Twin it to Win it

Welcome to the world of Automation Singularity

December 2019

In the face of rapidly changing consumer behavior and vertical-agnostic competition, enterprises need to evolve faster than ever before. Today’s consumer has complex demands, expects personalization, and uses their experience as a crucial determiner of choice. Loyalty is a thing of the past, while context and service excellence is at the forefront of business success. From a competition standpoint, reduced information asymmetry and the democratization of technological infrastructure has leveled the playing field. Increasingly, enterprises need to contend with disparate information from a wide variety of industries and geographies. This change in dynamics implies that organizations must compete on a level beyond price, efficiency, and reach. Their value proposition needs to combine creativity with effectiveness and customer-centricity with internal impact. On the one hand, companies will need to redesign processes with a focus on customer journeys, and, on the other, they will need to revisit the very structure of their operating models – a challenge for the rigid but an opportunity for the curious and innovative.

The increasing importance of automation

It is no surprise that automation, specifically intelligent automation, is at the center of this enterprise transformation. With organizations required to reinvent their models at speed, it becomes crucial to unlock efficiencies and minimize process and operational leakages. RPA is integral to this vision, offering accuracy, consistency, and throughput while enhancing enterprise abilities for personalization and speed.

The numbers make a compelling case

A Forrester study commissioned by EdgeVerve indicates that 95% of respondents (300 business and IT decision-makers in companies across the UK, US, Australia, Germany, and Japan markets) see speed and scalability as the primary drivers for RPA adoption. Even while the massive efficiency gains see RPA becoming a mainstay in enterprise business strategy, the adoption trend is evolving from deterministic to intelligent automation. A report by the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) in partnership with EdgeVerve found that intelligent automation is a top investment priority across markets with the APAC region (83% of respondents) leading the way followed by the Americas (70%) and Europe (67%). With its ability to inject intelligence into every aspect of the enterprise, the demand for intelligent automation is no surprise. This factor is driving the demand for solution partners who can offer enterprises the best blend of AI and RPA buttressed by strong consulting capabilities. In line with this trend, the Forrester study mentioned above also found that 55% of respondents would choose RPA solution partners for their ability to create and execute a cognitive AI roadmap. The question, however, is whether intelligent automation is enough?

The human-led evolution of enterprise

Humanness. That most vaunted and complex of concepts, easy to propagate, and challenging to harness will soon become an invaluable aspect of enterprise strategy.  With quality, price, and efficiency prerequisites to compete, productivity and agility, substantial competitive advantages in the past, are no longer adequate. Enterprise success will lie in the ability to drive contextual creativity and empathy – inherently human skills, at scale. To do this, organizations will need to create and deploy a unified workforce of humans and bots. At EdgeVerve, we call this Automation Singularity – where the future worker or Human-Digital twin signals the seamless synergy of human and bot workers, fueling the growth of the new enterprise.

Automation Singularity refers to a highly customer-centric and agile oriented state of constant improvement and optimization through the future workforce, opening up an expanded horizon of possibilities.

Contrary to popular perception, in our experience of solving complex challenges for the world’s largest organizations, we have found that human ability is enhanced, not diminished, by a robust automation ecosystem. The stage of integration and evolution that we call Automation Singularity refers to a highly customer-centric and agile oriented state of constant improvement and optimization through the future workforce, opening up an expanded horizon of possibilities. The idea here is that enterprises will turn to a variety of automations (attended and unattended) that, when combined with AI, will have a transformative impact on every aspect of the organization. At the outset, enterprises will make the transition from deterministic or rule-based process automation to intelligent automation that powers data-driven decision-making. The final and most dynamic stage of this journey is a state of human-empowered automation, where bots will use intelligence from knowledge-driven maintenance and self-learn to combine with the human worker’s creative and emotional capabilities. It is here that we believe enterprises will unlock exponential value, differentiating their products and services on ingenuity and intuition supported by the highest standards of quality, accuracy, consistency, and insight.

What this means for the workforce of the future is that enterprises will become more customer-centric with employees focusing on providing tailormade, empathetic solutions for customers while bots provide them with intelligence for better decision-making.

The workforce of the future

A robust RPA platform that is led by humans and empowers people to focus their energy on customers while bots handle repetitive, albeit complex tasks. What this means for the workforce of the future is that enterprises will become more customer-centric with employees focusing on providing tailormade, empathetic solutions for customers while bots provide them with intelligence for better decision-making. The future worker is essentially a combination of the human worker and the digital worker, whereby the digital worker will empower the human to deliver superior value. This future worker will redefine the way we view traditional jobs, bringing in a more granular level of discussion around tasks and skills –  functions that can be done by the human, acquired by the digital, and delivered as a Human-Digital Twin.

