How Intelligent Automation Can Help Businesses Adapt
Modern business leaders: overwhelmed, overworked, everyone wants a piece. Their work-life balance leans considerably towards work. They operate in a world of growing uncertainty, often overseeing a business model of staggering complexity. Fortunately, they have a huge panel of indicators, key performance indicators describing every aspect of their business. Is not it?
More than half of CEOs don’t know where the company’s money comes from
Now imagine a survey of 1,000 CEOs suggesting that 63% of CEOs don’t know which parts of their business make the most money. Absurd! But that’s exactly what Alchemmy’s research for its recent report about intelligent automation revealed. What’s going on?
Of course, there is the pandemic. 90% of businesses have made significant changes during COVID. A third has completely overhauled its operations. It was necessary, but it seems to have a price. Vital data sets have not kept up with the changes, which means new business models – and how they generate money – are not fully understood by those who run them.
With only 5% of companies intending to return to their pre-pandemic state, CEOs will need to better understand new operations and their impact on bottom line. Simultaneously, they must ensure that their business remains alert and agile. We live in a time of constant disruption. COVID is not yet a thing of the past. Inflation soars. Supply chains are sclerotic. Brexit, war, energy crisis, climate emergency: these are not just entries in the register of risks. CEOs need performance insights that scale as their business evolves.
Intelligent Automation: Helping CEOs Take Control
Intelligent Automation can help CEOs control their numbers and understand their results. Intelligently automated systems deliver real-time operations data from whatever angle CEOs choose – function, location, product, service line, cash flow, margin. Well designed, this real-time knowledge should withstand large-scale organizational changes.
Alchemmy’s research shows that a quarter of business leaders actually see intelligent automation as the path to this greater operational ownership. It’s promising. But a much larger majority of respondents recognize the business benefits of individual automated technologies and expect to leverage them. 71% anticipate roles for robotic processes in their operations, 74% for neuro-linguistic programming or optical character recognition, while 81% see artificial intelligence and machine learning as crucial to their business future. Perhaps more business leaders will embrace intelligent automation as they become familiar with the term, which essentially means nothing more than the integration of the various automated technologies into a cohesive, business-led design. company.
Bread and butter worries
However, the survey’s limited affirmation of this sensible concept may suggest unease. There are “bread and butter” concerns. 42% of CTOs see “talent shortage” as the biggest barrier to implementing intelligent automation in their company. 36% of CEOs consider “upskilling and professional development of the existing workforce” to be the biggest barrier to adoption. But automation is also, for some people, conceptually disturbing. Indeed, a CEO might reasonably wonder how a better grip on a company can be achieved by giving up more control to the machines.
Yet automation is only truly “intelligent” when deployed to serve human purposes. Thus, the term intelligent automation is not limited to the integration of automated technologies to ensure important business results. It also suggests that machines and humans work together, not in opposition. CEOs can sell intelligent automation to staff as an opportunity to do more interesting and productive work. And they should also use it as a positive signal in recruitment, attracting qualified people in the relevant technologies.
Of course, there are other tricky issues affecting attitudes toward automation, including the sweet spot where business imperatives, reputation, and ethics meet. There is understandable concern about the implications of automated decision making. Companies feel they are one misdirected automation away from an unethical sourcing decision, a reputational crisis, and a stock price crash. This would explain why so many respondents to our survey emphasized ethical considerations. 84% of CEOs consider digital ethics to be essential to the future of their company. This enlightened self-interest is multidimensional. Society at large is now concerned about digital ethics, so companies need to make their own ethical views known to recruit the best people and secure investments.
As co-founder of Corporate Digital Responsibility, a global network of responsible digital deployment advocates, I wouldn’t preach the virtues of intelligent automation if I didn’t believe it could be used ethically. Indeed, true intelligent automation is ethical automation. Placing human considerations at the heart of an automation program is leading practice. Deploying technology to ensure better insight into profitability, to improve working lives, hire the best people, and ensure beneficial outcomes for customers and society at large is what makes an automation program truly smart.
Intelligent automation can achieve competitive advantages without damaging business reputation. But it still requires leadership and momentum from the top.
CEOs need to ensure smart automation programs are aligned with a fundamental review of their business model and processes. They must communicate clearly that human beings (current workers, potential recruits, customers and society at large) are at the heart of what they are trying to achieve with technology. They then need to build some solution agnosticism into what the company does. Intelligent automation is about integrating a variety of solutions, not just those that the pushiest vendors sell licenses for. With this in mind, CEOs should mandate their companies to put in place agile and adaptable arrangements, so that outdated technologies can be quickly phased out. And even the savviest CEOs need their own advisers. They should consider setting up an internal panel of digital ethics advisers or seeking outside advice.
CEOs who are among the 25% of business leaders who see the transformative potential of intelligent automation are well positioned to outperform their competition in terms of reputation, recruitment and profitability.
About the Author: Rob Price is a director at Alchemy and co-founder of Corporate Digital Responsibility.