How intelligent process automation can open the door to digital transformation

By Matt Fleckenstein, Nintex CMO

Supporting enterprise digital transformation ranks the No. 2 top budgeting objective for today’s finance leaders, according to a report by The Hackett Group. But for many, this buzzword comes across as vague and intimidating. What exactly does a successful digital transformation entail? And how can the average business achieve it?

It’s clear why many organizations are apprehensive to roll out digital transformation strategies. While they’ve seen competitors succeed from new digital innovations, there are always others who have invested time and money into large-scale digital projects that never got off the ground. The key is to determine what makes some digital transformation initiatives successful and others failures.

Time and again, the difference comes down to how company leaders define digital transformation. When leaders consider digital transformation an achievable destination with milestones along the way rather than a long, winding journey, they better enable themselves to identify exactly what end goal they want to achieve and plan a formal timeline.

Another key factor that separates digital transformation success stories from defeats is whether the organization has the right tools in place. We are at a unique point where digitally native consumers, AI technologies and big data infrastructures are coming together. It’s easier than ever to empower line-of-business employees to drive an organization’s digital transformation.

Equipping line-of-business workers with digital technologies

It’s easy to assume that company-wide issues like collaboration or team buy-in hold back digital transformation efforts. But many organizations underestimate the detriment of inefficient internal processes.

Often, the challenges keeping companies from transformation are the day-to-day manual processes that take up IT’s bandwidth, preventing those experts from focusing on broader digital goals. In fact, according to McKinsey research, 68 percent of business processes remain highly manual. These little tasks – like fixing the printer or addressing an employee’s IT ticket – may not seem like big problems on the surface, but when they add up over time it’s clear they’re hindering company growth.

This is where empowering front-line employees with their own tech tools should come in.  However, many organizations think buying a packaged application will be quick fix to equipping these line-of-business employees and achieving digital transformation.  This creates a sort of “application sprawl,” where organizations are left with an excess of SaaS applications which lack flexibility and put a serious dent in their technology budget. In fact, line of business employees outspent IT on software ($US150.7 billion vs. $US64.7 billion) in 2017, according to IDC.

Instead of piling on more SaaS apps to equip line-of-business workers, organizations should seek to find a solution that makes these existing applications more efficient through intelligent process automation (IPA).

IPA is different from traditional automation

IPA is an emerging set of new technologies that combine process automation, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA). The main focus here is efficiency; with IPA able to extract knowledge obtained from process automation, businesses are able to streamline certain operations altogether, rather than leaving this valuable data unused. IPA taps into the continuous stream of data from workflow processes, which makes these workflows smarter over time.

There are six core capabilities of any successful IPA portfolio:

  1. Advanced workflow capabilities: These automate processes with drag-and-drop, no-code tooling that line-of-business employees can quickly understand.
  2. Document generation capabilities: These are needed to keep workflows compliant and consistent.
  3. A means to leverage mobile devices and forms: This is critical for capturing data online and offline.
  4. RPA: RPA streamlines repetitive manual tasks like approvals and emails for which humans would traditionally be responsible.
  5. Process intelligence: Access to real-time insights and data on an organization’s processes becomes increasingly critical for organizations seeking to drive the efficiency of their automation.
  6. Machine learning and natural language processing: These capabilities use the data generated from process intelligence to help complete tasks on their own, eliminating even more steps as these processes mature.
     

The era of intelligent process automation

Intelligence is the new currency of business, and in the coming years we will increasingly understand that organizations who are quickest to leverage data will be the first to succeed. But for mid-size or large companies with firmly established digital processes and plenty of red tape, the need to digitally transform could be intimidating.

Still, it’s important to remember that digital transformation doesn’t necessarily require a company-wide overhaul. With the right tools in place, like IPA, organizations can swap their time-consuming, manual processes with automation that gets smarter and more efficient with use. From freeing up IT’s time to empowering front-line employees, intelligent automated processes will show their worth across the entire organization.

 

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