Ditch The Glue In Favor Of A Platform-Centric Approach To Automation

Post written by

Jim Nicol

Jim Nicol is EVP of Products at Kofax, a supplier of Intelligent Automation software to digitally transform end-to-end business operations.

Digital transformation is the key to remaining competitive and accelerating growth in a digital-first world. Yet for many companies, the dream of end-to-end automation of business operations is easier said than done. In a recent Forbes Global Insight survey of business leaders conducted in partnership with my company, only 1 in 4 said they were able to automate a larger business process.

The reason is simple: In an effort to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, many companies jump into automation without considering the bigger picture. They adopt one tool to solve a problem -- and then another one to handle a different set of challenges. The end result is that organizations use multiple tools and technologies to handle different parts of a larger process. Getting these disparate systems to then play nice with each other requires expensive and time-consuming integration projects. This “glue, paper clip and tape” approach doesn’t quite hit the mark for end-to-end automation.

The good news is that organizations don’t have to cobble together systems to work like the digitally enabled business of tomorrow. A more rational approach is to leverage a platform-centric solution that integrates the full spectrum of next-generation automation capabilities. Doing so rapidly accelerates automation initiatives, slashes your total cost of ownership and simplifies maintenance over time.

Optimizing The Business Journey End To End

Of course, multiple technologies will always be needed to handle different parts of the business journey. For example, process mapping and selection are critical to kick off any automation project, but these functions aren’t typically native to robotic process automation (RPA) tools. And automation depends upon digitization. To keep the RPA on track, content needs to be captured, digitized and processed. Meanwhile, at the other end of the journey, executives need insights to evaluate the organization’s success. Yet, many automation tools don’t offer advanced analytics.

That’s why organizations desiring digital transformation can’t fully automate using a single tool. Instead, they need a combination of “smart” capabilities ready to work together. Some of these intelligent technologies include the following:

RPA

Many companies begin their automation initiatives by replacing manual, data-driven activities with robotic process automation. With RPA, software robots automate the interactions a user does and integrates data from websites, applications, enterprise systems and more, freeing humans to work on higher-value tasks. Even more importantly, employees can acquire, enhance and deliver information from virtually any data source without coding.

Cognitive Computing

Organizations transform the way they capture and process documents and electronic data with cognitive computing. Cognitive document automation (CDA) combines multichannel document capture with optical character recognition (OCR) to quickly process documents, images and unstructured data. But the real benefits start when companies augment capture and OCR with machine learning and natural language processing to identify, classify and extract content and data from documents and records. This helps users understand what the document is about, what information it contains and what needs to be done next.

Process Orchestration

Digital transformation is only possible when automation is scaled beyond simple tasks. With process orchestration, businesses can automate well-documented processes that take several hours -- or even weeks -- to complete, such as claims processing, know your customer (KYC) procedures and compliance checks. Process orchestration combines capabilities such as integration capabilities, mobile access, omnichannel document extraction and workflow automation.

Mobility and Engagement

Mobile technology allows companies to engage with customers utilizing their preferred channel or channels of communication and eliminates the need to enter information manually. A single-platform approach to mobility means businesses can leverage advanced analytics to optimize the customer experience and resolve issues faster at every stage of the process.

Analytics

Advanced analytics is the foundation for knowledge workers to make informed decisions. With access to real-time insights, front-line employees are able to hold more engaging conversations with customers and solve thorny problems faster. But perhaps more importantly, a single platform adds value to every role in an organization. You don't need to construct a data warehouse. Employees have access to data customized to their business needs.

Choosing The Best Solution For Your Business

A survey from KPMG and HfS found that companies are investing across a broad variety of these intelligent automation capabilities, but only about 10% of respondents are leveraging an integrated solution approach across the different technologies.

Companies should understand their end-to-end process and automation ambitions from the start. A single, integrated platform solution should then match that end-to-end process and be able to automate data as well as content. A single platform solution will provide configuration options and offer a lower total cost of ownership and faster return on investment than multiple point solutions. However, companies should look out for technology that isn’t provided by the vendor, but by a variety of third-party vendors. Critical technology should be integrated, supplied by and supported by a single vendor to reduce costs and support frustrations.

Ditch The Glue With A Platform Approach

A best-of-breed approach can have some advantages, but the downsides include complexity and costs of integrating each technology. To work like the digitally enabled company of tomorrow, businesses need processes -- not just tasks -- to be seamlessly integrated and automated end to end. A platform-based approach eliminates the need to have humans fill the gaps in processes and saves them time and headaches associated with making multiple disparate tools work together.

A single platform approach may not be the best solution for companies that already have some specialized automation solutions. In these situations, a single solution may cause technical debt. For companies with highly specialized and nondiversified processes, a single platform solution may be more than they need. But, in both cases, a single platform that has great flexibility and an open framework can be an advantage.

