Building a Digital Workforce to Manage the Convergence of the Digital Economy and Physical World

When the automated teller machine (ATM) went mainstream, there was widespread fear that ATMs would automate away and displace bank tellers

But despite predictions to the contrary, macro trends and workforce economics worked to everyone’s benefit, because executives effectively managed the technology and impact on the individual to the benefit of the company, employee and customer.

The workplace is experiencing a similar type of automation renaissance with Industrial Revolution 4.0 technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA). RPA employs software robots to automate rules-based tasks and manual processes. Initially, many put forth a similar narrative:  RPA would be a job-killer. But it turns out that RPA enhances the human workforce, shifting humans from being “data gatherers” to “data users.” The reality is that RPA enhances the work of your employees by interacting with websites, business & desktop applications, databases and people to execute repetitive and often mundane work.

RPA is Just the Beginning

RPA empowers organisations to delegate the time-consuming, error-prone manual tasks to the robots, and elevate employees to focus on more strategic, higher-value tasks. Exactly where RPA is best applied within a particular organisation or department will depend on its most pressing current priorities and long-term goals. Yet no matter where RPA is deployed, the benefits are undeniable— RPA helps organisations eliminate errors, cut processing times by as much as half, deliver 100 percent accuracy, and increase capacity by as much as 50 percent.

However, RPA is best viewed as the fundamental building block and automation “backbone” for artificial intelligence technologies that enable a larger strategy to digitally transform business areas and operations—Intelligent Automation. Forward-looking organisations are recognising that they must move beyond automating just rules-based tasks with RPA. The enterprise of the future isn’t automating in small pockets with point solutions: it’s building and managing a digital workforce end-to-end.

Intelligent Automation across the Enterprise

Intelligent Automation empowers organisations to realise the full value and ROI that RPA promises by aggregating the complementary technologies RPA requires to manage teams of software bots and scale them to the enterprise. With Intelligent Automation, customers can converge the digital (automation) and physical workforces (human talent) into a collaboratively run machine to solve customers’ most pressing business problems.

Here are the four core components of a best-in-class Intelligent Automation platform:

Differentiated and Unified Capabilities

A unified platform featuring RPA with differentiated yet complementary technologies to include integrated machine learning, cognitive document automation and advanced analytics.

Intelligent Information Capture and Workflow

Built-in intelligent document processing and process orchestration to transform unstructured to structured data while managing the digital workforce at scale.

Easy Integration with Third-party Software

An open platform capable of integrating with any third-party artificial intelligence and cognitive solution.

Efficient Licensing

An efficient consumption-based licensing model to keep costs low relative to usage.

It’s important to strike a healthy balance between machines and humans. Companies often are captivated by the allure of driving exceptionally high straight-through processing rates or reducing labor costs. But firms are more likely to build a sustainable automation programme when they recognise there are things machines inherently do well and things humans inherently do well. Intelligent automation is about integrating technologies and striking that balance, while also bringing transparency to the state of digitising operations.

Management Buy-in for Building and Managing a Digital Workforce

For any Intelligent Automation journey to be successful, buy-in from key stakeholders and top-down support in the organisation are essential—whether that’s meeting with the Chief Technology Officer to discuss the software’s capabilities or the Chief Financial Officer to discuss costs and ROI.

The good news? Research shows that senior leadership is already open to the proposition across many industries. According to the recent Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmark Study conducted with Forbes Insights, 90 percent of respondents agreed that company leadership acknowledged the importance of digitally transforming business areas and operations with intelligent automation. More than three-quarters of respondents said that 60 percent or more of process work could be automated, and almost half said that 80 percent or more could be automated.

Here’s a checklist to help organisations to chart their own path:

  • Align theIntelligent Automation programme to the larger enterprise digital transformation
  • Maximise return on investment by integrating systems of engagement and systems of record and external data sources to increase throughput, while reducing overhead governance
  • Design a balanced business case that accounts for strategic alignment, workforce impact, financial impact and operational improvements
  • Ponder the customer journey on all business operations under consideration
  • Offer self-service capabilities to meet on-the-go demands of customers
  • Personalise customer communications and offers by efficient use of customer data
  • Build automation solutions with employees, so they’re part of the solution and not overrun by it
  • Facilitate collaboration between the front and back office to connect operations
  • Look for areas of continuous improvement, such as customer dashboards and mobile options
  • Use a balanced approach of rules-based automation and AI-based machine learning to address unstructured data, sentiment analysis and advanced analytics

About the author

Chris Huff drives Kofax’s global strategic initiatives, Intelligent Automation thought leadership and cross-functional horizontal integration. Prior to Kofax, Chris led Deloitte Consulting’s U.S. Public Sector Robotics and Cognitive Automation practice