Monthly Archives: Nov 2019

The real issues behind #Brexit explained...

November 28, 2019 | Phil Fersht

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Maybe RPA is a gateway drug after all, as AI takes the number one spot for investment focus

November 19, 2019 | Phil Fersht

There haven't been too many better debates since RPA fever took over the world of process executives whether the toolset was the first step on the road to full artificial intelligence (AI) adoption. The consensus has largely been that RPA provides some great process orchestration experimentation that can eventually help us enjoy that ultimate AI high.  However, the only way to truly get on that Intelligent Automation Continuum is to redesign processes that drive specific business outcomes, where RPA is an enabler to achieving the desired process flows.  If you're just using RPA to make a crappy old process run better, you'll struggle to achieve much more than a mild buzz:

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However, what really brings home the emerging ambition of enterprise operations leaders is the new data from the State of Operations study that shows AI leaping ahead of RPA as the most significant area of focus for investment in 2020.  This clearly means that achieving AI effectiveness is clearly the larger enterprise-wide goal, and experimentation with process automation is encouraging many executives to think about broader business outcomes as the potential of machine learning and other AI facets become more and more intertwined with process digitization: 

The Bottom-line: Automation and AI strategy must be led by overarching business strategy, and RPA often provides the first testing ground 

If automation is not part of the overall business strategy then senior leadership should not be focused on delivering automation projects as they run the risk of failure or at least mediocrity.  Most businesses can really only deliver against 3 or 4 strategic initiatives at a time, so if automation projects are not directly contributing to one of them they should be stopped.  The focus of automation always needs to be on desired measurable business outcomes of these bigger initiatives, otherwise, they become too tactical and will lack management commitment. The short-term targets and KPIs need to have a clear and logical relationship to the bigger picture.

In addition, RPA must be treated as an enterprise application. If RPA is viewed as a widget or productivity utility, then it has no chance of supporting broader digital change. Part of business and IT alignment is recognizing RPA as part of the canon of digital change agents that are helping advance how companies are run. No tool alone can ever do the job. But the exponential power of “and” is compelling.

Posted in: Robotic Process AutomationArtificial IntelligenceRobotic Transformation Software

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Most automation strategies are failing because they aren't impacting customer experiences. We must broaden beyond the back office...

November 06, 2019 | Phil Fersht

After the recent RPA circus acts, the process automation industry has reached its lowest ebb.  Simply put, dollars were being put behind a value proposition that simply wasn't realistic - but that doesn't mean the market doesn't have amazing potential.  We just need to refocus (and fast) on a direction that is real and sustainable for the long-term and rally everyone behind it.  And the fault lies as much with the enterprises buying the solutions as it does those selling and implementing them.

Far too many enterprises are paying lip service to CX - they love to ''big it up'' but aren't putting their money where their mouths are

We can bemoan over-eager investors and over-hyping marketeers all day long for over-cooking the market, but the reality behind the sluggish uptake of scaled deployments is the simple fact that intelligent automation initiatives and investments are firmly rooted in the back office, according to 590 major global enterprises, where nine times as much investment has gone into the back office versus the front:

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So why is such paltry investment being made in the front office, when improving the customer experience and making front office function more efficiently are the biggest drivers?  Is the CMO/CDO completely distrusted to spend on technology-enabled initiatives?  Is automation simply an activity not worthy of the CMO's attention and the CFO has to be the one to get his/her hands dirty?  Because when you talk to digital leaders on both the buy and sell-side of the equation, they will all confess that both the potential and capability of RPA to fix the gargantuan mess that is marketing and customer service process is massive.  Yes indeed people, improving customer experience is the ultimate objective of the majority of enterprises' intelligent automation strategies. Because you can't get the full benefit from customer analytics and AI if your processes are glued together by spaghetti code and manual workarounds:

Adoption of intelligent automation solutions is painfully slow because enterprises are failing to define their ideal "to-be" states

When you consider it took a decade just for the finance function to grapple with the seismic shift from Lotus 1-2-3 to Excel, why are we expecting the same people to embrace much more complex technology tools like RPA and Watson as voraciously as ice cream ion a hot summer's day?  Sure, the levels of investment in intelligent automation have already surpassed an average of $50m for the function, but the pace of adoption is still desperately slow, with barely a third of enterprises moving beyond pilots for any Intelligent Automation technology:

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The Bottom-line:  The process automation industry needs to rebuild the trust of enterprise leaders and investors.  That means we need to approach this from an enterprise-wide perspective and quit paying lip-service to the customer experience

The only way to focus on successful automation is for clients to define their ideal "to be" state and then work on solutions to help them get there.  For many enterprises, this may be to drive down cost / improve efficiency, but the majority are focused on improving customer interactions and customer delivery execution (see above).  

What software vendors need to do: Quit all the marketing fluff and focus your solutions on supporting clients reaching their desired "to-be" states.  Just trying to sell licenses as aggressively as possible has only resulted in mass disappointment - and has hurt the market and lost a lot of customer trust.  Who cares which brand came higher in the latest analyst report (written by some analyst who has never written a script in his life) or whether Microsoft actually has any clue what it's doing, making a play into this space with some dated technology?  Instead, focus on engaging customers to solve their desires - which are clearly outlined above.  This means making sure you have evangelists who can educate clients (not just amplify the same old cardboard marketing fluff from some turgid conference) and invest in a support division which can build a world-class partner ecosystem and support clients directly during their early phases to get this all on the right track.  Sure the tech is important, but if it's not purchased with the right mindset it's all one big fat waste of time and money - and costs many their careers into the bargain.  

What enterprises need to do:  Design and define your "to-be state" and use that to flesh out which partners can actually listen, understand and deliver.  The first thing you need to do is get past all this "bot for every employee" nonsense and focus on what you need, not how many licenses to buy to keep your local RPA sales rep happy. Most of these products can deliver basic RPA, document processing, screen scraping etc (and you can get deeper into which one performs best to meet your need in time), but you really need to get familiar with the whole concept and potential of intelligent automation technologies before throwing wads of cash at new kit.  I've already seen several people lose their jobs because they squandered fortunes on licenses they didn't need and were left carrying the can for a dog's breakfast of an automation program...  Then you need to explore all your critical process flows across the front-to-back offices.  While your operations folks in the non-customer facing areas will undoubtedly be more enthusiastic about develop competencies in intelligent automation, getting the frost office executives on board will reap considerable benefits down the road,  Marketing workflows are awash with manual workarounds, legacy apps and silos of data... customer services are a real mixed back of good and bad process habit and don't even get me started on sales.  So think OneOffice... think about how the real customer-centric organization needs to operate and you can work backward from there.

What service providers and consultants need to do:  get your heads out of the back office and reel in the marketing/sales leads.  Simply put, you need to be the vehicle to help your enterprise clients align effectively with what the software vendors are selling.  If you are not that vehicle then get out now, as you will be dead in the water.  While the CFO and COO (and often the CIO) have budget to spend on software-driven process initiatives, they are often too rooted in stove-piped projects which operate at a snail's pace with little enterprise impact.  You need to drive the intelligent automation discussion with the Chief Digital Officer / CMO to understand, listen and demonstrate the huge impact that these technologies can have in enabling a well-designed customer process and integrating with the operational areas of the firm to support unified data efforts.  You have to help join the front and back-office pieces together for your clients if they are ever going to get past task optimization to genuine end-to-end process automation.

Posted in: Digital OneOfficeRobotic Process AutomationIntelligent Automation

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