Realizing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence and Automation

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Without careful planning, short-term gains in automation can very soon be undermined. If businesses are curious about automation and artificial intelligence, they must explore how to use them in the most productive way to make the most of their investment, says Alex Adamopoulos, CEO of Emergn.

It’s no secret that intelligent automation is the way forward, but even companies that have adopted it are far from realizing its full potential. Mechanical and repetitive tasks are what most people think of when someone suggests implementing automation and artificial intelligence (AI), historically where it has been most useful. 

Automation has been less useful and failed to increase productivity when applied to knowledge-based work or collaborative environments. However, automation can certainly be useful in these settings, but its implementation must improve to reap maximum benefits. 

According to Workfront’s 2020 State of Work ReportOpens a new window , 87% of employees think leaders should reconsider how they think about technology in the workplace, and 84% say businesses are missing opportunities by not moving to more modern solutions. When it comes down to it, two primary barriers stop most companies from executing AI and automation in the most productive ways. By exploring these two missteps, businesses can better overcome these challenges. 

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1. Focusing on the Short Term

It’s no secret that process improvement is constantly top of mind for business leaders. Automation is one way of improving processes, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The same automation that replaces repetitive tasks is useless when applied to organizational-knowledge work or collaborative environments.  

According to GartnerOpens a new window , there are 1 billion knowledge workers in the world. This number is likely to rise as technology shifts the roles of workers undertaking repetitive tasks to more knowledge-based jobs. It’s important that businesses recognize how useful automation can be for these workers and visualize the goals from end-to-end instead of focusing on short-term gains. 

By visualizing the long-term value of automation, it’s more likely that leaders will understand where it can add maximum value. From there, leaders can work on designing ways of working that implement automation and then measure and optimize its success.

Where work is highly dependent on the application of extensive knowledge and analysis, the demand for automation is typically driven by thinking it’s a question of scaling up just a few critical tasks. For knowledge workers, however, the value of automation is not in individual tasks but in structured, automated collaboration across colleagues and systems. 

The main efficiency driver, therefore, is to save the time of expensive resources. In visualizing the value of automation for the long term, businesses need to ensure they are agile in how they operate to keep automation from losing its value. If a way of working with automation is not satisfactory, it is a mistake to maintain it just because of the time already invested. Instead, by prioritizing flexibility, businesses can make the most of their automation. 

When the intended goal is to coordinate and manage the flow of work, automation can deliver process optimization efficiencies, improve quality, and provide a better service. What’s imperative to success is understanding where automation can play the most impactful role based on the type of work being done rather than implementing AI just for the sake of doing so. 

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2. Communicating in Silos

In today’s business world, it’s likely that leaders within a company are aware of how automation can increase profits, productivity, and other measured values of success. However, it’s often unclear how employees can personally benefit from automation, making the implementation of the technology less successful. 

The other hurdle facing intelligent automation is the lack of communication between business and IT and the tendency to look at work in silos. According to one studyOpens a new window , 39% of employees believe there isn’t enough collaboration between people in their organization. There is an untapped opportunity in cross-team collaboration between different departments, including top decision-makers and IT teams, to better understand how automation and AI can serve the business. 

To optimize automation and business processes as a whole, it’s critical to avoid creating isolated inefficiencies throughout the business and instead work to optimize all departments. In breaking down these inefficiencies, employees will learn how to best optimize the automation and AI available to them. 

Businesses should adopt a discovery mindset, encouraging experimentation and the delivery of value at every step to overcome these challenges. It is imperative that business leaders in all departments ask the fundamental question “who will benefit from this?” when it comes to implementing automation. AI and automation will become priceless tools when all parties within an organization can answer that question. Automation and AI will open the door for many to find more joy, fulfillment, and strategic thinking in their work. When leaders within an organization successfully articulate the value of automation to their employees, it will be a win for the organization as a whole.

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