A critical part of every company is becoming technology enabled, whether one is selling soap or providing services. Automation, quite rightfully, is one flight that people can't afford to miss. Everybody is looking at quick, easy wins in Automation to generate sweeping buy-in from stakeholders and move ahead or play catch up.
But quite counter-intuitively, this might pose a challenge from harnessing Automation as a strategic enabler. Solving this conundrum will differentiate between companies making their operating model "smart" vs. those contents with only cost advantage, rule based performance through automation.
To understand this, we need to first acknowledge the fact that automation is not limited to RPA (robotics process automation) or robotics in general. There is no denial that there are enough challenges in implementing full scale RPA and it will lead to significant cost reduction along with rule driven accurate performance. But automation is an evolution, RPA could be low hanging fruit or the first step. The evolutionary pace depends on the organization's maturity & penchant for achieving more. If we map the journey on a life cycle of an organization : it is cognitive RPA after a few hours, tomorrow it will be Supply Side Automation (IoT coupled with machine learning) and the day after, demand side automation will kick in. Although these facets of automation seem to be independent of each other, we would find that they are fully connected, sometimes even overlapping on each other.
As an example, a CPG company had implemented RPA in Procure- to- Pay (P2P), made that business process reliable and saved quite a bit of money. Understand that any incremental saving beyond this point would not be exciting if we can't integrate RPA to upstream or downstream. On the other side, supply side automation can pick up signals that supply of input materials would be low or there is a challenge in logistics or there is an expected downtime at one of the critical machines in the factory. These signals could be easily integrated to RPA and trigger either purchasing events in their respective enterprise systems or alerts calling for actions & tracking them for closure.
We can easily fathom the value that we are getting out of this..it is much more than just cost saving, scalability & dependable performance. But for this to work, taking a hurried step and reworking sideways to create an ecosystem may not the ideal way of doing things.
Automation foot print has to be designed as a network of connected data streams ( as against isolated set of activities), leveraging each sub-area. Only then it becomes a live source of executive decision making and enabling to take right call at the right time.
It becomes transformational..
A smarter organization needs to recognize their automation journey and map the evolution so that all areas of automation are thought through, strategized from the onset, and invest in the right steps, keeping in mind the point of arrival in a future state.
Santanu has been working with an automation start up & acting as a venture advisor for start ups on product development & go-to-market strategy. He believes in entrepreneurship within corporations as a way of thinking and execution. His strength is in converting business insight into strategy and following it through. His specialties are automation, RPA, business process transformation, partner management, building & managing large global teams and change management. Santanu holds a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering and is an MBA in Strategy, Finance and Systems from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.