Embracing automation to fuel your digital journey

What is automation and how can you implement an effective automation strategy?

Feb 09, 2024
Automation Data & digital services Digital transformation

What makes every step of a company’s advancement with automation such an extraordinary win is its phenomenal growth over the years. It is like witnessing a transition that is an evolutionary synthesis. With such a profound impact across categories, industries and, in turn, the economy, automation’s exponential growth is not just a change but a metamorphosis.

RSM US LLP Principal Ana Minter and Director Abdul Mohamed recently hosted the first event in a new automation webcast series, Embracing automation to fuel your digital journey. The session showcased a detailed analysis of many areas of automation, from artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) to a world where technology and humans converge for unprecedented efficiency.

The First Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 1.0, was when automation involved the mechanization and introduction of steam power. Automation transitioned to mass production assembly lines using electrical power as part of Industry 2.0 and later to automated production, computers, IT systems and robotics as Industry 3.0. After the dynamics of a smart factory, autonomous systems, the Internet of Things and ML ushered in Industry 4.0, we are currently embracing and operating with big data analysis and collaborative robots, known as Industry 5.0—and advancing further with each passing day.

Automation’s inherent ability to enable companies to do more with less is the constant with each of these stages. As automation solutions continue to evolve, they can manage a variety of manual and transactional tasks, allowing internal personnel to focus more on strategic initiatives.

“A lot of the organizations we work with really are not quite as far as they want to be on their journey and they struggle with how to get there because things are moving so quickly.”

Ana Minter, Principal, RSM US LLP

“There are a lot of lessons learned from these various stages of automation that we are taking forward,” says Ana Minter. “A lot of the organizations we work with really are not quite as far as they want to be on their journey and they struggle with how to get there because things are moving so quickly.”

What is automation and what are the latest trends?

Automation is the application of technology, programs, robotics or processes to achieve desired outcomes with minimal human input across domains, including enterprise applications, as follows:

  • Business process automation
  • IT automation
  • Network automation
  • Automating integration between systems
  • Industrial automation, such as robotics
  • Consumer applications, such as home automation

Your desired business outcome should always be the first consideration before the selection of automation solutions. An automation strategy is always best when it is business-led and technology-enabled, with solutions deployed to achieve specific tasks or solve specific problems. If an automation solution is chosen first, it may not align with business challenges and the desired return on investment may not be met.

Ultimately, every task, system and process of an organization is different, and so is automation:

  • Basic or task automation: For simple repetitive tasks, known as RPA
  • Process automation: For complex, repeatable and multistep processes, known as process mining, workflow automation and business process management (BPM)
  • Intelligent automation:  With AI and ML capabilities, where machines can continuously learn and make better decisions

"The first pillar we have been seeing in the space, especially in the middle market, is combining intelligent automation and AI to drive business transformation."

Abdul Mohamed, Partner, RSM US LLP

Commenting on digital transformation trends of automation, Abdul Mohamed explains, “The first pillar we have been seeing in the space, especially in the middle market, is combining intelligent automation and AI to drive business transformation. The second layer we have seen is using tools such as intelligent automation platforms to help address productivity gaps and deliver better business outcomes for your end users—both internally and your customers.” Mohamed adds, “And, lastly, we have also witnessed that organizations that have already automated certain portions of their business are now looking to scale their programs to citizen development.”

In addition to the above, automation has also showcased significant transformation trends within specific industries, including:

  • Health care: Achieve more precise diagnoses and treatment; optimize accurate drug development and discovery
  • Financial services:Protect loan/credit privacy with sharable data, detect suspicious and fraudulent transactions, and turn data trends into risk assessments
  • Retail:Tailor inventory and pricing based on demand, offer authentic virtual try-ons and achieve fewer returns
  • Manufacturing:Optimize inventory tracing in the supply chain, amplify humans with collaborative robots and navigate the inner complexity of machines
  • Professional services: Allocate resources efficiently, review large volumes of documents quickly and accurately, and ensure compliance with regulations and industry standards

Why automate?

The term automation is everywhere, irrespective of the scale of industry or business. It is like a golden key that unlocks the treasures for fruitful business outcomes. Imagine having a competitive advantage in terms of brand loyalty and profitability. A successful automation strategy can build this advantage in several ways, including:

  • Enabling process efficiency that greatly reduces the time needed to complete processes
  • Eliminating the need for humans to perform repetitive, manual tasks
  • Making the business easier to work with for customers, vendors and service providers
  • Preserving knowledge around key processes so if employees leave, there’s no disruption

Reducing the introduction of inaccuracies and errors into processes, issues that can ripple through the organization and become costly from a time, money and compliance standpoint

Automation also helps analyze customer needs, expectations and feedback more intensely and effectively to add significant value to their overall customer experience. It can help increase the customer retention rate that, in turn, scales up revenues and lowers customer acquisition costs—culminating in a more accurate sales forecast and unwavering brand loyalty. To this point, Mohamed adds, “Look at Amazon. It is easy for us to order things from Amazon, and Amazon knows what we want before we want it. Middle market companies are trying to get into that ahead-of-the-curve model.”

Where to start?

To start an automation journey, working with an advisor can determine the best path forward by walking through the following steps:

  • Define your automation goals and vision that will benefit your business strategy.
  • Assess your current automation maturity and readiness and strive to architect technology-enabled integrated processes.
  • Identify and prioritize your automation opportunities with a holistic approach.
  • Select the right automation platform and tools based on use-case requirements, fit-for-purpose solutions, integration technologies and enterprise resource planning solutions.
  • Build your automation team with champions and empower them to manage automation solutions.
  • Implement and scale your automation solutions to develop an ever-growing backlog of opportunities, each with the potential to add value across the organization.

The need for business automation is growing

Automation is transitioning with newer concepts and breakthroughs that always impress us. Now is the right time for middle market companies to respond quickly to market changes and take advantage of opportunities to develop a business-led automation strategy that optimizes key processes to stay competitive and profitable.

To learn more, view the website recording or register for upcoming sessions in our automation webcast series.

Where are you on your automation journey? 

With services for robotic process automation to intelligent automation, RSM can help no matter where you are on your digital journey. 

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Automation webcast series

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