It’s widely accepted that with the seismic impact of current events, for organisations to survive and then thrive, they must not only tackle evermore complex work problems in a climate of ever evolving change – but do this with increasingly constrained human, financial and technological resources too. These challenges are compounded by the fact that current working methods aren’t delivering anywhere near their potential, and frankly they never really have. This is clearly evidenced by diminishing global productivity.
I believe that a major factor here is the continued inability to get the best out of people and technology, both of which are increasingly unable to fulfil fluid demand surges and aspirations of business operations – at the accelerated pace required to match customer expectations.
Examine almost any organisation and you’ll see these inefficiencies with people working across operating environments of complex, disjointed, difficult to modify legacy systems and manual workflows. They’re effectively acting as human ‘middleware’, by slowly applying business rules, extracting, merging, and formatting data.
People are also performing work that’s ill-suited to their innate abilities. We’re talking about work requiring high levels of concentration and repeatability that’s impossible for humans to perform consistently well, securely, and compliantly, or work where slow performance or errors are harmful and costly to the business. Also, due to limited resources, data insights and time, there are whole swathes of latent opportunities within organisations – those work activities or process that the business would love to action, streamline, or remove – and those that remain unimagined too.
I also believe that no business has considered developing a ‘human intelligence’ strategy which would recognise how to harness people’s optimal value. This was recently evidenced at one of the UK’s largest property company where we identified (for one example) 5 full time equivalent (FTE’s) worth of savings which equated to just over a £110k, but the value of these 5 FTE’s on their sales function would convert to nearly £3 million in additional revenue. Clearly, cost reduction wasn’t the answer to their automation strategy and P&L. Far better is to flip the model where the more people a company has that are working to their potential, the more money they potentially generate.
A new working model that rips up the rule book
The way work is performed across the front-to-back office needs to be radically re-designed, so it’s delivered much faster, smarter, more efficiently and with richer data. It’s about finding the right balance of human intelligence needed – some processes need to be less tech and more human driven, vice versa.
Another example, one competitive advantage that we identified for a debt collection agency was around using natural language programming (NLP) to detect vulnerability in the customers they were communicating with – a powerful insight to support any operation but also a powerful USP. We suggested they invest in analysts to create new training programmes around adapting their behaviour based on this new emotional insights data set. This means more staff delivering empathetic calls and spending more time with people exploring options – rather than a “computer says no” rule based approach. Crucially, we found cost savings to fund these additional resources elsewhere in the business.
Achieving new ways of working may seem like a mission impossible when you have a legacy digital noose around your neck – the good news is advancements in technology means we can now throw a fire blanket over your legacy fires – gone are the days where the requisite for delivering “Amazon World” is to replace your core systems. Tactical? In some cases, yes, but can you afford to wait? Weekly we are working with organisations, large and small, to accelerate their ambitions and unlock commercial relief. We also demonstrate how we can recirculate this commercial return back into phased digital modernisation streams to finally cut that noose.
With that said every organisation can do more, even if they feel that they’re digitally mature.
We also have some businesses that have tried to solve work problems by applying robotic process automation (RPA) technologies, but have applied this powerful capability, tactically and in isolation. This has limited the scope of what they can achieve, so they’ve only generated low value, small scale, results. Early adopters have yet to realise that RPA used as a cog in a larger ecosystem is far more powerful than identifying opportunity where a robot needs to provide an end to end solution.
To generate higher impact, value-based, outcomes, at pace, and on a wider scale, businesses start with your humans, understand, and respect the power of your people and start to define a human intelligence strategy. Whether humans are defined as customers or staff within a process, we need to understand the best human experience first. It is then this strategy which informs digital transformation and where intelligent technology can be subservient humans to support optimisation, improve customer experiences or deliver competitive advantage.
If you don’t have an operating model that addresses the increasing social demand of a modern consumer i.e. self-serve options, multi-channel, personalised experiences, a 24/7 operating model, proactive updates, transparency and instantaneous results, then you’re already on the back foot in meeting a modern customer’s expectations.
