When “The Jetsons” cartoon made its debut in 1962, we could not imagine the futuristic automation they created. We thought it would be unrealistic to have flying cars (Terrafugia), jetpacks (Hoverboards), video calling (Face Time, Skype), robotic vacuums (Roomba), and much more. Now, fifty-eight years later, their future is our present, and to some, this can be unsettling.
Evolution of Technology
As a Baby Boomer, our generation has watched the evolution of technology at such a fast pace. I sometimes wonder if we really comprehend the changes. Just looking at how we can communicate today, we have gone from shared phone lines to cellphones, and we thought call waiting was a big deal! We can communicate, on the road, in the air, via video, email, text, and our social media resources are endless.
We have the ability to do our banking, pay our bills, and do our grocery shopping from anywhere we are. Some think purchasing a TV requires a degree in IT; from SD to OLED, do we really have a clear understanding of what any of that means? Instead of getting up to change the channel, we just want the ability to talk into a remote and tell the TV what we want to watch. We have appliances that cook while we are at work, and our refrigerators can now make grocery lists and place food replacement orders for us.
Jolene Checchin, Procurement System Administrator, CDK Global
SIG University Certified Sourcing Professional (CSP) program graduate Katherine Smith shares how lessons in the CSP program informed her during her company’s digital transformation.
One of the many areas of the CSP program that I found to be of great relevance for my role as a Procurement Specialist at Fannie Mae was the Lesson on Artificial Intelligence. Being of an older generation, I can remember working as a manager when there were no computers. Inventories were taken manually and then extended using calculators or adding machines. It was a significant step forward when we could automate that process.
Gone are the days of spending long hours on the phone reading off SKU numbers and quantities needed when placing orders for products, such as the food and paper supply needs of a hospital foodservice department.
Katherine Smith, Sr. Contracts and Procurement Specialist, Fannie Mae
Amanda Slevar is a Manager of Presales for SAP Fieldglass. She brings over 15 years of contingent labor management and services procurement expertise to prospective customers to designs solutions to fit their current needs, and build toward an innovative future program. Amanda is a featured presenter at SIG’s Global Executive Summit which takes place this month. The Global Executive Summit is free to all qualified buy-side practitioners and sell-side members.
What does it mean to “future proof” your external workforce management?
To me, this comes down to three core areas: People, Process, and Platform and they are all incredibly dependent on each other for success. Starting with people, if organizations are really serious about strategically managing their external workforce, they understand that people are core to making sure the experience and adoption of the program is successful. Whether that is through an internal center of excellence or via a 3rd party MSP to manage, having the eyes, ears, and hands, to be able to react to changes and growth opportunities that are going to arise with any program from the most newly deployed to a fully mature global installation.
Secondly, having a clear and simple process for procuring external talent is key to adoption, which fuels growth organically. I have had the benefit of seeing many programs start out small in scope, and through the simplicity and ease of a process that was executed begin to expand and grow just because they delivered a delightful experience, and other parts of the business want it too! No forceful, mandated rollout, just a great solution that delivers value to its end users.
Amanda Slevar Manager, Customer Success, SAP Fieldglass
Before any organization can do business with an external vendor, it needs to examine its data privacy protocol against new legal requirements. Recent legislations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the U.S. has cast a spotlight on the handling of consumer data, especially the way it is shared among third parties. Organizations of all sizes in every industry are upgrading the vetting processes to make sure that new vendors don’t bring additional risks.
These risk assessment processes contain several moving parts, and a mistake at any point along the way can jeopardize the result. The easiest way to pinpoint the holes in your organization's vendor vetting workflow is to review the entire process from beginning to end and examine the opportunities for data privacy lapses. Here are four common pitfalls to look for:
1. Overlooking Contract-level Details
Amid all the changes happening to the regulatory landscape, it’s easy to overlook errors in the language of your contracts. In a short window of time, contract language—on old and new agreements—needs to be updated to provide consumers with new legal protections and redefine business-to-business relationships with any party that touches consumer data. If contracts are being negotiated in that window, some terms might slip through the cracks and expose you to new risks.
What is a simple definition of intelligent automation?
Canda Rozier: I think intelligent automation is a fully holistic approach for business transformation that lets companies start to analyze data, provide analytics on the data and deliver digital solutions to optimize business processes and tasks. I think one of the things that has really struck me as I've learned more about and become engaged with intelligent automation is that it's as important to understand what it's not as to understand what it is.
A lot of intelligent automation projects fail or don’t provide results – why?
Lawrence Kane: It's not a panacea, and it really needs to be implemented systemically because it's a program. It shouldn't be a one-off, because you have to look at your tools and processes and how the enterprise creates value and understand where are the places that you want to go and automate. Where are the places you want to stop doing things, where are the areas that you need to change doing something, right?