The need to balance creativity with caution

While enterprises are open to adopting automation in their processes, already existing legacy systems, lack of direction and inertia of action could lead to a lag or failure in implementation. In another EdgeVerve-commissioned Forrester study, one of the primary challenges identified in adopting RPA is in the space of governance and visibility. Better bot utilization, streamlined RPA expansion, robust control, and maintenance capabilities were a few clear-cut areas of improvement indicated. Respondents also pointed towards poor visibility due to the lack of integrated systems and inadequate integration of workflows. A majority of respondents were looking for better capabilities from RPA vendors that enable superior audits, compliance reporting, and provision for access controls – showing the growing need for governance and management as the RPA ecosystem grows.

Enhanced systems with the ability to work with and communicate with each other are the need of the hour. They can be developed through an RPA agenda that flows through every department that enables the unification of data across the enterprise. A staggering majority of respondents considered a systemized management framework for human and digital work tasks as a critical need.

The importance of effective change management

The stage is set. The future of automation and Artificial Intelligence will be spearheaded by humans working in lockstep with bots that perform their function seamlessly, intuitively, and unobtrusively. Reassuring as this may be, it also entails a change management exercise of unprecedented scale and complexity. Think Fourth Industrial Revolution on steroids. The enterprises that succeed will be the early adopters who participate with intent and learn quickly from setbacks. There are no prizes for guessing that the organizations that ‘wait and watch’ or remain stagnant will be stuck at best and in threat of extinction at worst. Enterprises need to embrace the change management process alongside becoming agile and hyper-productive to stay ahead of the curve. A seamless blend of people, processes, and technology held together by a unified strategic vision will be the key to sustained growth.

Change in this world of Automation Singularity will be pervasive, going beyond the boundaries of enterprises, touching value chains, and calling for public discourse on a whole range of issues including employment at large, human reskilling, data privacy, and others. This change will have an impact at a grassroots level encompassing people, technology, risk and governance.

– Sateesh Seetharamiah
VP, Global Product Head, AssistEdge
EdgeVerve Systems Ltd (An Infosys Company)

People

Organizations will have to drive a culture of rapid learning and innovation. They must recognize that since the transition to Automation Singularity focuses on maximizing the potential of their human resources, human expertise should steer the ship. They should empower people to lend their expertise to opportunity identification and lead the automation agenda. Much of these efforts will go into breaking silos within the organization for knowledge sharing between departments. Reskilling and upskilling employees to embrace change and enhance customer experience will be a vital step in this direction.

Technology

Enterprises will have to employ a bird’s eye perspective, focusing not just on tools and processes but also on more considerable business outcomes. Investment in resilient IT change management and supporting technology is compulsory to ensure automation reliability. Bot governance also needs to be enhanced for better resource allocation and utilization to drive cost-efficiency. Interoperability between technologies will have to happen at scale and between multiple vendors to keep up with the momentum.

Risk

There is a need to develop a framework around potential risks to enable informed decision-making during this time. The speed and efficiency of this ecosystem mean that errors, if any, will also be replicated at scale. Organizations that account for parallel risk-controls measures will benefit significantly from thinking ahead of the curve.

Governance

Every automation exercise should move in the direction of achieving clear strategic priorities and backed by greater process visibility and data access for better decision-making. Organizations should consider establishing a dedicated Center of Excellence for automation-led transformation to initiate projects and manage innovation. They can help develop systems and metrics to benchmark the automation progress around the business objectives.

Building a Vision from the Outset

Automation Singularity serves as a beacon for enterprises to conceive, design, structure, and deliver products and services.

The evolution of the enterprise towards Automation Singularity will traverse the journey from rule-based automation with efficiency at a task level towards a state of human-empowered automation where decisions on task, task allocations, and process design are crafted based on data and optimization algorithms.

In due course, the future worker will take center stage in thinking, recrafting, and delivering on the possibilities ahead.

That said, organizations must realize that their automation strategy should be contextual to their journey. Even in the same vertical, no two enterprises are the same. A cookie-cutter approach to an inherently intuitive and flexible discipline could result in more obstacles than benefits. Any movement towards Automation Singularity should be preceded by a thorough and honest audit of the business situation and objectives. Once an enterprise realizes that its competitive advantage can be driven by differentiated products and services, supported by excellence in service and execution, it can start to make specific changes.

Automation Singularity will soon become a way of life in the enterprise and beyond. Our challenge today is to enable it through practical change management and strategic intent to ensure that the first step is in the right direction.