Intelligent Automation (IA): Transforming Business at Speed

Sumit Srivastav, Partner & Leader, Intelligent Automation, PwC India An alumnus of National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Sumit's specialties lie in Alternate Lending, Core Banking Domain, Banking Process Re-Engineering, Robotics Process Automation, and many other areas.

We have all heard the phrase ‘Transform or Perish’. But in today’s world, transformation alone would not help, rather it is the speed with which one can transform that matters the most. ‘Transformation at speed’ is the new Darwinism in business. Corporate entities across the world are finding it challenging to explore ways in which they can bring agility in their transformation initiatives, and ‘Intelligent Automation’(IA) seems to be the answer they are looking for.

IA is a combination of Robotic Process Automation (RPA),Augmented Intelligence(AI), and Conversational Intelligence - a lever that many companies are using to achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and quality at an optimal cost. Organisations are driving efficiency across the value chain through RPA for their repetitive manual activities, which areessential for creation of operational efficiency, capacity and accuracy. Along with this, they are implementing or deploying:

•Cognitive or AI capabilities to augment core human-driven processes such as data manipulation, exception management and continuous improvement in straight-through processing.

•Virtual agents or chatbot technologies for their employees and external B2B or B2C interactions, enquiries, and support.

Organisations are able to unlock the value of data to provide deep insights, which enable real-time decision-making throughout the value chain. While IA is being adopted in every sector, organizations that are able to accomplish this feat with speed will emerge as the winners. As organisations try to re-define their business and operating models by utilising IA to bring speed in their programs, they constantly encounter roadblocks such as the following:

• There is no clear answer about where IA can be applied and where it cannot.
• Communication with their human workforce is not effective. This
creates a resistance to change and acceptability of the digital workforce in their various business units.
• There is a lack of planning in re-skilling their existing workforce and awareness of the value-added activities, which the human workforce is likely to under take in the future.
• Their internal organisational structures - to deploy, run and manage the digital workforce – are not well defined, which causes confusion about responsibilities.
• Their governance models and control changes are often neglected, resulting in increased risk and compliance-related issues.
• Changes in business processes and the technology landscape often makethe existing digital workforce redundant, and require an increased effort to maintain and support them.

"While IA is being adopted in every sector, organisations that are able to accomplish this feat with speed will emerge as the winners"

While IA is being adopted in every sector, organisations that are able to accomplish this feat with speed will emerge as the winners. While many organisations are trying to resolve or manage these issues as & when they occur, the smart ones take preemptive action and create a structured approach to manage the transformation. They are:

• Taking a top-down approach to embed IA as a strategic lever to achieve their business goals.
• Redesigning their operating models by utilising their human & digital workforce.
• Setting-up Centres of Excellence that will own, run, and maintain their digital workforce.
• Laying-down governance-related guidelines for their digital workforce, which include: On-boarding (discover, design, develop, debug and deploy); Monitoring & reporting, conducting performance reviews and maintenance; and Compliance, and disaster and recovery planning.
• Setting-up change management teams for effective communication and re-skilling of their human workforce

As organisations get ready to embrace this change, they also realize the importance of scaling at speed, sooner rather than later. This implies an in-depth understanding of such technologies in the organisations, especially at the top & middle management level. As managements put in place a plan to adopt IA in their organisations, to bridge the gap between traditional and intelligent enterprises, they also need to change their hiring & training strategies. Employees across various levelsshould be able to use technology effectively and be continuously inspired to adopt automation. Large organisations need to prioritise by determining where IA is likely to disrupt their operations first and then start upskilling.

Success stories of IA in organizations should be widely publicised to demonstrate its value to all customers,employees, management, and shareholders. This is likely to create a robust employee engagement model as a part of their transformation journey. Smart prioritisation of automation and proper tracking of business benefits will fast-track and increase acceptability of IA in organisations’ different business units. Institution alising structure and governance to productively deliver and manage automation, and making improvements periodically will add sustainable momentum to this program.

As organisations see effective and immediate benefits such as evolution of their workforce, as well as scalability, operational efficiency, accelerated time to market, real-time decision making, an improved employee value proposition and better customer centricity, they will be able to ‘Transform at Speed’.