Straight Talk, No Chaser: 4 Keys to Jumpstart Your Hyperautomation Journey
Straight Talk, No Chaser: Vuram SVP Arjun Devadas helps us cut through the smoke and mirrors on hyperautomation, courtesy of an interview with Appian.
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There’s no secret to getting a good idea to spread, but it helps if you can get your idea across without hype. This is precisely what automation expert Arjun Devadas does when he evangelizes hyperautomation in terms a non-tech execs in any organization can understand.
For example, says Devadas, insurance companies use hyperautomation to process numerous documents to settle claims. Because of hyperautomation, he says, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tools can read and extract data at super-human speed from documents, chat, and other channels. Which allows claims to be processed faster and more accurately than ever before.
Incidentally, Devadas serves as Senior Vice President, Professional Services and Operations, Americas for Vuram, a hyperautomation services company. Always direct, pragmatic, and perceptive, Devadas reminded us that digital bots should complement human workers, not replace them. He contrasted the inefficiencies of manual processes with the remarkable speed and accuracy of optical character recognition (OCR), AI, and robotic process automation (RPA). And he argued hyperautomation liberates humans from work they'd rather not do.
It sounds ironic, but Devadas believes technology should make humans more human. He urges us to see hyperautomation as a teammate rather than a threat.
The best approach, he says, is to prioritize human engagement, empathy, and innovation and augment the capabilities of human workers with the superhuman speed, accuracy, and efficiency of technologies that will shape the future of business automation.
“…Hyperautomation is a tool kit that you build over time,” says Devadas. “It’s not something that you can just go out and purchase. And it doesn’t happen all at once. But any organization with lots of manual business processes, lots of siloed systems that aren’t connected, and very low visibility into data across the organization should get serious about hyperautomation.”
So, what are some of the warning signs it’s time to get serious about hyperautomation? Devadas gives us four:
- You lack visibility into critical operational data.
- You routinely send multiple emails to different people and then have to wait days to get back all the data you need
- Your employees complain about wasting time on repetitive, low-value, routine tasks
- It’s becoming increasingly harder to manage siloed technology across your organization.
Enough said. Let’s roll the tape on our conversation with hyperautomation expert Arjun Devadas, Senior Vice President, Professional Services and Operations for Vuram in the Americas:
Appian: So, the topic we want to talk about today is hyperautomation. But before we do that, let’s talk about your role at Vuram and the fact that Vuram has been in the business of helping large organizations implement automation strategies for over a decade now. Based on your experience, how have things changed as it relates to business automation, and how has the hyperautomation trend affected your digital transformation journey at Vuram?
Devadas: So, Vuram started its digital transformation journey before hyperautomation became a thing. Back then, automation was just automation. And Vuram was a happy business process management (BPM) shop which was pretty much all we did.
When I joined Vuram back in 2011, we were still evolving from a pure BPM shop to exploring other complementary technologies that we could put around BPM.
Our thought process was very much in line with Appian’s approach to low-code automation.
"So, we started building on our Hyperautomation foundation with technologies such as RPA. Later, we added AI and machine learning (ML) which I think aligns with the evolution of hyperautomation. So, I would say ours was not a planned journey to hyperautomation. It was an evolution of BPM which also focuses on automation."
And we wanted to explore ways to make BPM even smarter. In the past, we had to depend on many different tools to do that. Today, we have a foundational set of tools including BPM, RPA, AI, and ML with a strong focus on automation. So as a company, I would say our journey from 2011 to 2021 evolved incrementally from BPM to hyperautomation.
Appian: So, your journey to hyperautomation is just another phase in the evolution of BPM.
Devadas: I would say it's an evolution from simple automation to a complementary set of tools that makes automation smarter.
Appian: Okay. So, how do you explain this evolution to C-level clients who may not be tech-savvy? How do you talk about the business value of hyperautomation and why it matters?
Devadas: Some of the questions I like to start out with is: How many hours do people in your organization waste per day sending emails? How heavily do people in your organization use spreadsheets, and how many of them are burdened with doing data entry and other kinds of repetitive tasks.
Appian: So, you basically talk about use-cases and not technology.
Devadas: Yes, we talk about things like improving interactions between teams. We talk about reducing the volume of email communication between teams. We talk about giving C-level execs better visibility into business processes. And we talk about these things in simple terms that are easy to understand.
Appian: Picking up on what you just said about these day-to-day use-cases for hyperautomation. I think one of the challenges we have in talking about hyperautomation to business leaders is breaking down how it impacts the strategies and goals of an organization. So, how do you talk about the strategic value of hyperautomation and why it matters?
Devadas: A couple of things. Let’s look at it from a low-code perspective. IT can become a bottleneck for tech adoption in any organization.
"The organization needs a critical business application, and they need it fast. But they can’t get it because of an IT backlog. So how do you reduce an organization’s dependency on IT and only get IT involved for very complex things like system integrations?"
Also, how do you improve employee productivity? If your people do a lot of repetitive tasks like logging into a system, searching for information then typing it into another system, none of these activities call for human empathy. If that’s the case, why shouldn’t they be automated? This is one of the benefits of hyperautomation. It liberates humans to focus on value-added work.
Appian: So, you see hyperautomation as more of a teammate than an enemy of human labor?
