Intelligent Automation (IA) is the latest frontier of automation, which is a go-to technology for ensuring frictionless customer experiences and augmented outcomes in this era of unprecedented disruptions. A recent Zinnov study indicated that 75% of Fortune 250 customers have already made significant early-stage commitments to IA adoption, and even Federal institutions and Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) are starting to express interest.
At this juncture, with IA clearly on the rise as one of the world’s leading digital technologies, Sidhant Rastogi, Managing Partner & Global Head, Zinnov, sat down with Mark Foster, Senior Vice President, IBM Services and Global Business Services, to get insights on the potential of IA, the challenges in its implementation, reskilling/upskilling initiatives undertaken to bridge the talent deficit, and much more. The following is an excerpt from the conversation.
Mark: Enterprise-wide intelligent automation has long been a goal for a majority of our clients. The pandemic has created a new sense of urgency. Digitalization has become an imperative with the changing working conditions and the need to absorb peaks in demand. The recent lockdowns have forced rapid adoption of digital technologies, warranting a new level of acceptance. Rather than being seen as a technology initiative, automation is now seen in the broader context of digital transformation – something that can transform customer experiences and drive growth / recovery- we call this extreme automation.
Mark: IBM Institute for Business Value research recently identified several challenges in scaling IA initiatives, with the most common ones being: first, alignment – leaders are concerned about achieving the appropriate levels of executive sponsorship and leadership alignment; second, execution at speed and scale – there are difficulties in realigning workflows and the complexities involved in IT implementation activities, and lastly, trust – leaders identified some challenges with respect to people’s willingness to trust machines.
These concerns reflect the growing recognition that automation is not purely a technology initiative, but a transformative program with significant implications in the way that work gets done.
Mark: Thinking in terms of workflows is key – intelligent workflows deliver value to customers by cutting across organizational silos, beyond functional processes. For example, the journey on which a new insurance customer goes – from responding to marketing, through sales and underwriting, into their account being set up and a policy issued. Organizing your automation efforts, corralling your resources to align with that workflow, and re-engineering the workflow end-to-end, will have a huge impact.
Mark: Within IBM, we focus on reskilling and upskilling by building on existing foundations – that might mean reskilling an SAP programmer to work with robotic automation, or an RPA developer to integrate AI. Thanks to the advent of low-code and no-code, and the growth of citizen developers, there are many resources now who have a basic awareness and some foundational skills; nurture that talent and build on that foundation.
Mark: As the first lockdowns began, we established a Dynamic Delivery model, and accelerated our investment in tools for remote working and collaboration. We were able to rapidly shift thousands of full-time employees to working remotely. We have discovered unexpected benefits from our experience in the delivery of advisory and managed service engagements in this model. Discussions are less formal and more collaborative; when clients and IBMers join from home, wider participation has been accommodated as no travel is required, leading to better engagement.
Mark: A smart business scales up and down and can change how work gets done, making it resilient. Forward-looking enterprises leverage automation and AI to augment their core strengths, supplement their weaknesses, and empower their people to focus on what is important. In fact, 73% of organizations expect revenue growth from implementing intelligent automation. Automation with AI enables your entire organization to be always-on, optimizing the delivery of goods and services to provide seamless continuity in dynamic markets. Further, the use of data to fuel intelligent workflows creates real-time responsiveness. This will support businesses to recapture growth in recovering markets.
It is evident from the conversation that the pandemic has triggered a sense of urgency with respect to the adoption and deployment of Intelligent Automation – a breakthrough technology with the potential to transform the way work is done. However, IA adoption requires a well-rounded and robust implementation strategy, and the orchestration of fundamental changes across the dimensions of people, processes, and functions.