Automate for Brilliant Returns: A ‘must-do’ Strategy But Scary to start

Published on in Robotic Process Automation by Cristian Ignat

Several customers that have created and executed an Automation Strategy are already reporting 8x return on investments in addition to increases in revenue income and customer experience. It points to a set of results which makes it clear: intelligent automation is essential in every business and will be part of every business infrastructure within the next 3 – 5 years.

Productivity, Costs, Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Consistency, Accuracy and Compliance. These are the markers of running any business.  Over decades the relative importance of these pillars have moved up and down, changing on the back of economic or social conditions and market forces.

Technology vendors have forever built their propositions around business ‘values’, and the promise of better solution outcome. Little is worth buying unless, whatever it is, can leverage one or more of these markers.

Intelligent Automation is the established phrase when referring to the use of automation technologies to improve our office, administration, and customer services.  It is unique because it impacts ALL of the markers listed above in much the same way the internet did  the same. It is why we call these technologies ‘disruptors’.  And its proof is abundant.

In the words of McKinsey and Gartner, ‘Intelligent Automation’ has become an established and “must-have strategy” for all businesses now and into the future.   Is this what they mean by the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Personally, I don’t like the use of the word Revolution. It assumes upheaval, change beyond recognition, an uncertain time to come. It tends to instil fear at a time when business needs to be brave in the face of low productivity, increased employee unrest and demands to be a lower cost, higher satisfaction provider.  But put in the context of the evolution of the internet, which has changed the way we transact with and serve our customers, it is certainly a game changer. Except this time, change in the way we work and the way we develop our skills for the future.

Let’s take some examples.


A digitally native business born in the internet era and a business that changed forever the way we book a taxi ride.  Despite being new, with access to all the best technology of this era, they quickly had a need for automation. Why? Uber’s business grew quickly, its use of SAAS applications grew too as they sought to find solutions that met the very niche requirements of their fast growing business. Each new App means another database. And in order to report upon and plan the future of Uber, these multiple sources needed to be brought together digitally in preference to employing people to do a pretty mind-numbing task of gathering data and collating in spreadsheets. Upshot, they achieved $10m in annual savings and achieved a return on Investment of 350% in the first year of implementing intelligent automation. Read more here.


Again, digitally native and born into and 100% dependent upon digital technology. Yet the rapid growth of Spotify created weaknesses and risk within its financial and administration processes. Automation projects stretched from Treasury to general Ledger and across all financial processes and meant they saved 45,500+ hours of manual executed business through the execution of a well-managed and a visionary Centre of Excellence for automation. Read more here.

AirFranceKLM Group

Well established businesses with a long legacy of difficult to use and out-dated technology are immediate targets for automation. The airline group focused on  higher labour intensity and low human value work by setting about the automation of finance, financial controlling and maintenance business processes.  With teams operating in Budapest, Paris and Amsterdam, they ‘competed’ to achieve the highest productivity increases and savings. Budapest recorded 610% RoI on their projects, Paris and Amsterdam centres achieved 710% RoI. And it wasn’t just about time and money savings. Increases in accuracy meant re-work dropped dramatically and customer services experienced increased value figures as customers were being served faster. Read more here.

Carglass / Autoglass

For many businesses, ensuring employees remain loyal employees is crucial. On-boarding and training can be costly in business that requires unique and expert skills. Engineers were becoming bogged down in daily paperwork and administration processes. The business was being bound up by the labour it needed to handle things such as Invoices and Suppliers.

Carglass took this seriously and focused on freeing up employees from repetitive and boring tasks and enable them to contribute more of their own skills to the business. Over 200 business processes were automated, and employee reflected 99% positive experience as an outcome. A great example of how to build and maintain a valuable workforce. Read more here.

A host of other businesses such as Atlassian, Salesforce, Slack and more have experienced 100,000’s of hours saved, huge increases measured at 98% and more in the speed to complete financial and administration and 75% increase in the time to market measures.

The pandemic experience includes a host of examples where businesses used intelligent automation solutions to grow support for a ‘work from home’ necessity. We know of business who went from supporting 3,000 to 19,800 home workers in just 3 weeks by leveraging intelligent automation solutions.

IAG noticed that the BA Holidays booking processes led to significant manual error and the need for rework was costing holiday destination providers, airlines, and others. Enter automation and its implementation became so successful that Disneyland Orlando switched their preferred airline to British Airways. Bookings coming through BA became error free with increased efficiency and accuracy. The result was happier customers and an additional estimated £5m revenue generated by BA which would previously have gone to a competing airline.

The facts are these:

The Technology is proven and Tested

  • The technology, from a broad choice of vendors, is well proven and tested with thousands of customers. Newcomers should have no fear of being at the leading edge or risking their investments.

Business needs this for Productivity and Efficiency

  • Businesses continue to consume SAAS Apps. This creates an increasing need to ensure information generated in one application becomes relevant to the data in another application. Should we hire more people to do this boring work? Of course not. Continued take up of new SAAS solutions is a 100% guarantee that intelligent automation will remain an integral part of Business and IT infrastructure for the foreseeable future.

We are creating Robotic jobs

  • In most businesses, we have employed numerous people to enter data, transfer data and manipulate data for the purpose of ordering, invoicing, reconciling, onboarding and measuring. These are all tasks in which we are asking intelligent and often University qualified humans to complete. These are actually robotic processes. This has to stop if we are to upskill our workforces and create higher value jobs.

We must upskill for better lives and living

  • No matter what industry, no matter which country, no matter digitally native or legacy bound, every business using computer applications in their daily routines MUST implement automation to create a more skilled workforce for the future. It is essential that business reduces the bad habit of creating further low-pay, data-entry / data-transfer, screen and keyboard centric tasks.

