With five years under my belt now at a leading digital automation software company, I am well versed in how challenging it can be to help business leaders understand what intelligent automation can do for their organisations. Whether it is automating the handling of incoming documents, e-signing or improving customer experience through mobile ID verification—all can have dramatic positive impacts on the way organisations operate. I would rather it hadn't taken an unprecedented global pandemic to focus the minds, but here we are. The Guardian recently reported a survey by EY, stating 41% of respondents were investing in accelerating automation as businesses prepare for what comes next.
The pandemic is affecting organisations in many ways, from a startling shredding of incoming revenues (the travel industry), to being utterly overwhelmed and unable to handle the increase in volumes (distribution, the health service and travel insurers).
Boardrooms everywhere will be operating at fever pitch as directors try to work out how best to respond. My rugby refereeing career taught me priority management, and it's not terribly different to the boardroom - Safety, Equity, Law. After ensuring that your staff and customers are safe, you need to ensure that you are being fair to all stakeholders, before finally making sure that you are in compliance with the law (lawyers may disagree with that priority sequence). Once through that sequence you move towards continuing management of the game, and like 80 minutes on a rugby field, who knows what is going to appear before us.
Risk mitigation is the name of the game now as we all try to keep the lights on, prepare to maintain cashflow and operations in as optimal a state as possible, and prepare for emerging at the far end of the crisis.
We are receiving a great deal of enquiries about setting up new services in unbelievably short times (five days was a request yesterday). In pre-corona times, businesses would spend three to nine months assessing options, a little like the armchair viewer or VAR replaying the same sequence again and again considering different options. Now they have to make a decision instantly, rather like the on-field referee. Make your decision, give the signal, act upon it.
So where can intelligent automation make a fast impact in your organisation?
Firstly, look to the cloud. The fastest way to set up and scale (unless you are blessed with a lot of spare server capacity) is on AWS, Azure or a vendor's web-based service. You'll need to feed data to it and integrate the output to your ERP systems, but that's readily achievable in today's world. Our BPO clients are reporting a huge increase in requests to set up digital mailroom services, now. Most have the capability to do this independently, but they all have vendors like us sitting behind them with the expertise to make things happen quickly. I rather like this initiative from Capita which takes an existing project and modifies it for the current world situation.
Can you build on what's already running? Many organisations already use elementary capture technology to digitize data from structured and unstructured forms, but could you augment that quickly by adding cognitive data extraction or process automation? These relatively straightforward additions, in a world where your people resources are perhaps less available than before, can automate much of the preparatory tasks that might surround an incoming piece of work. For example, you may already capture an image of an incoming application form, but then someone copies the data from it. Why not increase the level of cognitive capabilities and have that information pulled out automatically?
Go Digital. Easier said than done, but there are some shortcuts and fast-start options. If you can't meet your clients in person, then offer a digital platform. This could be mobile capture using the customer's smartphone, offering documents for signature using eSigning technology, or web-based capture. Processes old and new can be digitised rapidly and help remote workforces to collaborate more effectively without the need to be at the next desk. It is realistic to do some of this quickly and without compromise on quality or security.
Network. There are no pre-existing blueprints for what we face in the world right now, but be sure that technology vendors' backroom teams are looking to accelerate time-to-market and rapid-delivery models. Speak to people in the vendors as well as industry peers - sales people and consultants have a wide purview of what's going on in the market and pick up some great ideas. No one person has all the answers but attend webinars and use your network. We're all in this together: goodwill and the altruistic sharing of ideas are de rigueur.
We will emerge from this pandemic, though when and how aren't yet clear. And even when we do, organisations will have to mitigate for recurrences. The software industry will have a big part to play in that, and I foresee intelligent automation being at the epicentre.
Learn more about Kofax’s Intelligent Automation platform, here.