Intelligent Automation

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You may not be entirely comfortable talking about automation as there are so many technical terms such as, for instance, «Artificial Intelligence» or «Robotic Process Automation». A lack of dedicated automation functions and roles in your organisation, and potentially significant workforce implications, can make automation as an initiative intimidating.

These sentiments toward automation are common: You are not the only one facing a challenge in building sustainable, scalable automation projects. But there are a few important, often-overlooked steps that can help your case:

  • Building an organisation-wide education programme that opens dialogue and minimises resistance from the broader organisation.
  • Putting into place proper governance, operating models, roles and responsibilities that create a firm-wide standard and allow outcomes to be clearly measured.
  • Linking automation to an organisation’s long-term visions and goals, from industry leadership and societal impact to improving the way of working.
  • Setting up a suitable design and development standard to enforce modular developments that can be re-used and easily maintained.
  • Developing multi-purpose automated solutions that are flexible and robust when processes change, instead of developing single-purpose robots only

Business processes today are still designed for the days when large organisations had to rely on manual labour forces. But today’s reality paints a different picture.

It is especially important today that workforces focus on tasks that require social skills and creativity, instead of making them execute manual and repetitive rule-based processes. Various technologies are providing organisations with a unique opportunity to automate, enhance and transform today’s business processes.

 

 



 

Six questions for automation success

Don’t start by just explaining automation technology to your business partners. Instead, reframe the automation discussion with these six questions.

Business process: Do we understand our business processes and pain points?

While it is easy to jump to what technology can do, that’s often the last piece of the puzzle. Once you have identified problem areas in your organisation, determine the approach: Do you want small automation sprints to attack discrete areas? Or do you want to reimagine the process with optimal orchestration between human and digital labour? The end game is always the same: playing to the strengths of both people and machines.

Workforce: Are people and culture at the heart of our strategy?

Whether you are pursuing smaller automation or redesigning end-to-end business processes, automation brings big organisational change. Business is constantly evolving, and roles and career paths will inevitably be redefined. To reduce the unease that comes with reorganisation, leaders can lean on corporate culture, tying the automation agenda to the reasons people are at the organisation in the first place: to provide great customer experiences, have the most efficient shop, or be the most innovative in their industry.

Governance: Will our efforts be sustainable through robust governance?

Just because new tools enable business users to automate tasks doesn’t mean automation is a simple endeavour. Defining and implementing an automation governance framework is crucial to achieving returns in the long term. From technology and data standards to security and controls to roles and responsibilities, businesses must address the tough questions that accompany automation.

Technology: How is our tech ecosystem evolving to meet our goals?

The automation toolbox keeps expanding – from data tools and RPA to machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. While a new class of software lets business users automate tasks relatively quickly, that is just the starting point. Select the right combination of additional technologies to add intelligence to automation and continually optimise business processes.

Return on investment: Are we measuring business returns beyond financial ROI?

Reducing costs is only a starting point. Employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and other business outcomes are different ways to justify and measure automation investments. If you think about customer experience as a part of every process, then operating models that were hard to imagine before automation came along may become possible. And business units can become more agile when operations staff members are empowered to automate manual tasks and apply their brainpower to critical thinking.

Risk and compliance framework: Are my automated processes still compliant with the regulatory and compliance framework of my organisation?

There are a number of regulatory topics such as:

  • «The right of explanation», which requires certain business to be able to explain their decisions to their business partners or clients. If the decision is made by an AI solution without a proper transparency framework, it might create difficulties for the business to be in compliance with such regulatory policy.
  • «General Data Protection Regulation», which is an EU regulation requiring organisations to clearly disclose any personal data collection and declare the lawful basis and purpose of processing, if, for instance, the data is used for training an AI.

Think about your organisation’s compliance and regulatory environment. Reflect on how to implement new controls and safeguards to minimise the risk of non-compliance introduced by automation.

 

 

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Christian B. Westermann

Partner and Leader Data & Analytics, Zurich, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 27 97

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Alexander Schultz-Wirth

Partner Business Technology Consulting, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 47 97

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Zack Tian

Intelligent Solutions Development, Zürich, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 26 24

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Florian Estoppey

Artificial Intelligence & Automation, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 75 93

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