Savings and  Productivity increases are fast and significant

  • Businesses that have worked with Intelligent Automation have, over the past 10 years, achieved savings of up to 800% within one year by quickly identifying the routines of their business which can be automated. Every business can achieve substantial savings and productivity increases.

Huge Corporations have Invested billions and Tested and Proven this thousands of time over

  • World leading businesses have invested millions (up to $3billion in one customer instance alone) to automate their processes, upskill their employees and re-model their businesses for a world that needs higher skilled service delivery, greater productivity, lower costs and vastly improved customer service.

Customer Service improvements are easily achieved

  • Contact Centres and every business that depends on their customer service to win more customers and retain those they have are seeking all the time to reduce call waiting times and achieve higher levels of service. This is happening in all telecommunications providers worldwide because they know we hate waiting on them to answer our calls.

Scary to Start

But let me ask. Is your business taking the action it needs to take? Where are you in planning to improve the working lives of millions of employees, increasing your business productivity and creating scope for growth?

Why are some businesses hesitating? What is preventing every business, large and small from having a defined automation strategy?

If you are a Builder in the construction industry, you have already invested in digging and lifting machinery so that you move move and lift earth and stone faster, in order to build faster and reduce the volume of employees using picks, shovels and spades

If you are an Accountant you have invested in skilled people, applications and excel in order to maximise the productivity you can generate and thus more fees and profitability. Yet you will find you have thousands of employees manually intervening in processes to get data from one application to another.

If you are a Baker with ambition, you have invested in machinery which can make more dough, mix more ingredients and create consistent high-quality products at a better price margin.

So why then are some businesses taking their time to implement Intelligent Automation? Its just the same principle – with digital intelligence rather than machine muscle.

Out of the Comfort Zone

For the majority of businesses, implementing intelligent automation solutions introduces new challenges not previously faced.

  • Do we fully understand the processes within our businesses? If we are to automate them we must surely have a clear sight of what they are, isn’t that correct?
  • Not exactly. It is true to say that software applications have taken over much of the heavy lifting of data processing and that humans are employed to answer the phone and principally to type data in and transfer data across applications to fulfil the business need.  It’s pretty terrible work to be asking our employees of the 21st Century to do.
  • But even as these may be well established routines, Process and Task Mining tools can very quickly provide you with the blue print of your business and immediately identify the processes, map them accurately and set you up for automation. Once you start the Discovery Phase of your automation plan, things become far clearer.
  • Do we know how to engage our employees so that they are comfortable with Automation and not spooked by the false assumption that jobs will be lost
  • For sure, few of us want to create a movement which ultimately leads to the loss of someone’s job. And that is why the most successful automation implementations include all employees from the start.
  • Most employees in a busy business environment can offer insights and intelligence on how the job could be done better and faster. Most employees can describe in detail how if one or two of the office processes were changed, they would have more time for customers
  • Driving an automation strategy means engaging everyone, especially those whose work will be impacted. But managed correctly, we have witnessed that these employees often add the most valuable insight into how to be better.  Think of using an Automation Hub tool, where ideas can be gathered, analysed, actioned and measured
  • Finally, make sure that your strategy includes upskilling for employees. After all, if someone in Finance no longer has to read and re-type Invoices for example, they will probably be very adept at helping understand where they could add more value to the business.
  • Projects involving IT have been difficult to manage and oversea in the past – there is a fear of getting into another technical engagement and long drawn-out exercise
  • Applying Intelligent Automation to your business is, first up, a business decision with business benefits. It must be led by those tasked to make the business run at optimal cost and speed. Rely on IT to ensure the necessary resources are available. IT brings important hands-on experience in setting up and managing technical environments however all the benefits of your Automation strategy will be realised in business operations. IT is a tool just as a spanner is important when building a car.


Do your Discovery

The facts are that once you can get an oversight of how business flows across your various internal departments, which system depends on which other, where people are intervening and solving challenges today. Identify all those points across your business where a human intervenes and adds value and/or just transfers data and knowledge. The rest becomes clearer.

Identify and expect to Measure what you intend to achieve

Work with your teams to find the best ideas, incentivise improvement programs and have a clear vision of the Before and After scenario.

Choose a Partner to work with

It helps considerably if you can find a solution provider who listens to you, understands the entire automation landscape and can work with you for the Outcomes your business expects.  Make sure they are experienced in all disciplines and can you to map the business as well as provide the automation technicalities

Take short sharp steps to begin.

Help everyone understand and buy into your goals. Do some obvious task automations to begin, ensure everyone witnesses the benefits and plan your second and subsequent stages into more complex and more rewarding automations.

Not so many years ago it was not uncommon for a business to go through a lengthy procurement exercise to choose an ERP solution or CRM solution or other major enterprise-wide core solution.  The culmination of perhaps a years evaluation, workshop, pilot and trial ends with a purchase of millions of dollars of software and the prospect of a project of implementation which could take 1, 2 or even 3 years. Finance signs the check, a solution provider enters the business and for a year or more, hundreds of executives hope the outcome is what they expect. The money is spent, the requirements have been captured and now the implementation fires into full speed.

Sadly the first user acceptance tests start and users are ‘challenged’ to understand what has happened. Changes are identified, misunderstandings are clarified, changes are made and the process continues. We’ve all been there.

Intelligent Automation introduces new methods and new outcomes. It doesn’t demand you change your applications or your operation (though it may help you identify how things could be better) but helps unlock all the potential of skilled and intelligent employees. By getting them way from robotic desk bound jobs, we can free up workforces to be more creative, care for our customers, focus on the things that help you grow and create a better working environment for your people. Did I mention ‘churn’? Creating a better work environment, allowing people to express themselves and carry out more fulfilling work is a huge contributor to keeping your staff with you and helping you grow a more profitable business.