Devadas: Yes, so automation enables humans to do a job better. It can also lighten our workload. So, it’s better to see bots as teammates rather than replacements for human labor. The other benefit of hyperautomation is that it makes your organization more agile. Let's say you have something to automate but it’s not an entire workflow. With traditional software development, you may need an end-to-end workflow, right. But hyperautomation allows you to break down a workflow into smaller components and build on top of them.
Appian: So, hyperautomation is about managing people and bots.
Devadas: Absolutely. So, one of the challenges businesses face (with hyperautomation) is change management. As automation starts within an organization people can start freaking out a bit. Other companies don't want to prioritize automation because they think their people are okay without it. Change management has always been a challenge. Businesses have to do a better job of helping employees understand that bots are not replacing them.
"Automation is about helping them work more efficiently, smarter, and liberating them to use human empathy wherever it’s needed. It's hard for bots to replace that."
Appian: So, you mentioned low-code development. How does low-code fit into the hyperautomation picture? What’s the connection?
Devadas: There was always a connection between low-code and hyperautomation. They’re different but certainly connected. Low-code is a way to build applications quickly. You don't have to code everything from scratch. I love the comparison of low-code to Lego blocks.
With the traditional way of coding applications, you write code from scratch. But with low-code, you can code like a developer or use artifacts like Lego blocks to build applications faster.
Appian: Can you give an example, a use-case that shows what you’re talking about?
Devadas: Remember when the government rolled out the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help businesses get through the COVID crisis? Well, we literally had like three and a half to four weeks to react. We were planning to build a loan origination platform to help a client take advantage of the program.
"So, since we had a low-code platform with hyperautomation tools like intelligent document processing (IDP) and OCR built-in, within two and a half weeks we were able to build a PPP solution, get it production-ready and bring it to market."
Without a low-code platform, we couldn’t have built the solution and got it into production that fast. It would have taken months.
Appian: Based on your experience, which use-cases do you think the best capture the business value of using low-code on your hyperautomation strategy? That's the first part of the question. Secondly, based on your experience, do you think companies are getting more aggressive about automating business processes? Or are clients still cautious about scaling automation?
Devadas: To answer your first question, we recently built a platform for invoice processing. This was a strong use case for automation because it involved BPM and IDP. It also involved a bit of AI and ML. So, this wasn’t just a workflow tool. It was a hyperautomation solution. The customer was an investment bank, a big institution handling billions of dollars in transactions and doing much of it manually.
So, a traditional BPM platform wouldn’t work because there were no set templates for the transactions. But with a low-code automation platform, we were able to build a solution that enabled the customer to raise their page automation rate to 85 percent and significantly reduce the need for slower, less efficient manual processes.
Appian: And what was the business impact of that?
Devadas: Within a month, the customer was able to process invoices 55 percent faster than before. Coming back to your second question about why companies are cautious about scaling automation. I think they have a hard time figuring out the best tool for the job.
"The challenge for many companies is selecting the right tools for their hyperautomation journey. There are lots of tools out there. But choosing the right one is essential."
Appian: What about choosing the right use case?
Devadas: Every use case may not be the right one for scaling. So, you want to select a use case with the best potential for a solid ROI. So, picking the right use case is critical. Next, identify organizational champions to lead change management in your organization. Change management is a critical success factor in the hyperautomation journey as well.
Another challenge to consider is that too many companies fail to adopt an Agile approach to hyperautomation. Think about scaling your automation tool kit like building a Lego project. That way, you don’t have to wait until it’s complete to find out whether you’re on the right path. In working with customers, we advise them to start small and then build on top of that. This makes change a lot easier to evangelize because you're breaking it down and making it more consumable.
So, I think these are the main things to focus on: Select the right use-case, identify internal change champions, and adopt an Agile approach to hyperautomation.
Appian: So, if you’re a senior exec in a large organization, how do you know it’s time to start on your hyperautomation journey? What are some of the signs to look for?
Devadas: As I said earlier, hyperautomation is a tool kit that you build over time. It’s not something that you can just go out and purchase. And it doesn’t happen all at once.
"But any organization with lots of manual business processes, lots of siloed systems that aren’t connected, and very low visibility into data across the organization needs to get serious about hyperautomation."
Let's say that I'm a C-level executive who needs visibility into critical operational data. If you have to send five emails to five different people and wait for a week to get back all the data you need, you need a hyperautomation tool.
If your employees are complaining that they're doing the same routine over and over again every day, it's a sign you need a bot there, so your employees can do something that adds more value. And, certainly, if you’re having a hard time managing disconnected technology across your organization, it’s time to adopt a centralized tool. So those are some of the basic signs it’s time to start your hyperautomation journey.
Appian: One last question before we wrap. What would you say are the two or three biggest misconceptions people have about Hyperautomation? What myths would you like to debunk?
Devadas: I would say for C-level execs, don’t think of hyperautomation as a single go-to solution that will solve all your problems. That’s a misconception. Hyperautomation is a tool set. It’s like taking a Lego approach to automation. And low-code allows you to scale automation much faster and much quicker than you can with a Java or .Net platform.
"There’s also a misconception that you can do hyperautomation without IT involvement. But that’s not true. You still need IT to be involved."
You still need a COE (center of excellence) setup. You still need to have a governance model to make sure that you're doing the right things. You want to make sure that you have a governance model, and make sure you're selecting the right use-case for a hyperautomation solution.
Published at DZone with permission of Roland Alston, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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