By Nitin Modi
Special to The Nation
It remains the case that advanced digital technologies – such as artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud transformation – will be the principal enabler of business reinvention. Despite the rise of the machine, the imperative is that the technological and human domains work together to enhance value, and eventually lead to better outcomes.
What do the new human resources and finance of today, tomorrow and thereafter look like and how can your organisation respond, recover and thrive in the new age of “Humans with Machines”.
Artificial intelligence has now come of age. Deloitte refers to this as “the Age of With” – a world where humans are aided and augmented by automation.
The power of automation is the power to reimagine the way organisations do things. But that can only happen when organisations understand the tools AI gives them and are ready to absorb and adopt these technologies.
The Age of With is about human collaboration made greater with the machines we invent. It’s about business leaders shifting their thinking from humans versus machines to humans with machines. In the Age of With, AI with automation can deliver business processes with speed and precision, and a human workforce with the freedom to focus on what is important.
The same business process automation capabilities can also be applied to high-value, decision-making tasks to help organisations thrive in the Age of With.
It’s about embracing technology transformation and new ways of doing business to gain competitive advantage and be more agile. Intelligent automation (IA) combines AI with automation. When this is brought together with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), it gives bots cognitive and sensory abilities that can increase the number and breadth of business processes, which can be automated and thus the value that can be captured.
The potential opportunities are significant: greater speed, more precision and accuracy, new, richer data enabling better decisions, and increased workforce capacity that frees workers to focus on higher-level, more fulfilling and value-add tasks.
According to Deloitte’s most recent Global Robotics survey, 53 per cent of respondents are already on their RPA journey.
While a simple rule-based RPA is currently most commonly used, it provides a compelling path to more advanced technologies. Of these, 38 per cent are piloting (1-10 automations), 12 per cent implementing (11-50 automations) and 8 per cent automating at scale (51+ automations) – twice as many as in previous years.
Organisations believe they can transform their business processes, achieving higher speed and accuracy by automating decisions on the basis of structured and unstructured inputs. They expect an average payback period of 15 months – and in the scaling phase just nine months.
What are the key factors for a successful business process automation journey?
• An enterprise-wide strategy for intelligent automation which helps to generate higher returns in workforce capacity, cost reduction and revenues.
• Combining RPA and artificial intelligence (AI), leading to an average increase in revenue of 9 per cent, against 3 per cent in those that do not combine the technologies.
• Technology, infrastructure and cybersecurity in place, enabling a 21 per cent reduction in costs, compared to 13 per cent among organisations that lack these functions.
• Mature process definitions, standards and processes, which produce an average increase in back-office workforce capacity of 19 per cent compared to 12 per cent among organisations which do not.
• Clear understanding of how to capture value, leading to an average cost reduction of 21 per cent, against 15 per cent in firms with less understanding.
A supportive workforce
There is a widespread perception that automation may eliminate jobs. But 74 per cent of Deloitte’s survey respondents believe their workforce is either supportive or highly supportive of their intelligent automation strategy. The perceived level of stakeholder support tends to grow significantly as organisations move further along their automation journey. Thirty-two per cent of executives whose organisations are piloting said their workforce is unsupportive, compared to just 12 per cent which are in the process of implementing or scaling.
In conclusion, while companies have targeted traditionally low-value opportunities for task-based automation, going forward they will increasingly seek to incorporate more advanced analytical and AI technologies as part of their solutions.
Organisations that have mature process definitions, standards and process management and have the support of an effective Centre of Excellence are most likely to benefit most from intelligent automation.
Likewise, those organisations that develop the skills to redesign workflows and enhance the capabilities needed to harness intelligent automation will be better placed to take advantage of the opportunities.
As RPA can free up the workforce to focus on more strategic activities or customer-focused tasks, companies are now seeking to scale these solutions and make them smarter by integrating AI capabilities. With the advantage of robotic and intelligent automation (R&IA) technologies, companies can transform business processes – augmenting human labour with a digital workforce to drive better outcomes with enhanced productivity.
Nitin Modi is director of Business Process Solutions at Deloitte Thailand