Automation now

Straight talk to empower your people and drive business

Your business—automated and empowered

Admit it: automation isn’t something you’re entirely comfortable talking about. Maybe you don’t think it’s your job to do so (you’re still unclear on what robotic process automation (RPA) really does, anyway). Maybe you don’t want to bring up the inevitable workforce implications. Or perhaps you’d rather focus on the glossier aspects of transformation—customer experience, upskilling and digital strategy.

Automation is about all of those things. And every company needs to take a serious look at how they’re approaching it, especially as new tools put the power to solve problems and streamline tasks into the hands of business users. “Low-code,” or self-service, data management and RPA tools enable finance, human resources or other teams to address data challenges in their function and eliminate repetitive tasks. More advanced tools, which require stronger collaboration with the IT department, are also designed for business users and take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) to intelligently optimize business processes.

But don’t start with the technology. Instead, reframe the automation discussion with these five questions:

Five questions for automation success

Do we understand our business processes and pain points?

While it’s easy to jump to technology, that’s often the last piece of the puzzle. Once you’ve identified problem areas, determine the approach: Do you want small automation sprints to attack discrete areas? Or do you want to reimagine the process with optimal orchestration between human and digital labor? The end game is always the same: playing to the strengths of both people and machines.

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Are people and culture at the heart of our strategy?

Whether you’re pursuing smaller automation or redesigning end-to-end business processes, automation brings big organizational change. The business is constantly evolving, and roles and career paths will be redefined. Leaders can lean on corporate culture, tying the automation agenda to the reasons why people are at the organization in the first place—to provide great customer experience, have the most efficient shop or be the most innovative in the sector.

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Will our efforts be sustainable through robust governance?

Just because new tools enable business users to automate tasks, that doesn’t mean the automation is a simple endeavor. Defining and implementing an automation governance framework is pivotal to achieving returns over the long term. From technology and data standards to security and controls to roles and responsibilities, businesses must address the tough questions.

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How is our tech ecosystem evolving to meet our goals?

The automation toolbox keeps expanding—from data tools and RPA to machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision. While a new class of software lets business users automate tasks relatively quickly, that’s just the starting point. Select the right combination of additional technologies to add intelligence to automation and continually optimize business processes.

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Are we measuring business returns beyond financial ROI?

Taking out costs is only a starting point. Employee engagement, customer satisfaction or other business outcomes are different ways to justify and measure automation investments. If you think about customer experience as a part of every process, then operating models that were hard to imagine before automation may now become possible. And business units can become more agile when operations staff members are empowered to automate manual tasks and apply their brainpower to critical thinking.

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The new automation toolbox

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Andy Ruggles

Andy Ruggles

Partner, PwC US

Michael Engel

Michael Engel

PwC's Intelligent Process Automation Leader, PwC US

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