Scaling up Intelligent Automation initiatives

Stay competitive by getting a clear view of the Intelligent Automation landscape.

Intelligent Automation (IA) is at the top of many organizations’ strategic and tactical agendas. Rightly so. Not only can Intelligent Automation improve operational efficiency and effectiveness, it also provides the basis for new or enhanced products and services to drive future revenue growth. But what is the status of Intelligent Automation in Switzerland and how can you best get started or scale up your Intelligent Automation initiatives in such a wide-ranging and fast-moving area?

What is Intelligent Automation?

Intelligent Automation is an umbrella over technologies that enable business transformation and the automation of business processes. It brings together Robotic Process Automation (RPA), low-code platforms and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate and augment processes, and ultimately helps companies achieve their profitability targets and maintain competitive advantage.

What is Intelligent Automation? Technologies explained Intelligent Automation: A broad spectrum of technologies

What impacts and benefits can you expect of Intelligent Automation?

Organizations can dramatically improve their business processes by adopting a technology-first mindset built on well-established process improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean. When looking at your processes through a new lens, it is important to: 

  • Understand the output and outcome of the process, rather than start at the beginning
  • Work your way backwards to understand what data is utilized during the process and how it is utilized to achieve the desired output, e.g. using process mining to have a data driven approach
  • Redesign the process by flipping traditional thinking. Set up the process to be fully automated, end-to-end, and then add humans only where needed, such as for decisive decision making or handling unknown errors or exceptions.

Enhancing the client experience

This approach will give you a technology-first, human-second perspective. It will enable you to achieve incredible improvements such as faster, more efficient processing and reductions in manual labor requirements by up to 70 percent. Ultimately allowing you to enhance the experience of your customers and employees.

This works well in practice. For example, KPMG worked with a large Telco to insource, design and automate their entire core finance and accounting processes, drastically reducing manual labor requirements. We have also helped enable other businesses to structure and harmonize their data to deliver truly valuable analytics and forecasts.

Intelligent Automation Value Drivers Intelligent Automation’s potential: additional impact and value drivers

What is the current take-up of Intelligent Automation in Switzerland?

We see clear market trends regarding the maturity level and adoption of Intelligent Automation by both global corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Global corporations

In general, we note that global corporations in Switzerland have made significant investments and are already quite mature in their experimentation and adoption of Intelligent Automation and Artificial Intelligence. This is especially the case in back-office functions such as Finance, HR and IT. One Swiss-based global pharmaceutical group has partnered with a global technology provider to leverage Intelligent Automation and Artificial Intelligence to modernize their approach to developing, designing and creating new medicines.

In order to truly benefit from Intelligent Automation, we believe that global corporations should focus on organizing, structuring and combining the technologies, ultimately scaling Intelligent Automation by:

  • Building business cases with input from the business and IT
  • Setting up a stable fit-for-purpose infrastructure (possibly cloud driven)
  • Ensuring that Intelligent Automation is ‘in control’. 

The current landscape of investments into Intelligent Automation is fragmented, in our view. It ranges from a group of data scientists helping with financial forecasting, to RPA developers scattered across an organization in small process excellence teams.

The next level in maturing Intelligent Automation may be achieved when individual teams, with their different capabilities, work together to automate the processes end-to-end.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

We believe the Intelligent Automation maturity level in the Swiss SME market is lower than in comparable European markets. We have, however, seen growing appetites and investments in more mature technologies such as RPA and low-code platforms. This trend was already visible prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and has grown over the past year. A particular focus has been on easy-entrance technologies – with high degrees of user-friendliness, low entry costs, cost efficiency, and cloud/as-a-service solutions – such as low-code platforms. SMEs have generally used Intelligent Automation to maintain a competitive edge by:

  • Optimizing manual processes to allow employees to focus on value adding tasks
  • Improving processing speed to respond quicker to customers, suppliers and employees
  • Supporting processes that cannot be securely managed through the work-from-home setup, including mobile/ tablets due to infrastructure limitations, existing compliance rules, etc.

Position Intelligent Automation capabilities strategically: To take Intelligent Automation maturity to the next level, pilot initiatives could be scaled up in high impact areas. Due to SMEs’ sizes, they should position Intelligent Automation capabilities strategically in the organization, maintaining central alignment while empowering local employees. This was evident when we worked with an industrial manufacturing SME to build a single Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence to support regional branches. SMEs should also consider taking a hybrid approach where they integrate some skills within the organization, while acquiring other skills, platforms and capabilities under as-a-service arrangements.

Holistic costs and benefits are an important consideration. SMEs should focus not only on actual process execution costs and process benefits. They also need to consider the future agility that Intelligent Automation can bring, and how it can free up employees’ time to focus on other tasks.

What are the current Intelligent Automation market trends?

