Automation is reshaping jobs and altering the operations that underpin customer experience
To stay ahead, CIOs who are integrating leading-edge technologies into their companies’ operations and business models must turn their attention to automation technologies, including intelligent machines, robotic process automation (RPA) bots, artificial intelligence, and physical robotics.
While automation encompasses a diverse set of technologies that run the gamut from sensing (gathering and evaluating data to determine when and why to act) to adapting (determining how to act, then sequencing and executing tasks), true automation requires both types of activities.
Automation continues to gain prominence as it transforms a wider array of business processes than ever before. It’s reshaping jobs; it’s altering the operations that underpin customer experience; it’s helping us to design, produce, distribute, and support products and services far more effectively; and it’s directly improving customer experiences, allowing companies to employ solutions like personalisation — at scale — for the first time.
CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, and other leaders driving technology innovation should keep in mind the wide-ranging impact automation technologies will have on their businesses. For example, these technologies will impact:
AI-enhanced RPA. AI is only one dimension of automation, which also includes many sub-AI-level algorithms and tools. But increasingly, AI suffuses and boosts many different automation technologies — or will do so soon. For example, while RPA is creating a lot of operational value today, its future lies in cognitive-AI enhancement, a technology convergence that will solve many more business problems and will do so in a more sophisticated fashion.
Software-defined infrastructure. Automation starts deep inside a company’s infrastructure; in fact, the modern CIO’s infrastructure is now largely based on software. Infrastructure-as-code, including containers, has become the new foundation of modern enterprise infrastructures.
Marketing automation. Automation isn’t just a phenomenon of infrastructure or backend processes. Marketing automation is reshaping the very basis of how firms communicate with customers and prospects. For example, AI vendor Persado’s marketing technology leverages big data and AI to determine whether specific words and phrases will resonate with prospective customers, conducting large-scale, multifaceted A/B tests to inform these decisions.
Computer vision. Automation will increasingly cross the physical-digital divide. One battery manufacturer traditionally used human inspectors to determine whether batteries passed quality assurance tests. The company started with a 2D solution, but later migrated to a fully automated solution using 3D cameras and sophisticated software. Doing so drove new levels of success — a nearly 100 per cent fault detection and elimination of the 2D solution’s 8 per cent to 10 per cent false rejection rate.
Physical robotics. And physical robots are finally becoming genuine drivers of business value outside of the automotive industry.. Retail and warehouse robotics — which Amazon brought to prominence with its acquisition of Kiva Systems in 2012 — is reshaping how firms deliver products through retail and e-commerce. Companies like Fetch Robotics and Geek+ are driving a new wave of business process reengineering, helping Amazon’s competitors reshape warehousing and logistics.
When choosing to implement an automation technology, CIOs and their teams should consider the effects that it may have on various processes.
Automation technologies involve three key dimensions, which are captured in Forrester’s framework in the figure below:
To capitalise on the automation revolution, CIOs must make critical investments. By raising the importance of automation as a discipline within the organisation, CIOs can turn automation into a strategic competency — and a source of business model differentiation.
J.P. Gownder is vice president and principal analyst at Forrester.
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