Unleashing Intelligent Automation Across the Enterprise

The title made it sound a bit violent and exciting, which was the final nudge I needed to agree to fight rush hour traffic and find parking in downtown Austin this past Wednesday morning.  Turns out, the traffic wasn’t as bad as I expected (I did have to dodge a few more than usual dockless scooters), and the parking was worse.  I paid $30 to terrifyingly negotiate my full-size Toyota pickup to level 4 of a concrete maze with what felt like 5 foot ceilings!  I should’ve ridden a scooter.

Anyway, once I parked, and finally realized that the hosting facility – the Capital Factory – is actually in the Omni Hotel building, all was good.  In true Austin hipster/startup fashion, there was a guy making espresso drinks, as well as a healthy(?) assortment of breakfast tacos to get everyone going.

The event was hosted by Accenture, so Ajay Mody, a leader in their Health & Public Service Consulting practice kicked things off to a good-sized crowd.  Apparently others must’ve had their curiosity piqued by the promise of unleashing things on enterprises.  Ajay explained how work is changing (like it or not) as businesses move from manual only labor to various kinds of automated work – core systems automation and intelligent automation.  The intelligent kind sits on top of core systems, and can sense, comprehend and act on unstructured data.  He explained the difference between rules-based automation (like RPA), and judgement-based, with predictive modeling and machine-based process execution.  Cool stuff.

Ajay then introduced the panelist speakers, Danny Brakebill from Kaiser Permanente, Lauren Sturm from Chevron and Jon Theuerkauf from Blue Prism (formerly BNYM), and asked each how they’d arrived at their current position of “process automation expert.” The collective answer was fascinating.  Danny started in IT, Lauren in Finance, and Jon in Psychology!  Apparently process automation is the great educational background equalizer.

Next, it was a series of questions about what it took to build a groundswell of support for automation in Kaiser Permanente, Chevron and BNYM, and the answers were really varied as well. At Chevron, Lauren and team started with the biggest, most challenging process they could find and automated it (successfully), to prove that further automation was the right way to go.  At Kaiser Permanente, they started with multiple smaller projects and proved ROI over time – to the extent that there’s now a shared services org in place specifically to drive more automation across the company.  Jon talked about how the BNYM bot, named Alex (for Alexander Hamilton who started the bank), quickly permeated through the business after he gamified the adoption and workers realized how smart a job partner Alex could be.  Danny followed on by saying that employees at Kaiser Permanente are really happy to have “Rosie,” their bot, help out and make their respective jobs easier.

Jon had some interesting observations about how companies should not consider the bots they create to be “tools,” but instead, fungible, digital employees.  He added, that by incorporating AI with the new wave of intelligent automation, you’ll make your digital workers better and better.

Some other key takeaways for me that were hammered home by all of the speakers:

  • Rules before tools – at the end of the day, it’s all about the process you’re trying to automate.
  • In addition to process standardization, successful automation requires careful change management to assess and support all employees who will be impacted.
  • The power of the Center of Excellence – everyone talked about the role of CoEs and Shared Services organizations to map/model processes, and successfully implement, monitor and maintain automation projects.
  • Have a list of potential automation projects identified and prioritized with anticipated ROI specified BEFORE going to leadership and asking to start automating things.

So all in all, it was worth heading downtown on a Wednesday at 8:00 am.  The presenters were great and the insights/answers provided were solid.  It made me all the more happy to work for iGrafx where every day we get to help the biggest enterprises in the world map, model, simulate, automate and monitor for ROI.  If the Intelligent Automation Unleashed tour makes it to your town, or if you get the chance to chat with Ajay, Danny, Lauren or Jon, I recommend it.  According to Forrester, the RPA Market will reach $2.9B by 2021, but that’s only a subset of the $48.5 billion ‘AI cubicle’ spend.  Get ready to work next to Rosie & Alex pretty soon.

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