The die is cast! Everyone at the strategic planning meeting agreed. We can’t be left in the dust by our traditional competitors or some digitally savvy upstart. We must digitally transform our business. It’s our number one strategic priority. We will dedicate the resources. Ready. Set. Hike.
Setting The Course
You left the meeting jazzed. More than agreeing to the strategy, you had been the chief advocate. The whole team rallied behind your call. You felt delighted that everyone left the meeting aligned and motivated.
Now, you sit alone in your office staring at your white board. You think over and over: “digital transformation enabled by intelligent automation.” You take a deep breath and contemplate what it means to lead your company’s number one strategic priority. Yes, they anointed you as the leader. So, now it’s time to lead. What do I do next?
You know the hype around today’s intelligent automation (IA) tools . . . that they can be implemented by mere mortals, i.e. business users. However, your experience of building a co-bot was pretty much a flop. You downloaded the free robotic process automation (RPA) software license. You also followed the instructions and built the canned task. It ran to completion, but you couldn’t figure out how to make it do something really constructive. Hype aside, it will take investment, time and support for business users to understand, design and operate a collaborative workforce with machines and people working side-by-side.
The first call you make is to your CIO or director of IT. The conversation proceeds something like this. We have this digital transformation initiative to tackle. I know you support it and I need your help. Fundamentally, intelligent automation (IA) will rely on the company’s computing capabilities to capture, organize, use and communicate information throughout various processes and then back to our customers. Without IT’s involvement, things will get out of control. Even though we will start with some isolated experiments, we need an architected and enterprise approach.
Together, you and the CIO decide to form a team of forward thinking business users and automation oriented IT professionals. The group becomes the “intelligent automation program office”. It acts as the center of excellence for digital transformation activities.
An Ideal Pilot Project
With a basic IA governance structure is in place, the next move is to figure out where to focus your first IA implementation effort. Ideally, you want a pilot that improves customer experience (CX) and delivers a good ROI. Your pilot needs enough transaction volume and benefit potential to prove the value to the organization and build the momentum for the next one.
Searching for a Candidate
Surfacing and screening candidate projects is both an art and a science. Methods range from the simple to the strategic. Your search and selection must fit the personality and resources of your organization. Cast a wide net and ask a lot of questions. Get your IA program office involved so they back your choice; better yet, have them make the recommendations. Consider these search paths.
Examine the research distributed before the strategic planning session or the presentations made there. What processes got the most attention? Which ones generated the most conversation throughout the strategy meetings?
Take a Hike
See what you can identify through “management by walking around” (MBWA). (1) Ideally, look for places with a lot of paper coming or going. Take a mandatory visit to the mailroom. Watch what gets routed where. Invoices to Accounts Payable. (Note to self: More than 90% of all invoices worldwide are still processed manually. (2)) What else? Warranty or insurance Claims. Customer complaint letters. Sales orders. When you find the heavy paper areas, ask around. Do these same transactions also arrive electronically, i.e. via email or fax?
Wander over to the customer contact center. Ask for the data on the most frequent customer complaints or the root causes of customer contacts. Which ones would be ripe to transform into a fully digital process? What ideas rev up the call center supervisors? A similar approach would be to dissect the “voice of the customer” data to determine areas of dissatisfaction.
Track Re-work or Root Causes
If your organization tracks re-work or root causes of quality problems, you just found the mother lode of golden nuggets waiting for replacement by IA. Many re-work situations arise from manual steps that could be eliminated by various IA tools. Sort the list by frequency of occurrence or total cost of re-work.
Process Discovery Tool
For a data-enabled picture of key processes, consider using a process discovery tool. Using your company’s data – time and date stamps, activity identifiers, user id’s, etc – this software generates a process map. It charts the expected primary and exception flow. But it also reveals the pools and eddies of transactions that are mis-routed, re-worked or never completed properly. These insights can show repetitive or error-prone tasks ideal for automation. (3)
Decision Time and Moving Forward
Your search surfaced dozens of places eligible for dramatic improvement through intelligent automation (IA). Have the IA Program Office prioritize the list. Take the top few back to the strategy group and pick one that all can buy into. An easy way to break any ties is to ask: Does it improve the customer experience (CX)?
Since you have determined where to start, take the next important step and contact outside resources with digital transformation expertise. Make sure they have relevant experience working with intelligent automation tools, especially capture, workflow, RPA and content management.
An intelligent automation partner assists you and your IA Program Office with an integrated approach to your transformation. Brief them on the project selected for your pilot. They can recommend IA tools and ways to combine them with legacy systems to give the greatest CX benefits and ROI.
1 Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. This has a more complete explanation of MBWA and introduced the term to wide use in American management.
2 Koch, Bruno, Billentis Market Report for E-Invoicing / E-Billing, 2017, Page 7
3 BerkOne represents leading software providers across the portfolio of IA tools used to enable digital transformation, including the emerging field of automated process discovery.