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Why Does Digital Transformation Start With Automation?

In this second article, I will discuss why automation is foundational to Digital Transformation initiatives, how concerns are addressed through well-planned automation, and the technologies you will leverage when tackling an Intelligent Automation initiative. Finally, I will cover why a seasoned strategic partner is critical to advise and drive your portfolio of Digital Transformation projects.

A common first initiative when starting a Digital Transformation initiative is automation. Why? It is fairly quick, and the initiative often pays for itself in a short timeframe; it can provide customer benefits without directly impacting the customer, and (if done correctly) automation improves the morale of your employees.

How does automation help?

Thoughtful, orchestrated automation efforts drive success not just by reducing data entry and preventing mistakes within each department, but also by breaking through the silos of your business, the root cause of so many customer complaints.

Silos are natural once you get to a certain size; if you have a group of people who are experts in shipping products, for instance, it makes sense to put these people in a department together. Inevitably, each department will select software that is specifically built to accomplish their particular tasks. This seems great at the outset but traps you into singular purpose-driven technologies which may not extend well or work well with each other.

In situations like this, organizations experience lost opportunity and productivity as information haphazardly travels between the silos through fragile integrations or manual entry - not to mention the headache and overhead of maintenance and license costs. Data that may be a valuable asset to other parts of the organization can get stuck, locked into a single software silo.

From the executive standpoint, key metrics such as the status of ongoing value chain processes or how long those processes take, end-to-end, are time-consuming to compile with the fractured state of technology across the organization. By the time the information is gathered, the results are often outdated and useless.

Implementing automation as a cornerstone of Digital Transformation removes all of these headaches when implemented well. Automation gives you the visibility and agility you need to pivot your business through additional Digital Transformation steps.

"The foundation for digital transformation is a clean, well-structured digital platform — the technology, applications, and data that power a company’s business processes. None of the other digital elements can achieve their full promise without it."

The New Elements of Digital Transformation

MIT Sloan Management Review, November 2020

Intelligent Automation

Business Process Management (BPM) has evolved beyond workflow diagrams and simple tasks to sign off on business data. It is now inclusive of a robotic workforce, using Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning, and even Artificial Intelligence. This new approach is often described as Intelligent Automation (a nod to the Artificial Intelligence aspect), Digital Process Automation, or Hyperautomation.

The below illustration shows how different approaches (RPA, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence) are used to address different types of work, all within the context and in conjunction with a BPM tool, such as Appian.

Event-driven work is a common starting point for automation; these are processes that are fairly standardized, with repetitive tasks and predictable, structured data. In a way, this is the “easy” starting point as you look at automation - getting rid of those rote, day-to-day tasks.

Standardized Rules-Based work can be a bit trickier; there are some patterns in the work that Machine Learning can address to take care of the bulk of work while letting a human take those rare edge cases that may need more review.

Finally, truly dynamic work with little to no structure and no discernable pattern requires Artificial Intelligence.

This marriage of process with automation drives value quickly.

What are the benefits of a First-Class Digital Transformation partner?

Automation is very powerful, and without a knowledgeable partner, it is easy to simply automate your existing tasks, giving a small, incremental improvement but leaving the true value sitting on the table. It is crucial to select a partner who has experience with broad automation, who can see around the corners that you may not have considered to ensure the full end-to-end digital platform both serves the purpose of any given task, as well as the broader purpose of orchestrating processes into a cohesive, reportable whole.

At Macedon, delivering a high-quality application is only part of our job. Confirming any new solution aligns with your company’s vision, mission, and business values is just as critical. One of the ways we do this is through Discovery sessions.

During Discovery sessions, the most important questions we ask upfront are:

  • What is your Digital Transformation goal?

  • What is the big picture that this Intelligent Automation initiative supports?

  • What technical features of relevant software helped drive your decision-making?

These answers help us form a solid foundation of features to incorporate into your customized applications.

Next, we perform a Strategic Process Valuation with your leaders and SMEs, learning which processes are targeted in the potential Digital Transformation. Our proprietary Project Valuation tool is used to categorize the processes and calculate the relative value they provide.

Once the high-value processes are determined, a complexity analysis and technology fit exercise is performed through a series of interviews to gather an in-depth understanding of the as-is model vs. a high-level understanding of the to-be solution.

With a comprehensive list of fit and feasible processes, appropriate Intelligent Automation technology to fit the business goals, as well as consideration of budgetary, logistical, and availability concerns, we build a practical pipeline to match your strategic roadmap, emphasizing fit-for-use technology for your Intelligent Automation initiative.

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