IT automation is an opportunity and a threat. On one hand, it slashes the cost of certain business processes. On the other, it threatens jobs. Automation will buy or eat your lunch.
It’s certainly is not a new thing – the difference now is that we can integrate artificial intelligence (AI) solutions into the mix and provide more intelligent products and services.
Eat your lunch
So where can automation help your career? Look at organisations in any market sector and you’ll see there’s an opportunity to reduce manual work in the back or front office. Indeed, as an IT executive, you should start by looking in your own backyard.
In most IT shops, the phrase ‘software asset inventory’ is often met with collective groans. But when it comes to automation, the whole domain of software asset management is a good place to start. You should then consider the parallel activity of server maintenance and version upgrades. Once your inventory is real-time then automating the updates makes perfect sense.
The other area to investigate is how to automate your network systems and cyber security infrastructure. We are aware that there are too many alerts from these components for a human to safely manage so it’s an ideal target for automation.
Yes, this can eat the lunch of your team, however these are tasks that are traditionally poorly handled by IT. So it makes perfect sense to bring this to the top of your priority list. Ok, so I’ve let automation eat part of your lunch – now how can it feed you?
Buy your lunch
Looking at your business processes, there are some candidates in key areas of customer service (order entry, complaints, billing and sales support); administration (HR, payroll and accounting); and procurement (sourcing and contracting).
Just imagine being able to reduce the cost by 25 per cent to 50 per cent of one of these key business processes? Would you be happy with that? In reality you’d have to complete studies on these processes first but it’s a compelling business case.
How to get started
First, look for a candidate process that is high in scale and low in requirement for human judgment. In insurance, for example, there are skilled underwriters that in effect apply a series of rules to decide the risk of a new business transaction and at what price would be acceptable.
This sector is a prime candidate for intelligent automation. There is likely to be some automation already in place but this needs to be supplemented with AI.
Second, this is all about running a process smoothly with high quality. This task does not require a ‘human touch’ but instead consistency. Let’s take a sensitive topic like complaints – logic is that this requires a human to be involved and it probably does in actually responding to the complaint.
The initial recording of the complaint however and the AI to analyse the facts before responding is actually best handled by intelligent automation.
Third, any such process that has big data like proportions is a perfect candidate. In the earlier example, I talked about using this approach to assist with network and cyber security alert monitoring. We still want our professionals to review logs and take action. It is just that we don’t require them to read every single transaction as this is not relevant or valuable.
Once you have established your candidate/s then what follows is common sense. The process has to be manageable and measurable, so start with an example that is smaller enough to get your arms around, but tangible so worth the effort.
You have to test, prototype and learn. The old ‘rinse and repeat’ formula here also works with a proof of concept. Once the model is operational, then it is time to scale up and realise the full benefits. Along the way your team will gain greater understanding of their respective role.
Now your lunch can begin!
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