Intelligent automation can be transformational in the enterprise, but only if it’s implemented with an eye to that transformation. That means knowing where you are now, knowing where you want to go and understanding the systems that run between the two.
Those challenges and opportunities were discussed at June’s Interop Digital event during a panel moderated by Brad Shimmin, chief analyst for AI platforms analytics and data management at Omdia. Participants included Rachel Brennan, vice president of product marketing at Bizagi; Nick Colisto, CIO for Avery Dennison; Scott Howitt, CIO for McAfee; and Cassandra Mooshian, senior analyst for RPA and intelligent automation at Omdia.
The Interop panel discussed best practices for intelligently automating the enterprise for both IT and business workflows. The discussion went beyond pros like cost savings, time savings and error avoidance to look at second-degree benefits including exploring new business opportunities and creating resilience.
Omdia believes that intelligent automation will eventually underpin the entire enterprise marketplace, Shimmin said as he opened the discussion. “We can already see this accelerating out of the pandemic,” he said, pointing to new research from the company where a third of responding IT practitioners pegged automation as their top spending priority. Analytics, which traditionally came in first among priorities, was second at 28%.
“You can automate now just to survive,” Shimmin said. “And then later, you can analyze to thrive, not just survive.”
The panelists opened the discussion with their thoughts about what’s driving intelligent automation across the enterprise. Brennan, who spent 20 years in the process automation space, said that much of the drive is coming from the need for business transformation. Automation isn’t just for efficiencies, she said, but to change what and how things are being done.
Colisto concurred that automation can deliver improvements across all areas of business. “It's essential at becoming a digital business, and it's redefining how work gets done across the enterprise,” he said.
Howitt pointed to automation’s role in not just handling mundane or simple tasks but in eliminating human error and quickly responding to threats. “We're not only looking at how we automate our enterprise itself, but also how can we automate the remediation of threats in our customer's environments,” he said.
And Mooshian, taking a broader market perspective, pointed to the split between the AI haves and AI have-nots. “That's really translating as well into intelligent automation,” she said. “COVID has been a driver for the utilization of automation, but especially more so for those that had kind of already dipped their toes, so to speak. Whereas those that hadn't maybe yet taken the plunge are holding off a little bit longer.”
Too Much Automation Too Soon?
That issue of adoption came up as Shimmin asked for input on how aggressively AI automation should be taken up. Colisto said adoption was quicker on the digital optimization side of the business, which offered a safer place to test the ground. “It's helping us to build trust with AI without jeopardizing service to our customers,” he said.
But regardless of when intelligent automation makes sense for any particular business or sector, the panelists stressed the importance of knowing why automation is being adopted, where specifically it would be implemented and what success looks like.
Digital transformation isn’t new, Howitt pointed out – enterprises have undertaken it before with computer networking and the internet. When those changes were undertaken, they were seen as a way to rearchitect business operations. The same can be done now, he said. “I think it's an awesome opportunity for companies that come in and say, ‘My business will never work like it did before, so how do I make it work better?’”
Making this digital transformation is going to require taking selective opportunities to get the ball rolling, Howitt said. Identifying pain points and finding success there is going to help transformation-wary executives get on board, he said.
With Bizagi’s customers, the approach is to make sure they aren’t trying to “boil the ocean” out of the gate, Brennan said. Starting with the low-hanging fruit for automation can energize the team and create the momentum to tackle the bigger challenges. That also creates areas of expertise in a company that can help with scaling and integrating automation.
Overall, the panelists agreed that the key to success with successful intelligent automation at any level is to go in with the correct approach and clear understanding of the processes involved.
“Make sure that you're doing it right, as well as doing it fast,” Brennan said. The goal should be ensuring that intelligent automation is transformational, not just making sure that business as usual runs a little more quickly.