How to Scale Intelligent Automation Successfully?
Although scalability is proven to be among the most valuable benefits that Intelligent Automation (IA) brings to a business, more than half of enterprise automation programs see this as a major hurdle, with only the top 10% achieving significant scale.
Many companies have adopted some form of automation, but the number leveraging IA is still growing. Successful automation requires a holistic approach to scale, due to differences in the complexity of what can be solved with rules-based robotic process automation (RPA) versus intelligent solutions. A scalable solution may need additional roles, updated technology, revised operations and infrastructure, and different business processes to support automated use cases.
Why are some enterprises experiencing success in scaling automation and others struggling? Here are the most common challenges our customers shared with us:
- No clear IA vision and strategy
- No leadership buy-in
- Internal misalignment between business and technology stakeholders
- Isolated knowledge
- Inability to show, measure, and understand the true value
There are different kinds of value. Often with RPA, the focus is on cost reduction as the only indicator of automation value. But value can also include cost avoidance, risk mitigation, and improvements of both internal and external customer experiences.
Perhaps you’ve seen tangible results with automation pilot projects. After those first achievements, you can see other areas where automation would create improvements, and your next question is: How to scale?
In recent interviews, Nischal Piratla from Deutsche Bank and Matt Speare from Carter Bank & Trust were eager to share their successes.
Nischal led the effort to bring IA into the enterprise, saving the bank over $10 million. With Nischal’s contribution, Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs has been recognized as among the top 25 world’s best financial innovation labs.
Matt successfully implemented Intelligent Automation at Carter Bank, and within the first few months, they were able to automate over 30 use cases and achieve $2.5 million in savings.
Vision is key
During a recent discussion, we asked them: How would you advise others to start scaling painlessly and with maximum effect?
I think you have to start with a mindset. That’s basically the point of entry. We want to have the right leader, who is a visionary and at the same time responsible for day-to-day things. I think the ideal candidate could be the Head of Global Operations. … After you get them on board, you have to really look at how you start with these things, because most of the time when you do a new transformation, you have to show cost savings as quickly as possible. You also have to show how you can cover all the use cases within a business line, and also across other business lines.
I agree: You really must have a vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s different at Carter Bank & Trust — we’re a little bit smaller than Deutsche Bank — the ability for us to add scale and get across the entire enterprise is relatively easy, because all of us that are heads of different lines, work and interact with each other every single day. We have the ability to say: “OK, I’m going to spend this week concentrating on loan operations and see what opportunities are there.” Part of this is, you have to educate them on what can be done. Also, take the opportunity to look at business processes that exist today and re-engineer wherever possible. We face a lot of “We’ve been doing that same kind of process for 20 years because that’s the way I’ve always done it” — and yet it’s inefficient.
WorkFusion advises our customers to start with internal questions like these: “Are my people, processes, and technology ready to take automation to the next level?” and “What is potentially missing or worrisome?” The answers may be on the surface, or there may be low-hanging fruit. You may end up rethinking the operating model, improving organizational structure, or looking for a new combination of technologies to take a more comprehensive approach to IA.
Why doesn’t everyone actively run and scale automation? For the most part, it’s because the leadership doesn’t understand its value, and they don’t want to spend money on something which means little to them. The greatest challenge for CEOs, Innovation, or Operations leaders is to understand the pros and cons. But once the adoption is done, and success is shown, programs begin to expand within the company, affecting other departments.
Matt is an accomplished technology leader with over 15 years of experience. He mentioned that WorkFusion’s analytics was helpful in demonstrating and building success, and gaining buy-in from peers and leaders:
We had really good success at the beginning and just continue to build on it. We are running like 100 use cases today. It still amazes everybody. Our Board loves to see the graphs which have come out of WorkFusion and show that at any given day every week, there are 50 to 60 active automation tasks going on. That really pays off: Conceptually they get it — but there is nothing like being able to see what is occurring and the end result. That really helps foster acceleration and a higher level of acceptance.
Both Matt and Nischal say they have gone through stages where they receive “show me” and “prove to me that it’s worth it” responses. They said that to be successful, you need strong executive support or at least a high degree of interest.
In reality, a lack of this support is a big challenge for all companies. Without executive support, try to start small, set up a small team of dedicated enthusiasts, choose the most valuable use case, bring it into production and show what value it creates.
More steps to success in scaling automation
- Do a little “internal marketing.” Encourage other business units to use IA. Create true expectations of what automation can (and cannot) bring to their work. To motivate change, tell a success story from someone on the team as a real illustration. Show how automation has changed someone’s career path. Use video of dashboards with the bot’s daily workflow.
- Constantly explore what business processes could be automated, which processes should be streamlined, which services need to be of better quality.
- Bring your technology partners to the table to discuss integration as early in the cycle as possible to prevent delays and misunderstandings.
Any automation journey has challenges; take ownership to address the process consistently. The most successful companies see challenges as opportunities for change and building stronger internal relationships. By working toward goals and following as many best practices as possible, your automation scaling project is sure to reap rewards.