Automation at scale is a win-win for organisations and employees – but CIOs must use the right language

The many incredible benefits of intelligent process automation – including efficiency, effectiveness and seamless experiences – have to be translated so that business leaders invest, or they will quickly lose ground on competitors, and workers need to be educated to maximise their potential alongside the technology


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The coronavirus crisis has forced organisations to expedite their digital transformation journeys, and those who have committed the most are reaping the most significant rewards. According to Girish Pai, global head of intelligent process automation (IPA) at multinational digital solutions leader Cognizant, automating business processes at scale is now a competitive imperative.

Is there still a language problem, though? Are chief information officers failing to translate to stakeholders the efficiency, effectiveness and better experiences now achievable with IPA? Pai believes so, but stresses laggards risk ceding ground to market rivals. Conversely, taking urgent action and gaining financial commitment at this pivotal time will see them leap ahead.

“The need to embrace digital automation has been a secular trend, even before the pandemic, but it was synonymous with robotic process automation, AI, and other technologies,” he says, acknowledging that there was an element of “digital fatigue” felt by members of the c-suite before the start of the Covid-19 chaos.

“What has fundamentally shifted in the past 18 months is the business playbook and the definitions of ‘digital’ and ‘resilience’, with organisations completely rethinking how they wanted to deliver services and experiences. Additionally, the dissonance between manual labour and the potential of automation was heard loud and clear. Together, these factors mean the drive for automation – at scale – has accelerated.”

Pai argues that advanced automation technologies, such as IPA, can “bridge the digital divide” and empower workers to add value while integrating customer journeys and processes together. “Progressive organisations realise IPA will spark innovation and help put miles between them and the rest of the competition,” he says.

Rising demand: CIOs have to translate the benefits and manage change

CIOs have long known about the myriad benefits of intelligent automation, including faster processes, reduced bottlenecks, and even systems that take decisive, intelligent action. But chief executives, chief financial officers and other business leaders with the purse strings have historically been reluctant to invest at the level required for the largest returns. They are especially hesitant if a pilot doesn’t deliver.

Indeed, before the coronavirus crisis hit, an estimated 80% of digital transformation projects failed. And given the haste with which many businesses have grasped at technology solutions since March 2020, it’s likely that this percentage will increase.

Notably, for leaders who invest at scale in automation and can leverage the so-called ‘three As’ – automation, artificial intelligence and analytics – and integrate processes, there are huge wins to be achieved. For instance, Everest Group’s recent research for Cognizant indicates 38% of ‘mature enterprises’ – those that have successfully scaled intelligent automation – report generating more than $50m in cost savings, achieved through driving efficiencies alone. And other studies hint at the rising demand for automation at scale: another Cognizant report suggests automation solutions are the top driver for the future of work.

Little wonder the worldwide market for technology that enables hyperautomation is forecast to reach $596.6bn in 2022, according to an April report from Gartner. However, there remains a sense that the industry jargon around automation is neither understood nor trusted by the business leaders in the boardroom.

Call of duty: better education needed to persuade the c-suite

Admittedly there are significant challenges to solve to take full advantage of automation, and “the CIO as change manager” is a trend that has grown in 2021. Education is critical, and it is essential to outline the benefits to all important parties, including workers.

“As an industry, we have a call of duty to educate people better,” says Gooty Agraharam, Cognizant’s head of IPA in Europe, pointing out his company has rolled out several e-learning courses to help clients understand automation. “There is a lot of technical speak that is more input- rather than output-driven. While many people talk about the efficiency gained by RPA, the narrative has evolved, now that we have layers of effectiveness and more seamless, contextual experiences with IPA.”

He continues: “A large majority of organisations are still at what we call ‘base’ camp, and for business stakeholders, language is the number-one barrier to reaching stages one and two, where companies can realise the true potential of automation.”

Agraharam highlights that IPA is upgrading supply chains by providing end-to-end visibility and boosting innovation for pharmaceutical companies by improving trail management for early adopters. As another example, IPA is revolutionising financial departments – so much so they should no longer be considered “back office” entities but, by analysing more and better data, moved to the heart of businesses to drive strategy.

Finally, addressing the weary argument that robots will take away human jobs, Pai says: “From this point onwards, it’s going to be humans-plus-machines. Technology can actually augment human capabilities and make work more enjoyable and more rewarding. Automation is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s here to stay. But CIOs need to not lose sight of the ‘why’ you are using this technology.”

He adds: “By keeping it simple, you will take others on the digital transformation journey and shift the company culture. Ultimately, the more people you have bought into what you are trying to achieve, the better the end outcomes.”


Girish Pai’s four steps to help CIOs maximise the potential of intelligent process automation

  1. Anchor yourself to the ‘why’ – what outcomes are you trying to achieve? What is critical for the business, and what problem are you trying to solve? The most successful applications of artificial intelligence, for example, are very narrow in scope.
  2. Explain to the various stakeholders – crucially in a language they understand and supported by business cases – that automation will become increasingly ubiquitous and integral to how every organisation operates. It’s important to stress that integrating the technology in a manner that is not invasive or disruptive is possible with IPA.
  3. Scaling automation requires new skills and organisation models, so there has to be a people-first approach. You simply have to take people along – if they do not feel part of the digital transformation journey and haven’t bought into the vision, perhaps because of a lack of education or training, the project will likely fail.
  4. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is governance. It’s not just about putting the tech in place that helps you reimagine the way you work. You have to redefine your controls, test and tweak operations. Humans are far more intelligent than AI, so you need to empower the human in the loop. Establish the guardrails to ensure what you are building is sustainable, doesn’t cause resiliency issues, and takes you to the end goals.

To discover more about IPA and how to automate at scale visit www.cognizant.com/intelligent-process-automation


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