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Future of automating work - business automationThere‘s a lot of excitement about business automation these days and for good reason.

Developments including artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation bring the promise of transforming work as we know it. Those transformed work processes will operate in a completely different way: fully automated and autonomous, with smart machines doing the work. The vision is to free humans from performing mundane and repetitive business tasks and assist them with better access to better information to better serve customers and the business.

For C-suite executives and technologists today, the challenge is to move beyond the hype of digital transformation to use data and automation in ways that make a real difference in the performance of the organization.

Real-world ROI

Automating work may seem like it’s just about technology, but the transformation that matters most is strategic. The questions become

  • Which core processes will benefit most from automation?
  • What level of ROI can an organization expect?
  • How can the organization benefit from automation in both tangible and intangible ways?

Consider the following infographic that shows the five types of work every enterprise does, all of which could benefit from some level of automation.

Automation infographic

Take repetitive work, for example. If an enterprise needs to quickly improve customer service by decreasing response time, robotic process automation is a good tool to start with because it’s very good at automating the highly repetitive, manual tasks that can slow response time and take humans away from handling exceptions quickly and thoroughly. For more complex work, such as customer onboarding or personalized consultation, the organization may need some combination of automation tools such as decision and process management, artificial intelligence or data capture.

However you approach automation, it’s important to define your goals first and then work backwards to identify the highest impact use cases for automation. From there, identify the tools most likely to improve those work processes to achieve desired outcomes. The more specific and codified the objectives are, the better able an organization will be to calculate a return investment on the technology and the effort.

A real-world case study: Loan applications

As other areas of business and commerce have become more and more paperless, the loan origination process for most banks remains mired in paper copies and manual workflow. Banks pay the price. There’s no time for old-school, paper-bound methods when banking customers expect real-time service and the very profitability of the firm hinges on efficiency, cost containment and customer responsiveness.

Consider PNC Financial Group, which automated its processes for home equity loans, lines of credit and installment loans. Using a combination of decision and process automation software, PNC automated 50 business processes across multiple lines of business. In the past, staff had to review 100 percent of post-closing loans. Now, staff members only need to review loans that contain exceptions, which is about 10 to 20 percent.

“We are able to eliminate manual review of over 80 percent of the volume,” says Jon Phillips, IT director at PNC. This efficiency boost enabled PNC to handle the augmented workload resulting from a large acquisition without increasing employees.

“We acquired the Royal Bank of Canada’s US branches,” Phillips says. “And we were able to take on the volume of work from that acquisition without adding more staff.” Read the entire PNC case study.

Moving forward

Business automation, with innovations including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will impact most of the work people do. It’s just a matter of time and degree. For some organizations, it will help to look at automation platforms that offer essential and integrated capabilities for automating more types of work at scale over time. An example is the IBM Automation Platform for Digital Business, an integrated platform of five key automation capabilities that can help business and IT people drive virtually all types of automation projects at scale.

Regardless of which solution you choose, opt for the approach and tools that best suits your organizational needs in terms of scalability, capabilities and the types of users (technical or non-technical). Look for providers and partners with the right mix of expertise, vision and technology that can help you successfully capture the increasing value of business automation.


Author’s note: I was provided a fee in return for this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the developing company or its affiliates.