Procurement leader Canda Rozier and senior sourcing veteran Lawrence Kane joined the Sourcing Industry Landscape Podcast to discuss the new age of intelligent automation, based on what they learned in SIG University’s Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) program. They outline how intelligent automation can be a powerful tool to promote an organization’s growth and prosperity, and how – when implemented correctly – it can be targeted to improve areas holding back the enterprise.
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?
You can automate a really bad process, let’s pick RPA, for example, because most people do robotic process automation. It's relatively easy to do. Look at something like that. You can take a useless process and do it faster. That doesn't necessarily mean that the outcome's going to be better, though, right? Sometimes it's okay to take something that takes three days and get it down to 30 minutes by making some numbers sort of directionally correct. Still, the issue is, are you attacking the right things in the correct order that's going to make the best impact?
What are the benefits of intelligent automation to the business?
Canda: Let's be really clear, there are lots of benefits to intelligent automation and that those benefits, they fall along a spectrum just like projects and companies who undertake the projects fall along a spectrum. They fall along a spectrum of both the size of the company and the complexity of the business and the operations and even the tasks or workflows that you're trying to automate.
So there are benefits all along that complexity, size and scope spectrum. But the most significant benefits come from being able to automate repetitive, low-value tasks. These tasks may be prone to human error, but it’s not about the routine job being repeated as easily by a person. It may be that the value of the task is so low that it's just not a good return on the investment to have it being done by a person.
When is the right time to implement intelligent automation and how is the two-by-two matrix essential in the process?
Lawrence Kane: We needed a way to show a simple and easy to engage the process of what you should be focusing on during implementation, depending on what you look like as an enterprise. There's a lot of ways we could do that and we just chose to take a look at a couple of simple things with size and complexity.
Now clearly, complexity can include things like risk. It can also consist of things like scope and scale if you're multinational, if you're highly regulated and so on, right? So that's looking at the complexity factor, and then size is really just how big you are and kind of how fast you're growing. So by looking at those two scales, you can identify what kind of company you are. Are you a small, less complex company, a large, more complex company, and so on, right? That gives you four buckets to say what do you look like.
For example, there may be a small, less complex company that's not a startup, but they're early in their lifespan, and they're growing very, very quickly. Usually, when you have small companies that are growing very rapidly, you don't have sound processes and really good standards.
So what happens is you can grow very fast, and you end up rushing to go and support all of this increasing work that's coming your way. But you find that it drives complexity that's non-value-added and it's not sustainable as you get larger and larger. So that's a place where you'd be using intelligent automation to implement analytics and enable category management.
Listen to the full Sourcing Industry Landscape podcast interview on our website or on your favorite podcast app.
Desmond Williams is the digital marketing manager for SIG. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship and a minor in Sociology from The Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. With a background in Marketing and Sales, relationships are at the core of his values.