Based on their position between IT and effective business strategy, CIOs can identify which processes their organizations need to modernize and automate. When it comes to updating core systems to drive operational efficiency, they also need to ensure there’s a good business case for automating them, says Laurie Shotton, VP and analyst at Gartner. This is not surprising as CIOs typically own IT automation as well as help drive business automation. But it is not always a fact that the two are not working at cross purposes.
“For the past 15 to 20 years, organizations have been trying to modernize core systems in order to drive operational efficiency,” he says. “And very often, the business case for replacing them doesn’t stack up.”
Automation, business and the CIO
Since automation can help improve KPIs and create new channels to help improve the end-user experience, it’s one of the key tools in a CIO’s toolkit to drive the business forward, says Brian Woodring, CIO at Rocket Mortgage. “The biggest challenge is making sure that in automating the business, you’re not just taking a legacy manual, highly bureaucratic process and putting RPA in front of it,” he says. “You might get some short-term wins, but it’s unlikely to deliver lasting value. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that you can’t automate business; you have to do it with business.”
As an example, the pharmaceutical segment’s technology organization at Cardinal Health works closely with business leaders so they can identify current pain points and determine the right processes to automate, focusing on how these tools will improve customer or employee experiences, says CIO Greg. Boggs.
“Our technology organization works closely with business leaders so we can identify current pain points and determine the right processes to automate, focusing on how these tools will improve customer experiences or our employees,” he says. “In general, it has been straightforward to quantify the business impact of automation initiatives, as they typically have clear pre- and post-business metrics. We have matured our practice around automation and built architecture that has enabled us to be agile, innovative and able to move quickly in a dynamic and global healthcare environment.”
The challenge of the CIO’s job at a financial institution, however, is to eliminate waste by redefining the entire business process while satisfying the customer while maintaining compliance, says Woodring.
Additionally, businesses that combine automation with AI will be able to make faster decisions, optimize business processes and drive higher rates of efficiency, says Subramani Elumalai, VP of application management services delivery at Capgemini.
Other CIOs agree that business is the central consideration for automation efforts.
At Northwestern Mutual, for example, the company’s mission—to free Americans from financial anxiety—drives everything it does to inform its business priorities, says Jeff Sippel, CIO and EVP.
From a practical level, the organization is constantly looking to apply automation solutions where they can have a significant impact. The company measures the success of these efforts by business results, not the success of the automation itself, he adds.
Automation as an enabler
Automation and business goals also go hand in hand for Vaibhav Tandon, head of commercial management, Adani Electricity Mumbai Ltd.
Automation acts as an opportunity to identify specific processes and achieve business requirements, he says. Customer focus is also central to the energy company’s business goals, and automation initiatives ensure that it increases the effectiveness of system productivity. “It’s become one of the key levers in the customer experience and plays different roles throughout the lifecycle of that change,” Sippel says.
For the CIO, this requires a broader, long-term perspective, while simultaneously keeping the lights on and innovating to create the best customer experience.
“We’re essentially rebuilding the city as we live in it, so the CIO is constantly weighing both strategic and tactical considerations: what are the right tools and how to bring them together at the right time and place.” he says.
Jamie Smith says his job as CIO at the University of Phoenix is to evangelize the possibilities for applying automation to all university activities. His perspective is that automation augments human tasks so that the university can do more for its students.
The University currently uses a range of automations including RPA to automate repetitive human tasks for efficiency, automated ML-based push to facilitate student progress and attendance and an automated virtual assistant (Phoebe) to extend the support window for adult students who work when they need to. help.
Priorities for CIOs
Automating complex workflows will remain a CIO priority, says Petr Baudis, CTO and chief AI architect at London-based Rossum. The key will be for such projects to go beyond departmental silos. A catalyst for making this happen will be continued improvements in AI-enabled data capture.
Fast and accurate data mining will accelerate transactions and automation capabilities and will be the foundational technology within any business intelligence or data analytics platform, enabling better collaboration and B2B communication, he says.
“The types of automation technology that we see as vital include RPA along with process and task mining,” says Baudis. “We’re seeing a convergence happening between all of these technologies as enterprises try to scale their automation projects.”
Plus, Adani Electricity this year is continuing with advancements in the areas of distribution management, customer experience, metering ecosystem and customer data analytics, says Tandon.
“We implemented SAS’s AI/ML-based energy forecasting solution to improve our forecasting performance,” he says. “This has helped us achieve a forecast accuracy of around 97%, thereby allowing us to optimize energy procurement costs while providing reliable electricity supply to our 2.5 million customers. We will also continue with advances in delivery management, measurement ecosystem and consumer data analytics.”
The energy company’s key automation projects include implementing an advanced distribution management system to create a self-healing grid infrastructure with enhanced visibility and scalability to improve the customer experience. They are also implementing a cloud-based and analytics solution that will provide what Tandon calls a single source of truth and drive self-service analytics and data-driven decision-making to help them operate more efficiently.
“The estimated readings for our customers were 2.2% three years ago, but now we have reduced them to 0.3%,” he says. “The entire mechanism was automated so all readings were downloaded optically without any manual intervention. This initiative not only ensured the accuracy of our system and boosted Return on Equity (RoE), but also improved transparency and reduced customer complaints.”
And in the pharmaceutical segment at Cardinal Health, a key goal is also to increase its efforts in warehouse automation to better serve its customers, Boggs says.
“In IT, we will continue to prioritize infrastructure such as code, continuous integration and deployment, and AI operations,” he says.
The University of Phoenix also has several new automation projects in the works. The institution is currently developing an enterprise platform that will enable increased use of ML and automation across a wide range of student and staff journeys, Smith says.
“This engine will be deeply integrated into our data lake to enable truly individualized student support at the right time, through the best channel,” he adds.
The university also plans to continue to improve student support by continuing to automate increasingly complex tasks in matriculation, transcript processing and student financial aid.
“Recent advances in the ability to consume unstructured documents and natural language processing are enabling a new set of complex tasks to become candidates for automation,” says Smith.
His team is creating platforms and systems by which they can effectively scale and drive automation safely and reliably. After all, he says, there’s nothing less effective than automating a process that shouldn’t exist. Automation combined with AI should significantly help businesses make faster decisions, optimize business processes and drive higher efficiency rates, says Elumalai. “It has the potential to improve business KPIs through auto-discovery, auto-healing solutions and creating new channels to improve the end-user experience,” he says.
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