Accenture's Global Automation and Intelligent Assets Lead, Rajendra T. Prasad (RP) who is also co-author of the book "The Automation Advantage", has recently spoke to Dataquest on the benefits of intelligent automation, optimal deployment, and so much more.
His book includes business automation examples and successful solutions, as well as guiding principles for technology, governance, culture, and leadership change. On this, we tried to understand some crucial areas like strategic Intent, planning, sustaining the gains etc in this interview. Excerpts:
DQ: What are some of the benefits that intelligent automation can deliver to organizations that choose to embrace it?
Rajendra Prasad: Automation is no longer about reducing cost, it’s a new paradigm for value creation, better decision making, and growing businesses. We have entered an era of intelligent automation, which pairs automation with cognitive technology such as artificial intelligence to guide better business decisions and bring new opportunities to light.
Intelligent automation is a focus of the book I co-authored with my colleagues Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh and Gayathri Pallail called “The Automation Advantage.” In the book, we talk about how automation has recently shifted from its traditional focus on cost reduction and quality control to a new emphasis on topline growth, value creation and better decision-making.
For instance, we recently enabled a large oil and gas company to optimize its operational performance by monitoring thousands of networks and IoT devices and rapidly transform business processes by delivering automation in the cloud.
By using automated, self-healing AI, the company was able to improve fraud service response coverage by nearly 80% and reduce the need for human intervention due to process failures by 40% through the use of reliable and efficient bots.
DQ: How can companies optimally deploy intelligent automation to drive business performance?
Rajendra Prasad: The pandemic saw accelerated investments in intelligent automation and digital technologies as more companies realized the value of automation in driving efficiency across business processes. According to our own report, organizations that have prioritized tech investment can grow five times faster.
A strategic approach that is simple, seamless, scaled and sustained will allow companies to reap higher rewards from intelligent automation. The first step is to ensure that automation efforts are in alignment with the company’s business goals, which requires a clear roadmap for building and scaling intelligent automation capabilities. With that in place, creating an automation maturity model that can not only assess but also prioritize the areas that should be automated will enable businesses to track the progress of their automation projects. Finally, it is imperative to plan how the effort will be staffed and conducted, who will govern its key decisions, and what metrics will be used to track its progress towards clear goals.
Effective deployment of automation also requires an AI-centric, modern IT infrastructure that can interact with rich data fabrics and is cloud-based, security-first, and platform-centric. Additionally, planning, implementing, and maintaining a transformational automation strategy that addresses cultural and organizational barriers at every level is crucial. Today’s investments in automation innovation must be “people first”: designed to elevate human strengths and supported by investments in skills, change management, experience, organization, and culture.
DQ: What are the barriers to overcome in applying intelligent automation?
Rajendra Prasad: Intelligent automation is a destination, and organizations need to clearly chart their journey to get there. Like every journey, this one too has its share of barriers and derailers, and organizations need to think ahead to address them. Common barriers organizations can encounter can include a shortage of talent and skills required to develop and apply AI and automation skills, organizational resistance stemming from low cultural flexibility and fear of losing jobs, suboptimal work processes, outdated policies, poorly defined processes, and confusing interconnectivity, archaic technology environment, and lack of strategic alignment, among others.
However, the value of intelligent automation is clear and spans multiple functional areas - streamlining accounts payable, personalizing customer service, identifying acquisition opportunities, and much else besides. Companies that take advantage will be able to transform their people, processes, and systems to create new forms of value. That requires conversations across the C-suite to bust the myths and tackle the barriers that stand in the way of the automation advantage.
DQ: What has Accenture been doing to get companies into intelligent automation?
Rajendra Prasad: Speed and agility have become more important than ever to organizations and we’re helping organizations accelerate their adoption of transformative solutions like AI, data, cloud, and automation, as they aim to remain competitive and deliver business innovation.
We are working with our clients to leverage automation to quickly meet the shifting needs of employees and customers, along with building resilience in systems and operations.
For instance, we worked with a large retailer that was facing increased operational costs and complexity in IT use cases. Using Accenture myWizard, Accenture’s intelligent automation platform, we helped the retailer automate IT at speed and scale, using tools that ranged from simple bots that scan and heal to a more complex, scalable self-healing framework designed to auto-resolve end user incident tickets and restart failed processes and transactions. With the help of intelligent automation, the company avoided 193,000 incident tickets and reduced operating expenses by $2 million.
DQ: Which are the sectors that are ahead of the others in terms of maturity and experimentation with automation?
Rajendra Prasad: Many enterprises—commercial enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies— across sectors are experimenting and investing in intelligent automation. Leading sectors in automation adoption in terms of both maturity and experimentation are financial services, oil and gas, life sciences, and consumer goods and services.
In the financial services industry, for example, a digital bank in China used intelligent automation to provide loans to small and medium sized businesses that have no collateral securities. The bank’s application process now takes only three minutes to complete, and its intelligent automation technology checks the application across 2,000 data points and is able to approve loans in just 30 seconds.