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Automation is the fourth irreversible trend after globalization, digitization and mobility. According to a report by McKinsey, around 88% of finance and insurance executives, and 76% of IT executives reported an increased implementation of automation since the pandemic. This has increased the need for cooperation between IT and business functions to assess the efficacy of existing processes and incorporate systems that will drive sustainable, scalable changes into the process framework.

Understanding RPA and IA: While robotic process automation (RPA) replaces repetitive manual tasks with efficient automated workflows using bots, intelligent automation (IA) adds cognitive technologies to ensure enterprise-wide business process automation. This helps employees focus on high-value work, while also lowering costs, improving efficiency and managing dynamic customer needs.

IA is seen as the main driver for digital transformation since IA processes unstructured data, handles exceptions and learns continuously, and is thus able to automate a greater amount of data with better efficiency. Efficient implementation of IA develops end-to-end business processes that are flexible, resilient and can forecast changes.

Over the past decade, automation has increased across sectors, especially in the banking and insurance, telecom, government and defence sectors. The healthcare sector has also displayed increased adoption of automation particularly due to the pandemic.

Challenges and overcoming them: Digital transformation plans must be determined by specific requirements of a firm’s strategy, which in turn, must be driven by customer experience.

Selecting the right adoption approach: In a bottoms-up approach, automation is usually seen as a tactical back-office necessity, restricting its value and benefits to a few departments. On the other hand, a top-down approach for creating a “fully automated enterprise" is seen as a strategic business enabler by many companies that want to retain their competitive advantage. RPA is suited for rule-based, consistent and data-driven tasks. IA utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to work with unstructured, non-standardized and dynamic data. It is best to utilize task mining and process mining capabilities of an automation platform to determine the best way for enterprise automation.

Employee involvement: When organizations begin their automation journey, they set up their centre of excellence (CoE). When results are noticed, companies also provide “a robot for every person" and employees automate their day-to-day tasks. Soon, departments see the value, and more employees begin using bots using the CoE or through a low-code or no-code “citizen developer" approach. The automation journey begins to function like a flywheel, which is scalable, where continued use of automation generates ideas that expand automation quickly for enterprises. If all employees use automation to save an hour of work per day, it will result in greater return on investment.

As per a recent survey, 75% of 1,500 global senior and C-level executives observed business functions competing against each other instead of cooperating. Business leaders must also deploy multiple integrated automation solutions to benefit the overall business. When an organization uses a hybrid approach to determine what to automate, a feedback loop is created that amplifies use cases and drives adoption.

Using low-code and citizen developer concepts: Low-code platforms employ visual, drag-and-drop techniques instead of traditional lines of programming, and offer authorizations and access controls by default. Any citizen developer can utilize low-code platforms. However, it might lead to difficulties in enforcing standards and could also cause security issues. Thus, it is imperative to have a mechanism that can regulate such deployments and ensure alignment with the organizational strategy.

As we extend our automation journey, it is imperative to consider multiple approaches in the journey and scale your transformation to benefit the larger organization.

Anil Bhasin is managing director and vice-president, India, and South Asia, UiPath.

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