Machine learning and other technologies are advancing significantly faster than many anticipated just a few years ago. To stay competitive, you need a clear view of the Intelligent Automation landscape, including Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Below are selected key trends we see in the market, which can help accelerate your adoption of Intelligent Automation.

  1. Automation, Artificial Intelligence, analytics and low-code platforms are converging

    These complementary technologies and services can be mixed and matched to exponentially advance progress towards specific business goals.

  2. Enterprise demand is growing

    Many large enterprises are investing heavily in advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. Most organizations reported that their investment will increase significantly in coming years. High-priority areas for Artificial Intelligence initiatives over the next 2-3 years include:

    • Customer and market insights that will refine personalization, driving sales and retention
    • Back office and shared services automation to remove repetitive human tasks
    • Finance and accounting streamlined to improve efficiency and compliance
    • Analysis of unstructured voice and text data for specific functional use cases.
  3. The need to control Artificial Intelligence

    Artificial Intelligence requires frameworks to provide real-time and continuous monitoring of its performance, risk and compliance. To guarantee reliability of the machine learning algorithms it is necessary to establish leading practices around Artificial Intelligence training data and implement a framework, processes and tools across the end-to-end Artificial Intelligence lifecycle. You can view more about this topic in our ‘AI in Control’ video, which reflects the EU’s proposal for new rules and actions for excellence and trust in Artificial Intelligence.

  4. Rise of Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service (AIaaS)

    While large companies will always need to build foundational capabilities in-house, they will increasingly be able to also tap into the growing AI-as-a-service market.

How to get started or scale existing initiatives

There are a number of key questions you should ask in order to assess your current intelligent automation position and maturity:

  • Strategy alignment and transformation: Are Intelligent Automation and Artificial Intelligence on my organization’s leadership agenda? ​
  • Process and data management and delivery: Is my data in a form that is easily ingested into an Intelligent Automation platform?
  • Enabling technology: Do I have an infrastructure and licensing in place for Intelligent Automation? Do I understand how it integrates with other elements of the technology stack?
  • Governance: Can my organization be readily reconfigured to yield savings or redirect effort? Have I defined an Intelligent Automation governance and operating model, including structure, staffing, roles and responsibilities, process and data, and the tools necessary to govern and operate in an Artificial Intelligence environment including the overall governance of robots (e.g. RPA bots)?
  • Change and communication management: ​​​​​ Do I have sufficient leadership support, a communication plan and change management structure in place?

Once you have determined the above, we suggest ten steps to help you move to the next stage of using Intelligent Automation:

10 steps to move to the next stage of Intelligent Automation

1. Consider your entire operating model in the context of the benefits Intelligent Automation can enable. It is about reinventing the business, not pursuing a series of technology investment projects.

2. Have a senior champion to spearhead Intelligent Automation initiatives who understands its value, directs it enthusiastically and has management support to rally people around.

3. Ensure collaboration between business units, executive management and IT. Intelligent Automation is a business enabler, but it is powered by IT.

4. Combine Intelligent Automation technologies to work together and reinvent processes or functions, rather than piecemeal tactics. Ensure tight integration with other technology efforts such as ERP, cloud, blockchain and advanced data and analytics.

5. Broaden Intelligent Automation’s scope within the business to various functions. Everyone doing their own thing leads to redundant efforts, diluted returns on investment and reduced benefits.

6. Ensure adequate resources are allocated to help your staff evolve (a challenging multi-year effort). Be realistic about how many of your experts can be qualified.

7. Fill the Intelligent Automation talent gap by addressing skills shortages while your Intelligent Automation agenda matures and advances. Make use of experienced external service providers including contingent labor.

8. Manage the transition towards a collaboration of human and digital labor. Change management, guidance and empathic leadership are critical.

9. Talk to market leaders in your industry and learn from their success stories and failures. Those who aren’t afraid to fail but are masters in failing fast and then succeeded with what worked.

10. Adopt the right mindset to start small, think big and scale fast.

Securing the benefits

Executives and decision-makers are understandably keen to exploit Intelligent Automation’s potential benefits. They are investing significant resources in achieving their early goals and objectives, and are hopeful of soon starting to see benefits at an enterprise level.

Our experience suggests that organizations are struggling to achieve the type of scale they require, however. They face difficulties breaking down their internal functional silos, and are concerned about the impacts of Intelligent Automation on their workforce and development. Crucially, they are fighting to secure the talent they need to make it a success. Yet, for all of the challenges in making Intelligent Automation work for your organization, the potential is tremendous for those who get it right.

Connect with us

We want to help answer questions. Questions that are currently being asked and questions that may not arise for several days or weeks. Please do not hesitate to contact us – our experts are ready to support you with advice and assistance.

Mark Meuldijk

Partner, Data & AI

KPMG Switzerland

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