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Meeting The Data Demands of Automation

In this special guest feature, Lori McKellar, Senior Director, Product Marketing for AppWorks at OpenText, discusses how organizations across a plethora of industries are understanding the true importance of digitalization, and have started embarking on their automation journey in some shape or form. However, as a result of this process, organizations are seeing a significant increase in the volume, velocity and variety of data, including the rise of unstructured content that is meant to be automated. Lori brings over twenty years’ experience in selling and marketing enterprise software products related to information management, compliance and governance. Prior to joining the AppWorks team, she spearheaded the marketing efforts for OpenText’s content-related solutions in life sciences that help customers assess, manage and control information to drive value and GxP process efficiencies while ensuring compliance.

Organizations today operate in a hypercompetitive environment, which is further compounded by rising customer demand for dynamic digital experiences. Today’s customers expect to easily find information, utilize self-service for simple activities and resolve more complex needs in one call to customer service. Along with this, the flow of information into an organization is expected to increase significantly by up to 4.2 times, and this includes a large proportion of unstructured and semi-structured information.

However, not only are information volumes growing; the velocity and variety of data is also expanding as organizations increasingly use more devices and machines. As a result, there is a widening disconnect within organizations between their desire for process automation and the information that is needed to drive those processes.

According to an AIIM Industry Watch Report, 82 percent of organizations see the rising volume of information as a significant problem. This means organizations now have tons of information but lack a clear strategy to effectively manage the wealth of information they have, and derive actionable insight from it. This challenge is one that requires organizations to build a holistic strategy that manages both business processes and the information that fuels them as strategic, organizational assets.

Clearly define desired business outcomes

Organizations need to be clear on what they are hoping to accomplish. Business outcomes such as increasing revenues, penetrating new markets, or enabling new sales channels need to be articulated. Clarity on the best way to achieve these outcomes often starts with understanding how customers engage with your organization and what they are trying to achieve.

With this understanding, organizations can plan efficient ways to support the customer journey and identify the capabilities required. These new ways of working are designed from the outside in based on customers’ expectations not internal, organizational factors. 

Assess the opportunities for automation within your organization

A good first step would be to start by assessing targeted processes and the current state of automation within your organization.

For many enterprises, emphasis is placed either on back-end processes or driving customer experiences. While these are both good starting points, to reap the full value and promise of digital transformation, organizations need to emphasize both priorities. A holistic strategy that encompasses both processes and organizational information is required. Being able to digitize and classify information, automate repetitive activities, present information holistically for informed decision making, adhere to privacy and compliance requirements and quickly change and iterate all must be part of the strategy.

Digital transformation is no longer just an IT initiative – it requires business workers and IT to improve, transform, and digitize intelligent and adaptable business processes and deliver

engaging applications designed for the way people get things done. It’s not just about automating new, digital business processes but bearing in mind future processes and iterations that may arise as your organizations continues to grow and respond to changing market dynamics.

Get buy-in from senior leadership

When we think of process automation, the benefit that instantly comes to the top of our minds is delivering engaging digital experiences for customers. This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many far-reaching benefits, including improved data quality, information security and cost savings.

If the customer journey is the map guiding digital transformation, most processes cross organizational departments and groups. Senior leadership must get involved and guide these efforts. As advocates of the business outcomes being targeted, executives and business leaders in your organization should understand that process automation is critical to success. The benefits of automating processes, optimizing employee skill sets, providing excellent customer service and delivering engaging customer experiences are critical to the business, and senior leadership is the key stakeholder.

Employ and integrate the right process automation technologies

As organizations tackle growing volumes of information, it is of utmost importance that process automation initiatives be integrated as well. Organizations have seen success with RPA (Robotic Process Automation) in automating repetitive processes, but there can be a gap in incorporating unstructured and semi-structured information. This necessitates an effective strategy with the right mix of technologies – RPA, Digital Process Automation (DPA), Case Management, information management etc.

With RPA, organizations can reduce the burden of simple and repetitive manual tasks by having software mimic the tasks done by human workers. This eliminates the manual workload for employees, so they can spend their time on more strategic and higher-value projects. However, this approach is most often used with structured information and can be seen as tactical in nature. It doesn’t necessarily take into consideration processes from end-to-end, how to best handle unstructured information, or how to effectively utilize business rules which may require additional technologies to be deployed alongside RPA.

Digital process automation platforms, on the other hand, help connect and integrate enterprise information intelligently, automating how information flows across business applications and presenting it when it is needed. This eliminates disconnected processes or manual steps in process gaps by digitizing processes requiring both structured and unstructured information.

Manage both processes and information as strategic assets

With so many systems and applications being used in organizations, it’s no wonder they are often seen as organizational assets and managed as such. However, digital transformation is typically motivated by opportunities for growth or to combat competitive pressures. To be successful, both the way work is done and ensuring the right information is available to the right person at the right time, are imperative. Focusing on applications and systems can make the critical business process that cross them invisible.

With information volumes, types and velocity increasing, organizations must take a holistic approach to digital transformation. Process automation is critical and so is information management. Losing sight of processes or the information supporting these processes is a risk to differentiation and competitiveness. This requires that the processes underpinning key customer journeys and the information supports those journeys both be managed as strategic assets.   

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