Ultimately, companies can achieve their digital transformation objectives the easy way or the hard way. In many cases, companies can dramatically accelerate time to value and ROI by ditching the glue and tape and embracing a platform-based approach.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?
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Digital transformation is the key to remaining competitive and accelerating growth in a digital-first world. Yet for many companies, the dream of end-to-end automation of business operations is easier said than done. In a recent Forbes Global Insight survey of business leaders conducted in partnership with my company, only 1 in 4 said they were able to automate a larger business process.

The reason is simple: In an effort to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, many companies jump into automation without considering the bigger picture. They adopt one tool to solve a problem -- and then another one to handle a different set of challenges. The end result is that organizations use multiple tools and technologies to handle different parts of a larger process. Getting these disparate systems to then play nice with each other requires expensive and time-consuming integration projects. This “glue, paper clip and tape” approach doesn’t quite hit the mark for end-to-end automation.

The good news is that organizations don’t have to cobble together systems to work like the digitally enabled business of tomorrow. A more rational approach is to leverage a platform-centric solution that integrates the full spectrum of next-generation automation capabilities. Doing so rapidly accelerates automation initiatives, slashes your total cost of ownership and simplifies maintenance over time.

Optimizing The Business Journey End To End

Of course, multiple technologies will always be needed to handle different parts of the business journey. For example, process mapping and selection are critical to kick off any automation project, but these functions aren’t typically native to robotic process automation (RPA) tools. And automation depends upon digitization. To keep the RPA on track, content needs to be captured, digitized and processed. Meanwhile, at the other end of the journey, executives need insights to evaluate the organization’s success. Yet, many automation tools don’t offer advanced analytics.

That’s why organizations desiring digital transformation can’t fully automate using a single tool. Instead, they need a combination of “smart” capabilities ready to work together. Some of these intelligent technologies include the following:

RPA

Many companies begin their automation initiatives by replacing manual, data-driven activities with robotic process automation. With RPA, software robots automate the interactions a user does and integrates data from websites, applications, enterprise systems and more, freeing humans to work on higher-value tasks. Even more importantly, employees can acquire, enhance and deliver information from virtually any data source without coding.

Cognitive Computing

Organizations transform the way they capture and process documents and electronic data with cognitive computing. Cognitive document automation (CDA) combines multichannel document capture with optical character recognition (OCR) to quickly process documents, images and unstructured data. But the real benefits start when companies augment capture and OCR with machine learning and natural language processing to identify, classify and extract content and data from documents and records. This helps users understand what the document is about, what information it contains and what needs to be done next.

Process Orchestration

Digital transformation is only possible when automation is scaled beyond simple tasks. With process orchestration, businesses can automate well-documented processes that take several hours -- or even weeks -- to complete, such as claims processing, know your customer (KYC) procedures and compliance checks. Process orchestration combines capabilities such as integration capabilities, mobile access, omnichannel document extraction and workflow automation.

Mobility and Engagement

Mobile technology allows companies to engage with customers utilizing their preferred channel or channels of communication and eliminates the need to enter information manually. A single-platform approach to mobility means businesses can leverage advanced analytics to optimize the customer experience and resolve issues faster at every stage of the process.

Analytics

Advanced analytics is the foundation for knowledge workers to make informed decisions. With access to real-time insights, front-line employees are able to hold more engaging conversations with customers and solve thorny problems faster. But perhaps more importantly, a single platform adds value to every role in an organization. You don't need to construct a data warehouse. Employees have access to data customized to their business needs.

Choosing The Best Solution For Your Business

A survey from KPMG and HfS found that companies are investing across a broad variety of these intelligent automation capabilities, but only about 10% of respondents are leveraging an integrated solution approach across the different technologies.

Companies should understand their end-to-end process and automation ambitions from the start. A single, integrated platform solution should then match that end-to-end process and be able to automate data as well as content. A single platform solution will provide configuration options and offer a lower total cost of ownership and faster return on investment than multiple point solutions. However, companies should look out for technology that isn’t provided by the vendor, but by a variety of third-party vendors. Critical technology should be integrated, supplied by and supported by a single vendor to reduce costs and support frustrations.

Ditch The Glue With A Platform Approach

A best-of-breed approach can have some advantages, but the downsides include complexity and costs of integrating each technology. To work like the digitally enabled company of tomorrow, businesses need processes -- not just tasks -- to be seamlessly integrated and automated end to end. A platform-based approach eliminates the need to have humans fill the gaps in processes and saves them time and headaches associated with making multiple disparate tools work together.

A single platform approach may not be the best solution for companies that already have some specialized automation solutions. In these situations, a single solution may cause technical debt. For companies with highly specialized and nondiversified processes, a single platform solution may be more than they need. But, in both cases, a single platform that has great flexibility and an open framework can be an advantage.

Ultimately, companies can achieve their digital transformation objectives the easy way or the hard way. In many cases, companies can dramatically accelerate time to value and ROI by ditching the glue and tape and embracing a platform-based approach.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

Kofax, a supplier of Intelligent Automation software to digitally transform end-to-end business operations. Read Jim Nicol's full executive profile...">EVP of Products at Kofax, a supplier of Intelligent Automation software to digitally transform end-to-end business operations. Read Jim Nicol's full executive profile...