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Achieving Rapid ROI Through Automation in the New Abnormal

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As companies turn their focus to reemerging, the current market environment presents an opportunity to think and invest strategically in solutions that drive immediate results and lessen the impact of future market shocks. How do you prepare for the New Abnormal when so much is unknown and defies preparation? Get nimble. Move swiftly. Build capability that allows you to react to sudden, frequent change.

In an earlier article, “Thriving in the New Abnormal Requires Reinvention”, we highlighted three key objectives for a successful Sprint with Digital:

  1. Know which customers are ready to buy – and how, when, and what they need
  2. Reimagine the organization and ways of working to ensure you can react
  3. Maximize the value of digital tech and tools

Let’s take a closer look at one of those digital tools – Automation, a composite of technologies that can simultaneously drive rapid results and strategic change. Whether a company was already in the middle of a digital transformation, or has had digital transformation thrust upon them, process automation can drive profitability and can provide a bulwark against future disruption. However, as with so many digital tools, ROI depends on a lot more than the technology; it requires a holistic plan for organizational and operating model change.

Hire” the Digital Workforce

Focusing on the technology for a moment, automation has grown beyond Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to include a larger suite of solutions (including OCR, NLP, AI, Machine Learning). But that’s not the point. Automation can’t be viewed through the lens of technology. Instead, there are “digital co-workers”. Automations are part of your business organization, working alongside human co-workers. This integrated, optimized workforce allows companies to:

  1. Reduce costsdigital co-workers don’t need office space and don’t take vacation
  2. Better absorb market shocks and economic downturnsdigital co-workers aren’t distracted by external conditions
  3. Remain stable during periods of asynchronous disruptiondigital co-workers don’t have workplace safety concerns
  4. Maintain and improve productivity and qualitydigital co-workers go fast, make few mistakes, and hand off value-added decisions to human co-workers
  5. Enhance elasticity to scale up and down quicklydigital co-workers can expand capacity instantaneously without onboarding or training

Activating the Digital Workforce: Factors for Success

Let’s address the elephant in the room – most automation projects fail to deliver financial results. Smaller benefits are inherent to the technology and are achieved most of the time. Unfortunately, the important benefits are far more elusive, don’t let them escape!

Succeed where others have failed

Successful automation implementations include more than technology:

  • Process reengineering capabilities
    • Optimize upstream and downstream processes impacted by automation for end-to-end benefit
  • Organizational culture & change management process/governance
    • Create a culture of adoption that embraces change and has the built-in capability to execute in a rapidly evolving environment
  • The data/insights needed to measure results
    • Determine what metrics—about business/processes/customers—are true KPIs tied to company financial and productivity targets to eliminate ambiguity
  • Best-fit tools and technology: Consider integration cost and overhead
    • For the quick wins needed right now, your current IT capabilities must be sufficient to support any investment in automation

Implementing a Digital Workforce in the New Abnormal: Think Big, Start Quick, Focus on Bottom-line Wins

Current market pressures require rapid ROI from minimal investment in automation, but this must not come at the expense of strategic transformation. The best approach accelerates this long-term commitment to automation with quick win opportunities. Focusing on automations that can be implemented within six weeks and deliver financial benefit within six months, our work across industries and all sizes of company revealed a rubric for determining quick wins:

Wrap Up

Implementing process automation can be a multiyear journey, but you can provide significant value immediately. Create “digital co-workers,” start small and stay focused to achieve critical benefits in the short-term and provide a foundation for layering on additional capabilities. Articulate a plan that does more than treat automation as a technology project. Update upstream and downstream processes, map automation metrics to business KPIs and operating model impact, integrate organizational design, and drive change management. Thoughtfully implementing the automated, digital workforce is an integral component of the Sprint with Digital.

Nick Kramer serves as Vice President, Digital – Analytics at SSA & Company

 

 

 

Michael Riedinger is a Director at SSA & Company

 

 

 


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