As anyone that has invested in any sort of artificial intelligence (AI) solution already knows, justifying the time and money needed for such a project can be tricky. Executives want to see economic benefits sooner rather than later, but as it often happens with emerging technologies, getting that with AI isn’t simple – nor it’s easy to estimate.
The case with intelligent automation projects, which combine the automation of processes with AI, is one of the best examples to see this. Since automating a considerable number of business processes with artificial intelligence takes a significant investment, companies want a return on said investment (ROI) that justifies it. However, calculating that ROI is by no means a straightforward task. What’s more – once you learn how to calculate it, the results can be disappointing.
So, here, you’ll find some considerations to understand the value of adopting intelligent automation to your processes along with some suggestions on how to maximize what you’re getting out of the whole automation.
The Three Main Automation Technologies
To get a full picture of what intelligent automation can bring to your table, it’s essential for you to understand which are the three main ways in which you can adopt it in your processes. They include:
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Routine tasks can be easily automated using the software you can develop internally or with the help of an offshore software development outsourcing These digital solutions can run on existing systems and offer consistent and accurate results after their implementation.
Digital Process Automation (DPA)
Management processes can also be automated through DPA platforms, which are new tailor-made applications capable of enhancing the way in which you tackle managerial tasks. From automated workflows to digital forms, DPA solutions integrate with your current systems to boost their performance.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This is an encompassing term that covers a lot of advanced digital solutions, such as machine learning (ML), deep neural networks, and natural language processing (NPL). Applying complex algorithms to the way you work can help you get valuable insights from large datasets, aid in repetitive tasks, identify new business opportunities, and streamline your whole workflow.
Understanding the True ROI in Intelligent Automation
A typical executive that takes a look at intelligent automation will obviously worry about how much will it cost to implement it – and how much money it will save (or generate for) the company in the long run. Yet, focusing on money alone is a limited way of understanding what intelligent automation can provide. Its ROI goes well beyond that, especially if the three main technologies are combined throughout your processes.
There are several ways in which intelligent automation impacts positively on a company. Here are some of the most relevant ones:
Better Human Resource Management
Since most of the current automation aims at routine tasks, integrating this kind of solutions relieve your employees from having to do them. RPA tackles the most basic processes, DPA reroutes the tasks to find the right person when input is needed, and sophisticated AI works on their own to detect patterns and suggestions for humans to consider. All of this leads to a more efficient company where people tackle more meaningful and high-value work.
Limited Amount of Errors and Bottlenecks
Since a lot of the repetitive tasks are carried out by RPA, such a burden is lifted from your employees. This, in turn, increases the accuracy of the results while reducing the number of human errors such a grind can generate. Additionally, DPA will handle management processes, anticipating potential issues and delays and bringing attention to them for a quick resolution. This avoids costly bottlenecks while also informing you of potential improvements along the line that prevents the issues from happening again.
Increased Process Agility
Since most of the low-level tasks will be under the responsibility of RPA and DPA, you’ll be able to focus on more strategic tasks that can bring further value to your company. This can happen in various ways, from deriving value from the data and technology you already have, to integrating new advanced AI-based systems that can offer you more sophisticated assistance in a number of key areas.
Enhanced Customer Experience
This is probably the most overlooked benefit of intelligent automation, so much so that executives never take it into account to calculate the ROI. Yet, the improvement in internal processes logically impacts the quality of the end product and services. Besides, the use of AI-based solutions can help you get deep insights about your customers and how they interact with you in such a way that you can devise ways of gaining new clients, better fit your offering to what they need, and increase brand loyalty by delivering a better overall UX experience.
How to Implement Automation for Maximum ROI?
Now that you have all that background, you surely understand that the value derived from using intelligent automation goes well beyond the amount of money you can get out of it. Though cost savings and productivity gains are certainly one of the core benefits of this sort of automation, the other pros you’ll get once you have fully-functioning automation can’t be overlooked.
Of course, it takes time to get there. And if you don’t plan accordingly, you’ll never get past the first steps before your implementation fails. So, here’s a basic roadmap that can help you get the maximum ROI.
1. To get your company executives’ support from the get-go (or if you are the exec and want to try the sweet benefits of AI), then start off with the easiest implementations you can think of. If you take a look at your workflow, you’ll surely find a lot of processes that can be easily automated, from filtering incoming communications and complying with certain frequent operations to updating data sets and systems. You won’t need a very sophisticated AI application to do it – in fact, most RPA apps can get this job done. Think of this first step as the foundations for more comprehensive automation that will scale from this after you measure the ROI (understood as the cost savings, the productivity gains, and the employees). A minimal viable product (MVP), a proof of concept (POC), or a prototype can all be used in this stage.
2. Simultaneously, it encourages the formation of a group of automation enthusiasts that can foster intelligent automation integration within the company. It’s imperative that you convince people of the many possibilities this automation can bring, so this group is a must, as it can help you get more people on board. At first, it might be difficult to get off the ground, but once things start running, you’ll see that it’s easier to convince other people of the value of intelligent automation. That’s because you’ll have evangelized colleagues, gathered knowledge, and created a space to collaborate and share ideas on the automation integration.
3. After your MVP, POC, and prototype are up, running, and showing results, and it’ll be time to start devising a bigger plan for extending the automation’s reach. PwC estimates that 45% of workforce tasks can be automated, which could save an estimated $2 trillion in global workforce costs. That means that you’ll have to pinpoint the areas that can benefit from AI-based solutions, be them in the form of RPA, DPA, or more complex AI software. First, tackle the repetitive tasks across your company but then take things up a notch and address more complicated systems and tasks. The suggestion here is to take baby steps to ensure that the integration isn’t disrupting your current processes. In fact, that’s one of the keys – don’t believe that AI needs you to take down your legacy systems to work well. First, you can integrate the new AI solutions and gradually replace your systems once you’re sure of the value the AI is bringing.
4. Finally, it’ll be time to think big. After cutting costs and improving your productivity, it’ll be time to go after the whole benefits package. That means using advanced AI platforms to create transformative services, improve customer support, detect new business opportunities, and delve into big science and business intelligence. This step is probably the most complicated one, so you shouldn’t tackle it unless you have already exhausted the more basic possibilities of RPA and DPA. Besides, only after integrating AI into the more repetitive tasks will your company be mature enough to truly understand the value that advanced AI algorithms can provide and the impact they can have in your workflow as well as on your overall brand experience.
Some final words
As you can see, the three main technologies that make intelligent automation possible aren’t just aimed at the most basic processes you have in place. Though those tasks might be the right place in which you can take your first AI steps, they are just the beginning of the journey. Said journey would take you to further sophistication throughout your workflow all the way up to complex AI platforms capable of boosting your employees’ performance in ways you never thought possible.
For that to happen, though, you’ll have to understand that the ROI of intelligent automation is more than just a number representing cost savings and productivity gains. When implemented in the right way, intelligent automation redefines the ROI to encompass your entire business environment. In this context, the benefits will be more intangible but as equally beneficial as money: more business opportunities sustained growth and an ever-evolving digital company that can bring long-term value.
It’ll take a paradigm shift in your company’s mentality for intelligent automation to offer its maximum ROI. However, given the potential results, it seems like the only logical thing to do.