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From hype to reality – moving ahead with Intelligent Automation

From hype to reality – moving ahead with Intelligent Automation

AnalysisMore NewsThought LeadershipUAE

Intelligent Automation (IA) is slated to see an increase in utilisation over the coming year in the Middle East, promising improved customer experience, enhanced processes, increased revenues and costs savings. Matin Jouzdani, Associate Partner – Data and Analytics at KPMG Lower Gulf, tells Intelligent CIO concerns about the impact on employees will need to be mitigated in order for IA to yield the desired results.

Intelligent Automation (IA) is on the verge of entering the mainstream in the UAE, featuring towards the top of many organisations’ strategic and tactical agendas. Reasons to implement IA are manifold, including improved customer experience, enhanced processes, increased revenues and, of course, costs savings, to name a few.

Technologies that rely on Artificial Intelligence and natural-language processing, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), enhanced RPA and cognitive automation, can help improve processes and workflows, provide new insights and even help to make decisions that resolve customer issues.

With much riding on the promise of IA, business leaders may want to consider scaling up efforts, while also broadening the scope of implementation to include additional functions and processes. Currently, challenges, including lack of the right skills, deficiency of resources, a dearth of enterprise-wide mandates and concerns about the impact on employees, will need to be mitigated in order for IA to yield the desired results.

While there is investment in IA broadly, a recent global report by KPMG, The state of intelligent automation, found that only 10% of respondents are integrating solutions which include automation, Artificial Intelligence and smart analytics. While initial efforts are understandably fragmented, organisations would be advised to move quickly to understand how, when and where to integrate technologies in order to optimise their potential.

Why should companies invest in IA?

As a common starting point for IA, RPA offers the potential for significant cost savings and streamlining via automation. But cost savings alone should not drive companies to invest in IA. KPMG’s survey found that more than one third of today’s business leaders view IA as a way to drive future revenue growth.

Indeed, for organisations that have achieved enterprise-level approaches to IA, enhanced customer experience and unleashing the power of existing data to drive insights and sales growth are among their top drivers.

While there is some concern around IA leading to job losses, particularly when it comes to RPA, the reality is that these technologies will be key in accelerating the upskilling of the current workforce, enhancing worker productivity by automating routine tasks.

IA offers the potential to free up workers’ time wasted on repetitive mundane tasks, enabling them to focus on value-added services, such as analysing rather than processing data. In fact, less than one percent of the companies surveyed by KPMG indicated cost savings or headcount reduction as a key operational goal.

Most IA initiatives are not yet scaled up, nor do they operate on an end-to-end process level. That being said, those surveyed believe they can scale up their IA initiatives within 12 months.

Assessing the challenges of IA

Although companies have been testing different IA pilot programs, less than 20% of firms surveyed were beyond the piloting stage. This may be attributed to a variety of factors, including immature technologies and cost of deployment.

It is more likely, however, that organisations are uncertain about launching full-fledged implementation, particularly those that require coordination and integration (or not) of disparate efforts leveraging point technologies, and how to address IA’s impact on both operations and employees.

For example, with RPA potentially eliminating many work roles, organisations must determine how to address the future of their workforces, by retraining, reskilling or redeploying affected employees. At the same time however, organisations are also faced with a lack of skilled resources needed to design, build, deploy and manage IA systems and initiatives-especially in the areas of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

One of the biggest roadblocks to the widespread and rapid adoption of IA seemingly remains a lack of an enterprise-wide mandate, with less than 10% of organisations surveyed by KPMG indicating that they approach IA management and implementation from an organisation-wide perspective. In many cases, IA initiatives are starting in a single business unit or function looking to do automation specific to their processes.

Another challenge will be gaining the buy-in and support of employees who face changing roles and skill upgrading, or the perceived risk of job loss. It takes patience when pushing forward with IA efforts, especially given that the transition may face resistance from employees at all levels, who may feel threatened by changes.

Overcoming the hurdles to implement IA

Regardless of challenges, it appears that organisations will be required to press ahead with their IA efforts or risk longer-term marginalisation as their competitive peers forge ahead. The evolution and adoption of IA technologies is proceeding at such a rapid pace that, while executives recognise its game changing potential, many struggle to understand its implications, as well as determining where to place their own IA bets and investments.

Key in this process is for organisations to separate hype from reality, prioritising IA investment areas and accepting that all pilots are not equal in terms of return on investment. The onus is on enterprises to determine how best to integrate and co-ordinate cross-organisational efforts and ensure adequate change management programmes and practices are in place to address the disruption IA adoption will entail.

In order to succeed, organisations must view IA from an enterprise level to scale up its usefulness within the business and broaden its scope to various functions. Without an organisational mandate and guidance from senior management, businesses run the risk of duplicated efforts, diluted ROIs and underachieved benefit.

A co-ordinated enterprise approach has the best hope of leading to consistent use of technologies, resources, governance and investment pools – and, in the end, will elevate best practices.

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