Innovation

How to automate your business: 3 critical steps

Automation can cut costs and improve the customer experience, but only if CIOs make the right investments, according to Forrester Research.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • More than half of firms are currently undergoing digital transformation to better serve customers. — Forrester, 2018
  • CIOs should use automation to digitize and optimize operations, to create and act upon advanced insights, and to drive business technology innovation. — Forrester, 2018

Automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and physical robots offer CIOs the opportunity to help their organization rethink its business model and improve the customer experience. These tools have the potential to both cut costs and reshape the customer experience, according to a Monday report from Forrester.

However, automation efforts can only succeed if CIOs make the right investments, the report noted. With more than half of all firms undergoing digital transformation efforts, CIOs must act as strategic partners for the rest of the C-suite in determining where automation fits in.

Here are the three business goals that investments in automation must help drive, according to the report.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

1. Digitize and optimize operations

Automation has the potential to dramatically reshape operations, including those in technology, finance, and manufacturing, the report noted.

"Business processes are essentially algorithms, and the more formalized the process, the easier it will be to hand that workflow off to machines," according to the report. "CIOs must move many of these business processes from manual and/or analog to digital and automated."

Examples of this include automating the maintenance and operation of the technology organization, systems, and equipment, to drive productivity with fewer costs. Companies may also invest in predictive maintenance, to help customers preempt equipment failure. They can also use automation to enable a DevOps workflow, and improve cybersecurity by using machine learning to detect anomalies and predict future threats.

SEE: Research: Companies lack skills to implement and support AI and machine learning (Tech Pro Research)

2. Create and act upon advanced insights

Businesses driven by insights have a major competitive advantage in the marketplace, according to the report. "These customer-obsessed firms systematically harness insights across their organization and implement them to create competitive advantage using software," the report said. "CIOs can create differentiation, improve customer relevance, and increase top-line revenue by pursuing excellence in insights."

One example of this would be solving problems with big data. AI is critical for drawing actionable insights out of large data sets, the report noted, and will increasingly power the full automation sense-and-adapt phases of technology cycle to help businesses gain more valuable information.

SEE: AWS RoboMaker: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Automation is also increasingly helping CIOs bring the power of digital to physical problems, the report said. For example, companies are already using automated vision systems that better detect faults in production. These technologies can also augment the performance of human employees as they serve customers, by providing insights and answers to employees when they need them.

3. Drive business technology innovation

According to the report, "CIOs must drive business technology — the technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers — to help their customer-obsessed organizations succeed in the marketplace." Automation technologies are playing an increasingly important role in making business technology more innovative, the report said.

In the best cases, automation can help companies create brand new business models, according to the report—for example, Robin Technologies deploys robotic lawnmowers that allow landscapers to focus on higher-margin tasks like design and irrigation systems.

Automation can also better match supply with demand, such as matching job candidates to potential employers, as Fiverr does for the gig economy. In other cases, automation can enable dynamic pricing to better target customers at different stages of their work with your company, the report said.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Ekkasit919

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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