With a growing number of organizations driving transformation through Intelligent automation, we thought it would be welcome to provide a perspective that was inclusive of a customer viewpoint. We sat down with Brent Kuhls from Raytheon Technologies and explored some of the reasons why we see the rise of interest and discussed considerations needed for a successful journey.
In a search for increased productivity, better customer service and competitive advantage, businesses small and large are rethinking how day to day work can be improved.
There are many options that have gained market penetration including:
For the past years we have seen a growing market adoption of Intelligent Automation (IA). A concept leveraged by solutions like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Chat bots, Machine Learning (ML), Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Low code platforms and a growing number of surrounding solutions that support the same concept of automating business process execution outside the enterprise applications used by the business.
IA promises transformative value to be gained across every industry and each business area. Many use cases demonstrate its potential time and again. Yet few businesses have gone to the extend to deploy IA at any meaningful scale across the organization.
Is IA’s promise more limited than originally thought? Has IA been surpassed by better options?
The answers are as can be expected a lot more nuanced and depend on a number of factors that play a role in an organization’s adoption of IA.
The business objectives of an organization will prioritize where funding and focus will lie for one or more years. Organizations focused on cost savings may naturally find themselves looking at IA while organizations that are growing fast may not look to IA as a first focus. We may find the supporting functions like say Finance looking for assistance to cope with a growing company while other areas have no appetite to consider it at all.
Market & Business events
Any plans can easily be disrupted by unforeseen events. A global pandemic, regulatory changes or an acquisition are just a few scenarios that can delay any plans for IA for months or even longer. Market or Business driven events have a tendency to overtake priority and leave little room for innovation of the business model.
Leadership sets the tone, the priority and most importantly budget. For organizations that have not yet started or are just embarking on IA, a change in leadership can mean a significant delay or a shift altogether in priorities. Even when new leadership is aligned with prioritizing IA it can easily derail any initiatives by months while new marching orders are implemented.
Even when all the business priorities are aligned, funding is approved, leadership secured and disruption remains at bay, there is another barrier to success that needs to be overcome. The organization itself may not be fully ready to take advantage of a scaled automation program. Readiness or Maturity can be looked at from a few dimensions: System maturity as an example may require organizations to prioritize migration or upgrades before adopting automation. Process maturity could lead to a similar delay in IA adoption where an organization may first attempt to move processes to a shared services structure before looking to automate.
The ability for an organization to adopt change remains an equal critical factor for success. Many IA programs therefore advocate for a Center of Excellence (COE) to be implemented. In part because IA is somewhat different from traditional programs but mainly to ensure that a proper governance model is in place, even if an organization does not already have one. Intelligent Automation is often a grass roots initiative with little to no executive funding driven by one line of business at first. In these situations, adoption becomes as much about governance as it is about communication. Internal marketing and evangelization of the organizational ability and applicability to the business becomes the catalyst for adoption.
Bridging the gap
When you consider all the possible challenges that can derail an IA initiative, it’s no longer a surprise to see that many organizations are struggling to commit and execute on an enterprise-wide program for IA.
There are however many ways we can mitigate the risks and increase our chances of success:
Most organizations take a crawl, walk, run approach to IA. Bitten by failed large initiatives in the past and little appetite and budget to engage on large, multi-year programs, organizations are often in favor to small iterative projects they can build on.
While effective and valuable, it creates a lack of executive buy-in of focus and funding that is needed to build momentum. Even when smaller initiatives provide massive returns, the transition to a program still requires the heavy lifting. More importantly, the transition from a small engagement to a large program requires different stakeholders and budgets. The lack of speed in transition from small to meaningful becomes a deterrent in the organization as the perception solidifies that IA is only applicable for smaller challenges.
When it’s not possible to start big, enlisting the right stakeholders and obtaining their sponsorship upfront can make a significant difference in driving the initiative post initial success. Sponsorship is more than approval. It requires enough buy-in to provide support to overcome challenges and to have a stakeholder who will take it to the next level when the value is proven.
Use a Partner
A true partner, not just a delivery partner. Yes it will take time to build internal skill so using a partner to speed up your learning curve is wise. A partner will assist you throughout your journey giving you an expert by your side at every hurdle. More importantly though, a partner is highly motivated to speed up success of the program and this is exactly what you would want to have in your corner.
Q&A Section with Brent Kuhls
Where does Intelligent Automation (IA) sit within Raytheon Technologies Corporation (RTX)?
< Brent > Intelligent Automations Center of Excellence is placed within Global Enterprise Services with many extensions or spokes within our business units.
How is the program organized? (Is it part of Business Process Improvement or separate?)
< Brent > We strive to promote and enable innovation throughout the businesses. The central team has responsibility for maintaining our infrastructure, application level (RPA, BPMS, OCR, Database Services etc) support. That same team also has responsibility for defining and governing development standards, creating new integrations between applications, performing code (development) review and providing on-going production support.
We have many design and development teams that are working with functional partners as part of a budgeted initiative – essentially we embed a design and development POD within a value stream for the duration of a transformation project. We also intake new automation / application opportunities on a case-by-case basis, assessing the business justification and the potentially scalability to the entire organization.
What events caused RTX to have an Intelligent Automation program?
< Brent > Within the last year we have completed a large merger between United Technologies Corporation (UTC) and Raytheon to form Raytheon Technologies Corporation. Both organizations began their Intelligent Automation journey with investments in RPA. UTC invested heavily within Global Financial Services and Raytheon with Operations.
Raytheon dove deeply expanding RPA. UTC pivoted and expanded the breadth of automations to create composite applications integrating RPA, BPMS, Analytics and other Intelligent Automation tools.
Both organizations are now one creating composite applications and consolidating learnings.
Who pays for Automation?
< Brent > Two pathways for funding.
How are stakeholders motivated to participate in IA initiatives?
< Brent > Good question. We like to go where the energy is – ideas are raised or started within functions, we join and support innovation, focus on the process and then align the correct technologies.
As an organization we are extremely focused on continuous improvement and almost all transformation projects now involve a swim lane for automation.
We work very diligently to develop champions within our function and businesses that help identify new automation opportunities.
How does IA overcome the challenges of being pushed aside for other priorities? Or does it?
< Brent > I’m sure you can see me smiling on this question. We have had major initiatives and merger and acquisition activity every year that the formal program has existed.
We have found the means to align with our Global Process Owners to support those initiatives and in many cases help expedite activities that would normally equate to scrambling to find qualified, temporary staffing.
We have found some major wins while aligning and support our internal consumer needs resulting in meeting strategically important initiatives, major cost savings and even a patent submission.
When comparing IA initiatives to alternative options to transformation (from a value return perspective), how does it stack up? Is it consistently better or worse? Does it depend on the situation?
< Brent > Often it depends on the situation, however, that’s an easy answer here Johnny.
Where we generally find that automation makes sense:
What challenges have you seen with setting up and growing the program?
< BRENT > Typical challenges
Authors Brent Kuhls & Johnny Ramondino