Intelligent Process Automation Can Give Your Company a Powerful Competitive Advantage

Intelligent Process Automation Can Give Your Company a Powerful Competitive Advantage

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Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed digital players entering vertical markets at an astonishing rate, introducing radically new offers, disrupting the ways in which businesses interact with customers, and raising the bar for simplicity and personalization. Driven by this rapid change, traditional businesses are looking to reinvent themselves, remain relevant, and thrive.

A set of disruptive technologies is maturing in the business operations space, enabling companies to improve the way they create and deliver value. Intelligent process automation (IPA) is emerging from the back office to help enterprises build adaptive, resilient, and efficient operating models and deliver seamless experiences for customers and employees.

McKinsey defines IPA as “a collection of business-process improvements and modern technologies that combines fundamental process redesign with robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cognitive technologies like optical character recognition (OCR) and natural language processing (NLP).” It helps organizations redesign processes and workflows in alignment with customer journeys for seamless experiences, digitize data for personalization and insights, and automate mundane tasks to achieve groundbreaking increases in productivity.

Exponential growth

In the world of operations, IPA is a Swiss Army knife. CEOs love its power to transform customer and employee experiences; CFOs appreciate its potential to grow efficiency exponentially; line-of-business leaders like the clear results it delivers; chief information officers embrace it as a digital accelerator and a way to demonstrate business outcomes.

One U.S. health insurer, after adopting IPA across its enterprise, found it could process claims six times faster. An agricultural and food company improved its productivity by 75% with a quadrupled return on investment. And a leading global consumer credit- and debit-card services provider saved more than $160 million by automating its accounts payable, accounts receivable, and purchase order workflows.

At its best, automation also makes jobs more human, empowering employees with new capabilities through analytics and AI and freeing up time for creativity and critical thinking.

Successful automation adopters are investing in effective talent and change management programs that address skill gaps and enable frontline employees to understand and embrace related technologies. Amazon’s multiyear automation program Hands off the Wheel elevated its employees’ roles and responsibilities by reducing workers’ focus on algorithms, which ML handles more effectively, and freeing them to imagine and innovate—all while increasing productivity.

Five emerging themes of automation

To understand how increasingly sophisticated automation tools can handle repetitive tasks and create smarter process flows to deal with business complexity and drive resilience, Cognizant recently surveyed 4,000 global executives in the study The Work Ahead. Five key themes emerged from our research and analysis:

  1. Automation is coming of age. Automation is already an integral part of the modern enterprise. Respondents also cite AI and analytics as crucial components of enabling intelligent automation.
  2. More and more process work is pivoting to machines. The volume of work performed by intelligent machines is increasing rapidly, and many organizations are taking advantage of automation to derive meaning from a deluge of process data. Respondents are expecting the volume of both complex and routine decisions executed by machines to grow by about 50% between 2021 and 2023. As automation approaches integrate AI and other cognitive technologies into the mix, organizations will move even more process work to machines.
  3. Highly scaled automation deployments are rare (for now). Only 8% of respondents report having deployed automation at a significant scale. Most organizations implement automation piecemeal, targeting process pain points rather than integrating processes into a workflow. This strategy will change as enterprises see the value of implementing increasingly sophisticated automation toolsets across business functions and focus on supporting employees in the new way of work.
  4. The more you augment processes, the greater the returns. Respondents who have augmented more business processes with automation, AI, and analytics are realizing greater outcomes than those with fewer augmented processes. The areas of higher performance include operational efficiency, decision making, reduced risk, and a better customer experience.
  5. Scaling automation requires new skills and organizational models. As automation in the workplace grows, organizations will increasingly need soft skills such as decision making, learning, and creativity. The radical shift will happen when automation moves beyond a series of isolated initiatives to the defining factor in a workflow, reshaping how the enterprise performs work.

A powerful competitive advantage

“Companies with advanced automation programs will obliterate—not merely beat—the competition,” Forrester Research recently predicted. Yet many businesses are still taking a siloed approach to automation, unable to reach IPA’s full potential to help them transform their business.

To accelerate the journey to scale and gain a lasting advantage, organizations must elevate automation across functions and beyond IT as a strategic, board-level priority—a core enabler of an adaptive, future-fit operating model.

Chart a step-by-step course for the future with intelligent process automation at cognizant.com/neuro.

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