People are creative. Our innovation stems from our creativity. However, in modern corporations, people have often become a cog in a very big machine. Our data systems that have been implemented to store and track inventory and process invoices often require a great deal of human interaction to support the operations between various systems. People, in effect, have been turned into glue to keep the business processes running across systems.
However, many companies have discovered that implementing a digital workforce using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has opened doors to new levels of efficiency and innovation. Certainly, there are plenty of documented cases of massive improvements in efficiencies for processing data between systems using RPA in ways that previously could only be done through programming and IT automation tools, but that’s only part of the story. The other part of the story isn’t about the technology itself, but about how it can open new doors to innovation through the people in your organization.
Robotic Process Automation, in its most basic configuration, can operate applications like people do by leveraging the screen interfaces for these systems. Building processes that manipulate applications to support the current procedures involved in data processing can support an efficiency level that humans are unable to replicate on their own. But this technology becomes even more powerful as a platform for machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence when it is put into the hands of the business teams that understand the way the business operated.
Empowering the Intrapreneur
Human innovation has developed ground-breaking technologies that have revolutionized industries, but I’m guessing that most of you reading this article probably aren’t engaged in one of these firms that are leading the revolution. But that’s where this gets interesting. Established businesses that are looking to innovate often overlook their most important entrepreneurial force: their employees.
Your employees are a valuable resource, as they understand your business and your customers better than anyone. Unfortunately, those same employees are generally the ones who are beholden to the multiple systems that are part of your diverse and aging infrastructure. It’s not that it was designed to be difficult to work with, but like most organizations, over time the systems that sustain the core of the business become more difficult to support and operate, even as they become more essential to its operation.
New systems are added to support enhanced customer service, integration with trading partners, and compliance with government regulations. These newer systems generally don’t play well with the legacy systems that have been running the business for years (or, if you’re honest, probably decades). So, people end up working to move data between systems just to keep the business running smoothly.
But those same people also understand how things could be if only they could be allowed to make a difference. People who understand the current processes also see how broken many of them are. RPA holds the key to empowering them to innovate like never before, but it takes the support of senior leadership to create a program for these internal entrepreneurs or “Intrapreneurs”. Successful organization’s build centers of excellence (COE) for their automation program which engage both IT and business leaders to challenge the status quo by looking at the business in a whole new way.
Embracing Change to Create Innovation
Building a center of excellence for an automation program requires not only a desire to change, but also strong leadership to support the engagement of the entire organization. The COE touches all parts of the business, including IT, and requires strong change enablement to support the digital transformation efforts of the automation program. People are inherently fearful of what they don’t understand, so creating a clear communications program is important to build trust. Offer people the opportunity to be introduced this new tool by building in training as part of the automation program and they will engage.
Successful automation programs will be embraced by your employees as they see the new robotic workforce as co-workers who are willing to take on new challenges working with systems and data that could never be done without serious IT programming, large budgets, and long lead times. This connected RPA platform becomes the foundation for continued innovation using machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Invention is put into the hands of your most valuable assets, your employees who know your business and have a vested interest in the growth and success of the firm they work for. Let these Intrapreneurs thrive by setting them up for success with an automation program that empowers them to be the force for change that can help your business power the next revolution in your industry.