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Digital Automation Explained

Brief

What is Digital Automation?

            Digital Automation in the broadest sense can be categorized as the use of technology to expedite processes and procedures in information systems, business practices or computer systems to limit the need of human support and augment human interactions/outputs.

            It often takes shape in programming languages (E.g. Python, C++, Ruby, Java), application programming interfaces (APIs) and user interfaces (UI). In today’s environment, Digital Automation has continued to see growth, due in part to the advent of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence. Below are a few examples of automation:

  • Document/Report generation – Automate the process of generating documents or reports.
  • Help desk response robots – Uses Robotics Process Automation coupled with machine learning or AI powered speech recognition systems.
  • Voice Assistant – Alexa, Google & Siri’s artificial intelligence powered tools.
  • Form Auto-filling – Saves prior inputted data and auto-fill forms.

The Benefits of Digital Automation

            Many benefits can come from a Digital Automation when done right, here are a few areas:

Visual Representaiton

In its basic form, Digital Automation can look like this:

Visual Basic Programming Language.

            In Robotics Process Automation (RPA), it is often characterized by a set of actions that the technology takes to reach the intended results on behalf of a human user, below is a flowchart example built on UIPath, one of the top RPA providers:

Sample of UiPath based automation processes

Built with UiPath.

The end result may look like this: 

Tableau dashboard on sales of an organization in Europe

            But “Isn’t this a report like any other?” and the answer is yes and no. This is a sample size of a Data Analytics and Visualization solution that has been built manually at first, it was then transitioned into a Digital Automation reporting solution.

Determining What Should Be Automated

            Although different Digital Automation solutions may have different parameters and costs associated with it, before starting an automation effort, here are some key characteristics that can help decide whether a process is worth automating or not:

  • Highly Repetitive Tasks – Laborious work that involves continuous effort that leads to higher turnover or far exceeds the cost of automation and maintenance.
  • High Volumes – Activities with large volumes of data, transactions or movements.
  • Reliability – Processes and tasks that are expected to reliably follow a certain structure.
  • Savings – Activities where the qualitative and quantitative savings outweigh the costs.
  • Exception Rates – Cases where the number of variations is limited and/or accounted for in a structured manner.
  • Predictable Outcomes – Expectation that the output is intended to look in a certain way every time the automation solution runs.
  • Clear Rules – Standardized rules that are easier for the automation solution to follow.

Why build a Digital Automation culture?

            As soon as an organization completes their first successful digital automation, it often becomes clear that there are multiple opportunities to leverage it, however, deep rooted aversion to risk due to concerns over failures, investors, customer and regulatory bodies can often decelerate this movement. To overcome that, individuals and organizations need to reassess their risk management strategy to allow Digital Automation to complement their current efforts.

            Entities that can build a digital automation culture, will often see new processes and procedures being built in a way where automation can be implemented more easily and effectively. It will also instill a knowledge, ownership and mindset to management and employees where they are actively searching for ways to optimize the organization. It often leads to a stronger synergy between the operation teams and the automation solution. The understanding and active visualization that automation is there to augment their effort and build new, valuable sets of skills can lead to increased employee satisfaction.

            Currently, the fear that “robots will take my job” is a pressing topic that causes many individuals to antagonize technologies such as robotics automation, however, it is important to introduce a culture of employee development and lifestyle augmentation that is led by such technology. The idea behind this improvement is simple: once a highly repetitive task is automated, employees can now have the opportunity to redirect their efforts to other areas within the business, adding value in different and, possibly, more meaningful, ways. To better understand what the future of work may look like, refer to McKinsey’s research.

            A digital automation culture can often be complemented by agility, analytics and visualization efforts, allowing the individual and organization to be at the forefront of their respective industries, building a strong competitive advantage.

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