Targeted treatments aren’t a new idea in medicine. They were theorized about for centuries and then first came into their own in the mid-1980s. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to treating problems with the complex human anatomy, targeted treatments zero in on a specific health issue, as in the case of targeted treatment of cancer cells. Today, we are seeing new treatments that can use information from an individual’s genetic makeup to provide customized antibiotic or drug combinations that interact with the body in the most effective way. These treatments use a “surgical” approach with the goal of driving big results in human performance and health.
Much like the human anatomy, businesses are complex and have many interacting parts. When a business needs “treatment,” it’s easy to look for a one-size-fits-all solution. Examples can be found in lots of places – such as large computer systems, outsourcing initiatives, enterprise transformational programs and work simplification programs. They can impact a business in many ways, but they also can be blanket solutions rather than surgical ones – working across many processes in a business and hoping for the best.
How can businesses use a more surgical approach to treat their maladies? Much as medicine has seen the rise of targeted treatments, businesses also are seeing the rise of targeted treatments in the case of automation – specifically robotic process and cognitive automation solutions that are driving big results in the back office, for example, where robots process invoices and generate reports more quickly and with fewer errors than humans could, and in call centers where chatbots provide speedy response to inquiries.
Enterprises are using robotic process and cognitive automation solutions in a surgical way to reduce costs, improve productivity and responsiveness, and raise accuracy and compliance levels. But not everywhere. In most cases, it’s in areas of greatest pain: where a company detects excessive cost, low productivity, slow response, high error rates, poor quality and lack of compliance.
The targeted treatment of business problems with robotic process and cognitive automation solutions often begins with either a proof of concept (POC) or a process analysis – to demonstrate how the technology works and which processes are suitable for automation. From there, companies typically deploy the technology to support automation of specific work processes. Robotic process automation (RPA) is best suited for repetitive, repeatable manual processes like invoice validation, while cognitive automation can handle processes with requirements for machine learning or inference as in the cases of intelligent character recognition and fraud detection.
The work processes impacted by these technologies can be anywhere in a business, but are often found in shared services, finance and administration, procure to pay, order to cash, call centers/customer service, supply chain, logistics and HR. These areas must handle lots of repetitive work and come in face-to-face contact with customers and suppliers. By applying RPA and cognitive technologies to specific work processes in areas such as these, the company can avoid the costly and high-risk decisions required when trying to blanket the business with technology.
Many believe robotic process and cognitive automation solutions are still young, but in fact these technologies have been around for many years. They are just now coming to a place where it makes sense for many businesses to leverage them. The catch is implementation. As a business must adapt to automation, it must address the structural and people changes that go with it.
There are many lessons learned from the implementation of these technologies, by both the businesses that use them and the advisors who provide assistance and support. These advisors are akin to the doctors that provide and administer targeted medical treatments to their patients – they have experience with specific treatments, know what works and what doesn’t and can help patients avoid the pitfalls others may have experienced. ISG is such an advisor. We bring the lessons learned and best practices from having helped hundreds of companies implement robotic process and cognitive automation to improve their performance and general health.
About the author
Jason Davison is an analyst in ISG’s RPA practice. He has nearly 5 years of experience working in technology environments in the US and internationally, including process mapping and improvement, training and robotic process automation. He holds a BS from the University of Pittsburgh.