Here in California we love our wine and grow a lot of grapes. Now, let’s suppose for a moment you and I are in the wine business, and we’ve heard about a fabulous new grape varietal. It gives a high yield, it’s robust, the sugar content is perfect and test crops indicate it has all the makings of a great vintage.
Do we go straight out, buy this new varietal and plant as much as we can? It’s a winner, right? So why wait? What’s stopping us?
No. Of course, we don’t. Producing a fine wine requires a lot more planning and work than just planting grapes. We need to analyze soil samples to make sure they’re suitable. We should see if the irrigation and the run-off are going to work for this new varietal. We must satisfy ourselves that there aren’t any crop pests in the neighborhood that need addressing. We also need to assess whether our harvesting, fermentation, and storage is optimal, and we need to consider sales, distribution, and marketing.
Making such a fundamental business change requires us to do our homework and consider the entire end-to-end process of growing and harvesting new grapes, through to selling the wine we produce.
Part of a wider process
Robotic automation is a bit like deciding to produce a new wine using a brand new and better varietal of grape. However, in the midst of all the technological excitement surrounding robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI), it’s easy to forget the same rules apply.
Just because robotic automation can deliver significant benefits to an organization (and it can!), it doesn’t mean you should rush headlong into implementing it. The less effort you’ve put in up-front to checking and optimizing current processes, the more likely it is your foray into automation will be at best, piecemeal, and at worst, costly, ineffective and possibly even counter-productive.
In short, robotic automation isn’t just a technological proposition. It should be seen as part of comprehensive intelligent automation transformation program. It ought to be the last step in a chain of processes that includes analyzing current operations, eliminating non-value steps, standardizing processes and then optimizing them. Only then does it make sense to apply robotic automation.
Failure to do this often results in businesses automating inefficient processes that amplify their negative results, resulting in disappointment with the robotic automation. The good news is that a broader transformation approach doesn’t add a lot of time, and with the right approach to intelligent automation, you can (to continue the analogy) greatly increase the quantity and quality of the “wine” you produce.
New boardroom partnerships
In terms of the strategic management of the business, there’s something implicit in all this, which is really quite interesting.
In my experience, intelligent automation, RPA and the like are often seen in binary terms. The buck stops either with the business unit and its decision-makers or with the IT function.
In fact, neither of these approaches delivers the best answer. Just as a great vintage needs more than a fabulous grape varietal, so RPA needs more than either great technology or great strategic direction. It needs both. Business should be the driver, but IT can make the technology work in a specific environment. Business makes the decision and IT makes it happen.
Joint business and IT involvement is vital. Together, they know what intelligent automation can achieve, and they can see what the enterprise needs to do to prepare for its implementation and take full advantage of it.
Coming to our senses
It’s not only your finance and accounting (F&A) function that stands to benefit from these developments. Sales and marketing, HR, production and IT operations will all see positive outcomes if the groundwork for intelligent automation has been done. The quality of work improves, efficiency increases and your user experience also improves—not just for the enterprise, but for your customers and other stakeholders alike.
At Capgemini, we’ve characterized the business roles that intelligent automation can play as a combination of senses, similar to the five human senses. The “Five Senses of Intelligent Automation” work together to create automation solutions that deliver a responsive, relevant and intuitive user experience. These attributes are a fusion of smart processes and intelligent automation, and they each have a corresponding human sense: Watch, Listen/Talk, Act, Think, Remember.
We also recognize that not all business processes are ripe for automation, and help our clients identify the processes that, if automated, will be just as ineffective and may even compound an existing problem. To address this eventuality, we have developed our ESOAR (Eliminate, Standardize, Optimize, Automate, Robotize) methodology—a powerful means to ensure that only those processes that can be effectively automated are automated.
To learn more about how Capgemini’s intelligent automation can deliver enhanced value for your organization, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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About the author
As a professional accountant with over 30 years of operations experience, Marty Borcharding helps organizations in the Media and Entertainment sector transform their F&A business through leveraging Capgemini’s Global Enterprise Model (GEM), our offerings and services.