Chris Huff, chief strategy officer, Kofax explains the keys to business resiliency in the new normal and the need for digital transformation.

The first half of 2020 has seen a seismic shift in the day-to-day for organisations around the world. Retail businesses, restaurants and offices have closed or significantly scaled back their operations, and many employees are working from home. In this new normal, organisations are struggling to adapt and modify business models to maintain financial stability and ensure businesses continue to remain relevant and viable on the other side.

During these turbulent times, consumer demand and workforce capacity are the two areas creating hardship for many organisations. Some are seeing extreme reductions in demand. Consumers are only going out for essentials, and they are cutting back on discretionary spending. Others are dealing with a surge in demand, which is putting extreme pressure on their existing workforce to provide service and support. Knowledge workers are struggling to focus on higher-value initiatives in this chaotic environment. And underlying it all is the necessity for the larger organisation to keep the lights on today, while building in an operational resiliency positioning the business to thrive once this crisis has abated—and be poised to weather future disruption.

So, what can organisations leverage to deliver the level of service customers expect while keeping costs in check and optimising operations? The answer lies in expanding capacity through digital technologies.

Forrester Consulting recently conducted two online surveys, one with 450 automation and AI technology decision makers and the other with 450 individual contributors across business departments. The results of the study show almost all organisations surveyed have implemented automation to some degree across their front and back office functions.

  • 58 per cent of organisations have deployed automation technologies to digitise information
  • 52 per cent are using it to automate front-desk interaction
  • 49 per cent have implemented automation for fulfilment and verification
  • 45 per cent use it to perform rules-based tasks
  • 44 per cent use automation for business spend management
  • 44 per cent automate back-office tasks

A thoughtful approach to automation is essential. As Forrester notes: “an unintended consequence of acting quickly to solve the problem at hand is the creation of automation silos”. This is often the result of selecting a variety of automation technologies from different vendors, resulting in a patchwork solution unlikely to integrate in a seamless manner.

According to the Forrester study, 45 per cent of respondents reported having taken an ad hoc approach to automation. Almost all (98 per cent) reported a non-integrated automation approach created unexpected challenges including high technical debt (46 per cent) and delayed success (35 per cent). Forrester notes that: “as firms attempt to respond to new opportunities, additional cost and technical challenges arise, delaying beneficial outcomes, which, in turn, increases technical debt. It’s a vicious cycle”.

The power of an integrated intelligent platform

Many organisations have automated specific tasks within their operations as a first step on the path to digital transformation; for instance, deploying robotic process automation (RPA) to free a knowledge worker from tedious data entry. But it is becoming clear an integrated platform of intelligent solutions is the fastest and most efficient way to drive automation end-to-end, from process discovery and business process management to digital workforce management and analytics. Underpinning it all is powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning, helping organisations accelerate ROI, from greater efficiency to reduced risk to better customer and employee satisfaction.

The key to accelerating digital business transformation

As organisations advance their digital transformation initiatives, pre-integrated technologies can save many headaches and result in faster, smoother implementation and ROI. Therefore, a single-vendor approach to intelligent automation is gaining in popularity.  According to the Forrester study, 99 per cent of decision makers said there would be value in having a single automation vendor and platform (20 per cent extremely valuable, 47 per cent very valuable and 32 per cent valuable). These benefits span processes within the organisation that have a significant impact on efficiency, and the external customer-facing processes:

Customers have a better experience: According to the Forrester study, improving the customer experience was the top response (54 per cent) to the question of benefits achieved by adopting a single-vendor automation platform (as opposed to a patchwork approach with multiple vendors). Automation enables organisations to deliver faster, more personalised service to customers, which drives long-term loyalty.

Employees are more engaged and productive: An improved employee experience (43 per cent) and increased employee productivity (52 per cent) were high on the list of responses in the Forrester study to the question of the benefits of single-vendor automation. When tedious, manual tasks can be delegated to automation, employees are able to use their skills to provide value to the organisation. The result is overall job satisfaction and productivity increases.

Operations are more efficient, and costs go down: According to the Forrester study, 52 per cent of respondents reported improved operational efficiency as a single-vendor benefit, followed by reduced operational expenses (41 per cent). Automating workflows reduces the time and resources needed to complete manual tasks, as well as the rate of errors.

Organisations can scale on their time frame: According to Forrester, almost 50 per cent of decision-makers surveyed reported an interest in scaling automation and moving beyond a single team or department. Intelligent automation enables simple and complex tasks to be reliably repeated, at scale, without the errors associated with human performance. This efficient streamlining of front- and back-office processes drives far faster realisation of business goals.

Operations are more resilient: Fifty-one percent of Forrester study respondents identified better security and compliance as a benefit achieved by a single-vendor automation approach.  Intelligent automation uniquely enables a mix of human employees and a digital workforce, thereby enabling an organisation to be nimble and adapt to market disruption or changes in customer expectations.

Go-forward recommendations

The Forrester survey delivered several recommendations for organisations moving forward as they implement and scale automation, including:

  • Identify your desired business outcomes. A broader goal (as opposed to task automation, for example) can encourage a more wide-ranging effect on how the larger organisation responds and prioritises needs
  • Make business outcomes the measure of success, not completion of a technology project. For instance, driving straight-through onboarding for 80 per cent of mobile customers is a business outcome
  • Digital workforce management is essential. A common layer that governs and manages digital and human workers will enable organisations to scale with greater ease
  • Conduct an objective evaluation of existing automation technology and strategies within your organisation. This knowledge will help you ensure process continuity across departments
  • Select an automation partner that has the pre-integrated functionality to meet needs today, and where you see your organisation in the long term. This ensures the smoothest path on the journey to end-to-end digital transformation

Unless otherwise noted, all research referenced in this article is included in the Kofax 2020 Intelligent Automation Benchmark Study: Part 1: Successful Automation Requires an Integrated Vendor Strategy. Forrester conducted two online surveys for the study — one with 450 automation and AI technology decision makers and the other with 450 individual contributors across business departments.

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