• Rakesh Sangani

The connection between intelligent automation and jam

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

As part of a behavioural study, psychologists set up a display at an upmarket store with twenty-four varieties of gourmet jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. Although the large display attracted more interest than the small one, people who saw the small display bought ten times more jam.

More choice ultimately makes decisions harder. I think the same is true today with automation options. There is no doubt though that the pace of development within automation is at an all time high; new functionality is constantly being made available.

One of the main automation challenges that exists today actually comes from the amount of choice. There are so many different solutions that it can be difficult to work out the right combination of technology to fit the particular business problem. The real skill is in selecting the right technologies and knowing how to combine them into a seamless solution - that is what we call “intelligent automation”.

So how do you find your way through the ever-growing multitude of options? How do you intelligently automate?

If you follow these five rules, you won’t go too far wrong.

Rule 1 – Use the technology you have already paid for

Whether it’s a component of your ERP or a module of your process-enabling tool, the first rule of intelligent automation is to make best use of the technology that you have. Many organisations search technical solutions when they have existing functionality in their current systems that simply remains unused.

Rule 2 – Take a process perspective to automation

I would argue that a process doesn’t need to be perfect to apply automation. However, understanding a process fully and knowing where and how to apply what kind of automation is critical. In a recent study by the SSON survey* 31% of projects that ran into difficulty, the problem was attributed to the process not being mature enough or fit for the solution.

Rule 3 – Match the solution to the problem

For certain processes, RPA is the answer, but not for all. There are some great technology solutions in the marketplace, from replacing old-school OCR technology to low cost methods for data mining or the introduction of chatbot tools. These can deliver a significant return on investment in the right place. The most successful intelligent automation programmes use a combination of solutions.

The key is to assess the right technology solution for the right problem – if you have an excel manipulation task don’t use RPA, use an excel macro!

Rule 4 – Build in agility

Organisations need to have agility in their programs to test new technology in a low cost manner, and then scale up if that proof of concept is successful. As outlined earlier, the market and solutions available are changing rapidly. If an approach is built on a long-term ROI model and lengthy commitments to one particular solution, it may find itself out-dated before it has begun.

Rule 5 – Focus on the business case

Choosing the wrong technology to fix a problem can become very expensive very quickly. Low cost technology, such as RPA, for example, offers great opportunities for working with existing ERP systems in different ways without needing to embark on expensive customisation programmes. Whether the aim is increased employee satisfaction, greater accuracy and control, productivity gains or headcount reduction; it is important to be clear about what drives the business case from the start.