use of IA across and throughout the enterprise.”
This positive sentiment is supported by the positive results shared by those identified in the survey as IA leaders cited uplifts in employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction, and more.
In fact, right across the business, companies are automating three basic things.
- Automating IT gives you time to focus on the business
A key area being automated is IT systems. In fact, the IT function leverages IA the most according to the study at 63 percent. And with new tools that take this level of intelligent automation ever further, the benefits are clear.
For example, Vodafone Fiji is using the self-driving, self-patching and self-securing Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse to automate many traditional database tuning, maintenance, and optimization functions. Thanks to this, the company’s database administrators can now spend more time on high-value work, such as analyzing network usage trends, informing promotional campaigns, churn, and building models. [or use the following or add your own autonomous data warehouse customer]
- Workforce productivity is another key area where automation is being applied. For example, over two-fifths of the organizations questioned are using IA to do things like boost service operations. A case in point is from IFFCO, one of the world’s largest producers of fertilizer. It has increased productivity by 30 percent by offering its employees conversational access to the HR and finance applications through Oracle Digital Assistant with Voice.
- Decision-making is the other key area automation is impacting, where businesses are using machine learning to make an automated decision or a recommendation to a human for approval based on studying the data and patterns within it.
No wonder with the changing future of work, and challenges around skills shortages and distributed working locations, respondents are expecting to increase the use of IA in all functions over the next five years, despite the tightening of IT spend.
Charging ahead for the next
So how do you turn initial IA visions into working systems? How do you integrate new IA functions with existing applications? And how do you scale these automation initiatives across the enterprise?
- Incorporate IA into your business strategy. Businesses should move away from the isolated efforts that plague nearly two-thirds of responding organizations and take a more comprehensive and strategic approach to redefine the metrics that matter to the business, beyond the traditional department silos.
- Ensure the right technology foundation is in place. Successful IA projects depend on three essential drivers: automation, cloud infrastructure, and advanced analytics, which must all work in unison to achieve effective outcomes.In particular, intelligent automation is almost impossible to achieve without the scalability of a true enterprise-class cloud. Sometimes called second-generation clouds, these advanced offerings include single-tenant, high-performance, bare-metal servers designed for resource-intensive machine learning workloads.
Additionally, on the technical front, there appears to be a big gap between the degree to which respondents view certain technologies as critical and just how much they’ve deployed them. For example, while 71 percent say advanced analytics will be critical to their business over the next five years, only 31 percent say the technology is in wide-scale production at their organization.
- Rely on ecosystem and technology partners. Perhaps relying on existing partners is then the easiest point of entry for companies who want to take advantage of IA. Many technology vendors are introducing IA technology to create new or improve existing products. These are the experts who understand and have the capabilities to integrate IA into existing or separate offerings that act as alternatives to traditional business-process management environments.
- Provide training to employees. As IA alters the way work is being done, it is a necessity for organizations to have new skills both within IT and in business areas where processes are automated. Organizations who want to succeed with IA need to invest time to establish standards and guidelines (without being too restrictive), and offer training to both its IT and non-IT employees. Change management is never easy and business leaders must implement communication programmes to aid employees through the process.
Embracing the win-win partnership for new opportunities
In short, intelligent automation is moving beyond hype and into the mainstream and the return on investment is promising, as are the expectations. With IA, businesses are expecting to lower their costs, drive higher revenue, and boost the customer experience – creating a virtuous cycle in the long term. Businesses, too, certainly believe that IA will have the greatest impact on productivity2. The world will need more productivity, and automation is a way to get it.