You land at an airport in a foreign city and realize that you have forgotten to carry currency, both in cash and traveler card! This can be quiet a sticky situation to be caught in. Well not really. Today all you need to do is walk to the nearest ATM and transfer money with voice assistance at the point of service. The entire cycle of placing the request, money being debited from your account, it being converted to that exchange value and being credited to the traveler card will take only a few minutes! Automation has made the banking processes faster and safer by reducing the non-value add steps and processes that used to eat up valuable customer time.
Caught in our day to day lives, we do not realize the level to which automation has penetrated our lives. Automation plays an important role at a macro level in the world economy and at a micro level, in our daily lives. In fact McKinsey says that our digital economy - a parallel to our real economy, will be bigger in few years from now.
I am fascinated by how automation makes our lives simpler. It has had a notable impact in a wide range of industries beyond manufacturing from where it actually began. Once-ubiquitous telephone operators have been replaced largely by IVRs, automated telephone switchboards and answering machines. Medical processes such as primary screening in electrocardiography or radiography and laboratory analysis of human genes, sera, cells, and tissues are carried out at much greater speed and accuracy by automated systems. Automated teller machines have reduced the need for bank visits to obtain cash and carry out transactions.
In the past few years, automation has also started knocking at the doorsteps of the CIO and other technology leaders. CIOs are increasingly turning to automation to support their enterprise eco-system. Gartner in its report, “Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2011 and Beyond: IT’s Growing Transparency, reports that by 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of labor hours associated with IT services.
While it has great benefits, the capital cost of automating can be considerable. Every technology leader should ask the following five questions to evaluate the ROI:
1. Is Automation delivering business value? It can’t only be cost. Automation should be integrated with the business objective and enable in fulfilling business priorities. An objective assessment can help avoid unrelated automation. CIOs must also evaluate whether the benefits of automation are incremental or substantial.
2. Is Automation simplifying? Automation should not further complicate activities and processes. It should simplify and reduce human effort. Embracing automation that will entangle and further complicate the situation will create further problems by disrupting status-co and inconvenience and uncertainty.
3. Is your automation enhancing productivity? The correct incentive for applying automation is to increase productivity, and/or quality beyond that possible with current human labor levels so as to realize economies of scale, and/or realize predictable quality levels.
4. Is automation helping you to improving quality? It is a pre-requisite that automation should help bring down the error rates. It should help you enhance predictability and consistency
5. Is your automation initiative secured? There should be appropriate security measures taken so that the eco-system is not disrupted through external Information attacks.
Once the above questions have been answered satisfactorily then automation will certainly help meet business objectives and customer demands with greater precision, speed and efficiency.
What has been your experience with automation in your organization? I would like to hear your thoughts