I recently went back to read an article that I bookmarked a while back on the predictions for 2020. Forget self-driving cars and flying cars; Popular Mechanics magazine predicted in 1951 that every family in the 21st century would have at least one helicopter in their garage. They also predicted in 1957 that every road and street would be “replaced by a network of pneumatic tubes,” and your car would only need enough power to get from your home to the newest tube.
Dave Evans, the chief futurist for Cisco Visual Networking, actually predicted in 2012 that he'd be out of a job by this time because, as he forecasted, everyone would be able to predict the future themselves.
Automating Everyday Tasks
I wasn’t alive when Popular Mechanics made its predictions, but I was alive for the statement by Dave Evans. What I know for sure is that while his prediction for companies to make data-informed decisions is slowly coming to fruition, we are far off from a world without futurists. What amazes me is that most automation predictions were in the form of self-driving cars rather than taking place in everyday life.
SIG University Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) Program graduate Mike Morsch has led an RPA and IA journey before. He discusses the steps a company must address to ensure a successful Intelligent Automation journey to produce the best long term and sustainable outcomes.
In the CIAP program, students gain knowledge of automation technologies, learn how to identify the correct opportunities to build, run and sustain a successful automation program, and will understand the true potential of IPA technologies when adopted correctly.
I found the CIAP certification training to be an excellent baseline for anybody looking to embark on an intelligent automation (IA) journey. Senior leaders looking to sponsor a program really need to think through how they can best start the program to ensure both leadership and associates understand the focus of the program. It is easy to get caught up in “cost savings” and getting fast and visible results to justify a program. While quick wins are always a good way to show the value of any initiative, the long term benefits available in taking a broader view will pay the most dividends on investment over time. In thinking about my own experience and the lessons learned in the CIAP program, I would suggest to anyone considering IA the following areas of focus to create the best program.
Three major trends are reshaping the industry: a major rethinking of outsourcing vs. moving in-house, advanced handwriting recognition becoming mainstream and the increased need and reliance upon data science. This article explores these trends, as well as what they mean to enterprises and their service providers.
Rethinking the Benefits of Outsourcing
Just recently, HFS research published an article on the acceleration of insourcing operations that service providers currently provide. Why is this? One of the primary reasons is the renewed interest in automation. Also, it is the perspective that with automation, reliance upon manual labor is reduced, the outsourced version of which is still the primary business model of many service providers both large and small.
Historically, if an organization wanted to rid itself of low-value, but necessary tasks or processes, the best option was always to outsource these functions to a service provider that could provide the same capability at less cost through economies of scale. With automation, there is the promise of handing over the work to “bots” that can be deployed anywhere and whose costs are not sensitive to typical wage arbitration. A bot costs the same whether it is deployed onshore or in low-cost regions. HFS calls this “going straight to digital.”
Greg Council, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management
Excitement continues to grow around the capabilities of applying automation to various business processes, particularly using robotic process automation (RPA). The enthusiasm is appropriate because early initiatives to automate rote, low-level tasks have seen very positive results with high levels of automation achieved, which frees up staff to spend time on higher-value, more complex tasks.
Low variance, rote and simple tasks have been the primary focus for the majority of RPA projects because they are easy to define and the complexity related to handling different types of exceptions can be avoided. According to AIIM’s 2018 report titled, “Enhancing Your RPA Implementation with Intelligent Information,” the top processes across different functional areas include well-defined processes that operate on structured data. The report highlights processes such as inventory management, payroll, order management and records processing, all of which benefit from standardized data and straightforward tasks. The result is close to 100% automation.
Automating Key Activities
As most organizations become more adept at process automation using these tools, attention starts to turn to processes that involve key activities within an organization. Processes involving customers need to be sped-up and more convenient. Processes involving the delivery of products and services need to be better controlled and accelerated. It is not just about automating tasks to lower costs. In the same AIIM report, it found that organizations see RPA technologies as a way to deal with reducing errors within processes while at the same time, improving data quality and customer service.
Greg Council, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management
As more enterprises and service providers adopt cognitive automation to improve their manual processes, reading the tea leaves or better yet, examining case studies suggests a new job landscape with some fairly drastic improvements in efficiency.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) provides a useful summary article explaining how to deconstruct work into tasks that can be automated. Here three characteristics are used to assess our work:
Repetitive vs. variable work;
Dependent vs. interdependent work; and
Physical work vs. mental work.
Any automation assessment model should also take into consideration the nature and complexity of both the inputs and outputs onto which we can overlay these three characteristics to assess the impact of automation based upon the nature of work itself.
Basic automation has arguably had the highest level of impact so far. It is applied to rote, highly repeatable and low variance tasks. For example, basic automation supports the IT back office such as regular back-ups of data or automated provisioning of software resources (such as email accounts and CRM access).
These activities can be highly automated due to the nature of the work and low probability of exceptions to workflows. The inputs can be highly structured with very little variability while outputs are often binary. The result is either a successful completion or an exception. These tasks are very independent with interactions typically only with application interfaces. There is very little mental effort required.
Greg Council, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management