Digital Automation is altering the landscape of every industry with the mix of human and digital workers changing almost daily. Automation (i.e. digital workers) applies to almost every function and industry alike. We have seen successes in banking, technology, telecom, Global In-house Centres (GICs), consumer goods and so forth. Automations are increasingly becoming intelligent under the influence of newer technologies such as Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing / Generation, among others.
However, acceptance and adoption of the digital worker or automation has not been easy and consistent across sectors. For example, banking and technology have been the fastest of the mark and have scaled well. Telecom, consumer products and manufacturing follow respectively. However, insurance and healthcare have essentially been laggards. Life Sciences sector has also been a very slow adopter for automation. Several challenges have contributed to this. Automation is not a silver bullet. It will not solve world hunger and hence, setting up realistic program goals and expectations would be key. Employee resistance is another challenge, where there is threat of job losses and not enough focus on technology familiarization. Automating processes as is without optimising or not selecting the right processes would not deliver the desired results. Automation is to compliment the human worker and not to supplement him/her. Thus, programs of this nature need careful but constant change management including effective communication to drive the positive message and excitement across the organisation. Robust governance policies underpin a successful robotics implementation. Adequate controls must be present to ensure regulatory compliance, user access management and authorization and protection from cyber threats. Finally, automation needs to be driven top down and owned jointly by the business, IT and HR just like a human worker would be.
Overcoming the automation challenges
Set the right objectives/end goals and the right expectations. It helps to set realistic expectations around the potential benefits. So, avoid creating a hype around what automation can achieve. Let people be impressed with the end results. The success of the first step will have a significant bearing on the outcome of this migratory journey. So, choosing the first set of processes wisely is very critical for the entire program to succeed. Once the initial phase meets success, there will certainly be greater organizational support and receptivity.
While setting the right goals is important, measuring success and reporting the same is even more important for programs of this nature. Equally important would be to ensure you generate and measure value per transaction or true business value.
Make IT and HR an integral part of the journey: Value from automation must be co-created by the business, HR and IT teams. For example, a large GIC organization of a global insurance company took just 7 days to automate a process but had to wait for 45 more days to address application access requirements for bots before they went live. At the same time, automation being digital workers, must be treated at par with human workers. This includes KPIs and objectives to ensure clarity of purpose, focus and therefore success.
The advent of digital workforce will drive transformation in workforce management policies. Automation helps bring about change in the leadership style requirements, from purely people leadership to thinking about how to manage digital workers (digital worker leadership skills) as well. Another need is to enable a robust governance framework. A lack of strong governance framework can lead to ineffective and inefficient robotics implementation, adversely affecting business processes and the ability to achieve business objectives. Lastly, actual benefits flow in only on productive redeployment of the saved hours. It is important to track actual savings on the baseline.
Let’s look at the example of one of the largest TMT companies in the world and how they ran their automation program:
This was about defining why the company wanted to embark on the automation journey and getting a buy-in from their senior management. The next step was to create a strong team internally. At this stage they were ready to identify areas/functions within the business where automation opportunities exist. This was treated as a strategic program because of the focus on delivering varied services to multiple markets across the world.
Delivering automation solutions by partnering with IT and other departments to make automation a truly collaborative group initiative and ensuring that each digital worker was absorbed as a full-time employee.
The business operations team absorbing the new digital workers, takes full ownership of their new employees. The business operations team manages this change by constantly supporting them with the help of human workers, and then measuring and communicating success. This is the stage where the success of the program can be truly determined.
Sandeep Parikh is partner - Intelligent Automation, Advisory Services, EY India. Views expressed are personal.
Published Date: Jul 09, 2019 03:07 PM | Updated Date: Jul 09, 2019 03:07 PM IST