Lockdowns, lockouts, and labor shortages have all played a role in motivating business leaders to look more closely at automation, digitalization, and artificial intelligence (AI). Julian Dunn (@julian_dunn), Senior Director of Product Marketing at GitHub, reports, “McKinsey & Company found that, as a result of the pandemic, companies have accelerated the digitization of their internal operations by three to four years and the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years.” He goes on to note that the 24/7 nature of today’s modern business provides even more motivation for companies to transform into digital enterprises. He explains, “These pressures on businesses are compounded by the fact that competition has never been greater, and an organization’s digital services must be available to all their employees and customers — no matter where they’re located — around the clock.”
Journalist and former system administrator Paul Mah (@paulmah) agrees that the pace of global business makes digitization necessary and he insists that automation can help accelerate digital transformation (DX). He explains, “The pace of digital transformation is picking up around the world, buoyed not only by [recent] events … but also by the emergence of the digitally savvy consumer. Increasingly, businesses are turning to automation — or evaluating approaches such as hyperautomation — as they seek to pull ahead of the competition by lowering costs, doubling down on innovation, and increasing customer-centricity.”
Are Digitization and Automation Necessary?
Mah, like many other experts, believes digitization is absolutely essential if a business wants to succeed in the Digital Age. But he asks a great question: “Is automation truly required for successful digital transformation?” To answer that question, he turned to Purushothama Shenoy, chief technology officer at IBM Singapore, who told him. “DX is about creating new business opportunities by adopting a customer-driven, digital-first approach across all aspects of the business. And technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, the cloud, and other digital technologies are enablers to faster and smarter decision-making.” Shenoy believes most companies should pursue even greater automation. He explains, “Even businesses that have already implemented automation can gain further benefits by doubling down on it through hyperautomation. Defined as the implementation of an end-to-end automation toolchain that can address the most complex of business processes, Gartner says organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining hyperautomation technologies with redesigned operational processes.” Content analyst Sayantani Sanyal predicts, “Intelligent automation will accelerate operations across all business platforms in 2022.” She goes on to discuss several processes she predicts will be automated across many industries this year. They include:
1) Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS)
4) Business processes using Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
6) Customer retention
8) Modeling and simulations
9) Enterprise Resource Process (ERP) integration
Sanyal insists much of the groundwork for automating processes that rely on artificial intelligence will be conducted in Centers of Excellence (CoEs). She writes, “Intelligent automation is proving to be an ideal choice for addressing AI execution problems. Modern enterprise-grade platforms allow AI models to be quickly inserted into the systems so that the robots can access and apply them in real-time. Also, human-in-the-loop feedback can be added to support the continual model improvements.”
Accenture analysts note, “Intelligent automation is the fastest growing area of enterprise tech investment. The potential to boost performance in the typical company with these tools is both broad and deep.” As with any change in the business environment, they insist most companies face the same series of questions: “Where do we start applying it first? Do we go after the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that will produce quick wins and build the case for more ambitious projects? Or should we strategically focus, with no delay, on the applications that will give us a decisive edge over competitors?” In the past, most consultants recommended going for a quick win whenever a new technology was introduced. The quick win strategy was the surest way to convince people about the benefits of change. Nevertheless, the Accenture analysts insist, “The same old answers don’t apply.” Especially when it comes to intelligent automation.
They explain, “Intelligent automation (the term commonly used for robotic process automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in organizations) brings unprecedented speed, accuracy, and pattern-recognition power to business processes that routinely call for deciphering information, from fielding customers’ questions to complying with government regulations to detecting fraud and cyberattacks. Because that describes so much of the activity of modern workplaces, the deliberations about where to start and how to proceed are different than with other technologies.” Before beginning your automation journey, they suggest you map out where you want to go. At Enterra Solutions®, we recommend a “crawl, walk, run” approach to implementation so that problems can be discovered and solutions tweaked before scaling them for company-wide use. The Accenture analysts write, “Given that your people will need to rise again and again to the challenge of implementing intelligent automation solutions, this is the approach that makes sense, but more of the thinking about the best sequence of steps will be up to you.” After your journey has been mapped, they recommend a three-step approach.
Step 1. Assess existing capabilities. To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are at the beginning of your implementation journey. Accenture analysts explain, “The first step is usually an assessment of existing capabilities: the challenges your people already know how to tackle and the sophistication of the tools they have to solve them.” You should also assess the processes you plan on automating. Bill Gates (@BillGates) once noted, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” If you don’t assess how well your processes work, you could waste a lot of time and money trying to automate an inefficient process.
Step 2. Gap analysis. There will always be some discrepancy between what capabilities your company possesses and what capabilities they require to implement intelligent automation. Accenture analysts note, “This might reveal that your current IT infrastructure is simply not equal to a coming wave of applications that will need to interact with disparate data sources. Or that much more effective collaboration will be needed between software developers and business process owners than has been seen in the past.”
Step 3. Plot the step-by-step journey. Accenture analysts explain, “With the beginning and end states clearly articulated, you can then specify a step-by-step journey, with projects sequenced according to which ones can do the most in early days to lay essential foundations for later initiatives.”
By following those steps, Accenture analysts assert you can “avoid the mad dash that has your organization chasing possibilities but with no collective progress.” They add, “Choose your spots wisely, and your investment in intelligent automation can be a capability-building journey.”
 Julian Dunn, “2022: The Year Automation Comes to the Forefront of Reliability and Experience,” Dataversity, 28 January 2022.
 Paul Mah, “Automation, The Key To Accelerating Digital Transformation,” CDO Trends, 16 November 2021.
 Sayantani Sanyal, “10 Intelligent Automation Strategies for Business Growth in 2022,” Analytics Insight, 3 December 2021.
 Bhaskar Ghosh, Rajendra Prasad, and Gayathri Pallail, “How to Pick the Right Automation Project,” Harvard Business Review, 10 February 2022.