Sometimes, I wonder if merely thinking about automation turns business decision makers into robots.
Why else do they end up with such a binary, limited view of the potential benefits?
Time after time, the value of an automation project seems to be directly related to how many humans it eliminates. If we automate these six processes, we can save 10 full-time equivalent members of staff.
And if there’s not enough of a possible headcount reduction, then there’s no point in investing in automation.
But so often, there’s much more to be gained if only you look at the project differently. Maybe it can improve service, increase accuracy, or even change lives.
That was the outcome that Caerphilly Council stood to gain from a recent project we helped them with.
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.
We helped Caerphilly Council put in place an automated system for processing applications, checking eligibility, and letting families know the outcome the same day.
There was no reduction in FTE headcount through this. In fact, the increased demand for free meals meant that, if anything, the catering team had to expand. But Caerphilly Council had worked with us for a while and knew that the benefits of automation didn’t lie in getting rid of humans, but instead in supporting them to do their job more effectively.
This is what I call “Connected Intelligence” in action – where the intelligence that resides in systems and data at rest or computed artificially, is combined with human capability and intelligence to deliver positive effect.
Connected Intelligence – A Human informed and Human Assisted operating model
Each element is used to its strengths.
The automated robotic solution provides a rapid, accurate processing function round the clock, performing the necessary system to system checks in line with rules set out in data.
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.
The humans? They’re there to assist when technology reaches its limit. But most of their role is focused on the skills their ‘virtual’ counterparts can’t offer: preparing the meal packs and distributing them, delivering emotional intelligence whilst influencing, intercepting, personalising and improving automated decision and outcomes where appropriate i.e. Human-assisted automation.
Instead of trying to replace one form of intelligence – normally, the expensive human form – with a lower-cost form, this solution connects them. For me, that’s where the greatest opportunities lie, using each form of intelligence to its best effect. Don’t try to pick one and exclude the others; blend them within a task or solution, identifying the right form of intelligence, to use at the right time, for the right reason. Be strategic and evaluate ‘value’ based on outcome.
C-Suite, I understand the importance of measurable value but please – look wider, it’s not all quantitative, measurable and binary, we don’t need to continuously boil the volumetric data down to an inch of its life to sanction a business case.
Technology might not always reduce your headcount, but it will lead to the best outcomes.
Published by Craig John