I’m talking about employing a uniquely innovative approach that decouples and uses the best of human, AI, RPA, data, and systems intelligence as ingredients. These ingredients form a larger recipe. Each recipe will vary based on process or outcome we’re trying to succeed – we might need a touch more human; a touch more RPA; and a dose of ML insights in certain scenarios but the model will need to flow as optimal as possible and exist as a single, connected capability – to then conceive, conceptualise and deliver ‘enhanced work’ solutions.
We call it the ‘Connected Intelligence’ model and it releases major commercial value in weeks – not years.
A new recipe of optimisation
RPA runs smart software robots to provide a rapid processing function, performing joined up, data-driven, work– and at an unmatched speed, accuracy, and integrity – 24×7. Artificial intelligence, in its true sense, is there too: prioritising work, solving unstructured data issues, mitigating risk, enriching insights, improving decision-making, and informing process and actions to solve a wider range of work problems.
So, what about the humans? Their role is to assist when technology reaches its limit, by using those innate skills that their ‘virtual’ counterparts can’t offer. We’re not only talking about training, managing and interacting with robots, but making critical judgements, applying insights from process automation data to continually improve work, spending more time with customers, serving them faster, enhancing their experiences, problem solving and innovating to drive growth.
So, instead of trying to replace one form of intelligence – normally, the expensive human form – with a lower-cost form, this model connects them. This is where the greatest opportunities lie, using each form of intelligence to its best effect. The key success factor is not just picking one and excluding others, but blending them within a work process or solution, identifying the right form of combined, complimentary intelligence, to use at the right time, for the right reason. We’re talking about being strategic and evaluating ‘value’ based on the outcome.
Enhanced work in action
So, what’s this new way of working actually delivering? As well as swiftly achieving vast time resource and capital savings, organisations are experiencing greater operational agility, performance, efficiencies, and competitive advantage. They can redistribute and upscale human and financial resources to deploy new customer-centric activities that boost stakeholders’ experiences too. Here’s what this actually looks like in practice.
Caerphilly Council has embraced the Connected Intelligence model in the way it works. After Marcus Rashford had raised the profile of free school meals and secured government funding for them to continue during the holidays, Caerphilly Council – like many others – saw a surge in applications. Under their existing process, it typically took five days for an application to be assessed. That might mean five days when a child didn’t have any proper meals. The council saw this as a golden opportunity for service improvement.
We helped put in place an automated system for processing applications, checking eligibility and letting families know the outcome the same day. Ultimately, by automating the free school meals process has enabled the council to re-invest savings back into the business, improve staff morale; increase data input accuracy and improve the speed of the overall application process. The council’s catering services can also re-allocate staff resources from administrative work to other critical roles required to keep this very busy section running efficiently.
In the private sector, for an SME loans company, we deployed a new portal for customers to submit applications. This is enabled using RPA as the integration layer to back office systems. RPA robots receive a digital receipt from the portal and retrieve information from unstructured bank statements, statement of accounts, company history and credit reports. Robots continue to perform KYC and credit checks, while machine learning runs a series of checks to scrutinise the data, such as fraud indicators, and presents a “Red, Amber, Green” insights dashboard to a human for assessment.
This results in staff better understanding the reasons behind certain flags and when liaising with clients, they can accept or reject cases with clear explanations. This also triggers a robot to transfer the final decision and existing data to the company’s core line of business systems. This ‘enhanced’ work process has already generated a 2 hour saving per application, while achieving the benefits of reduced risk, greater operational efficiency, service consistency and accuracy.
Looking forward, we’ll increasingly see more organisations using a ‘Connected Intelligence’ model approach to experience the rewards of collaborative digital innovation. To get this right, requires a clever augmentation of AI, RPA, humans, data – all underpinned by an enterprise software development mindset.
I believe that this multi-faceted approach will be the key success factor in achieving new, previously unimagined, almost unlimited work possibilities. We’ll see new possibilities that not only deliver commercial growth, but also support human growth in our new digital age.
Please reach out if you’d like to find out more about some of our ‘Connected Intelligence’ use cases across private or public sector where we’ve delivered compelling, positive, commercial, and social impact.