Like it has been with technology-enabled business transformation programs, there has been a mix of success reported from intelligent automation programs across the globe. Not all enterprises have seen similar success with their intelligent automation programs. On the spectrum of success, there are many enterprises on the far right with successful intelligent automation programs that are consistently transforming their business.
However, there are many more enterprises on the far left with no great success to report. And then there is the big middle of the spectrum with enterprises that report modest success. Of course, as you are rightly thinking, it is also important to define what success refers to in this context. Success here can be defined as the state where an organization has established consistent repeatable transformative business value from intelligent automation programs.
There can be several reasons that can be attributed to these various shades of success. A lot of this wisdom is covered in the Robotic Operating Model (ROM) framework that has continued to evolve over the years. When embraced with the right approach, these can help enterprises be on the right path to success. Beyond these though, it does come down to the north star for an enterprise’s automation program. No enterprise deploys a shiny technology at scale unless it helps them further their business objectives. Hence it comes down to a business case that should be justified for an intelligent automation initiative.
In my experience of working with several leaders of automation Center of Excellences (CoE), I have seen a trend where most leaders initially focus to establish the value of intelligent automation and then move to become cost-neutral in terms of their operating cost and benefits back to business. This is very common when the automation CoE is under IT. Once this state of cost-neutral is achieved, many organizations seem to slide into a zone where they focus on ensuring this state continues. They convince themselves that not only are they busy, but they are also delivering value to the business and are cost neutral. This becomes a state of success for them. This is the trap of what I call “transactional success”.
While this is a good state to shoot for initially, there must be an inflection point where the focus shifts to driving substantially transformative value to the business beyond the initial transactional ones. The initial transactional success is not the end but should be a means to build towards the greater transformational success. In this transformational state, organizations should aim to get a significant part of all the work in the organization to be done by a digital workforce. This is the automation-first mindset that then helps deliver success that is greatly differentiated and what I would call “transformative success”.
When the inflection point is missed, enterprises continue to bask in the glory of their transactional success and miss the opportunity to make their intelligent automation program a game-changer for their organization. This lands them in the state of strategic dissonance where their intent and actions are not aligned. The heads of CoE wonder why demand for their intelligent automation services are in decline from the business units that saw early success. In larger corporations, the CoE reasons it to be a challenge of working with a particular business unit and they move to engage with other business units and repeat the same drill over a couple of years. They continue to see transactional success and continue to miss the opportunity to change gears with an inflection point towards greater success with transformative success.
Heads of CoE and business leaders need to be cautious of this trap and then recalibrate their north star as the CoE moves through the various stages of maturity. This is one valuable example where success can come in the way of greater long-term success!