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PHOTO: Markus Spiske

Have your automation projects stalled? The pandemic shifted many IT resources toward business continuity efforts, and you may now have reached the point where you are struggling to ramp up or resume digital transformation projects. Organizations are looking to tap into the benefits attained from scaling end-to-end digital transformation, but need direction on the right strategies to accelerate higher-value initiatives. 

The challenges stem from a lack of understanding of business processes coupled with an inability to turn a company’s data into actionable, valuable information that drives strategic business decisions.

If your goal is to implement digital transformation initiatives which deliver demonstrable and targeted results, particularly in operational efficiency, innovation and customer experience, follow these six fundamental steps.

1. Change Your Mindset

Many people view digital transformation as a project with a set beginning and end. In reality, it’s an ongoing journey that requires agility to evolve how your organization operates and interacts with customers, partners and prospects. This became starkly apparent during the pandemic, when most businesses needed to pivot their strategies, develop new ways of operating, and reimagine how they served customers.  

It’s important to reconsider your approach to IT problems and how you evaluate, select and deploy solutions. Don't return to the same rut simply because it's how things have always been done. Implementing high-value hyper-automation initiatives that have the power to revitalize the enterprise requires a commitment to ongoing observation, analysis, reevaluation, adjustment and optimization.

Related Article: Going Beyond Digital Transformation

2. Know the Truth About Your Processes

It would be nice if business processes always functioned exactly the way we intended them to. However, there are often hundreds — sometimes thousands — of variations for one single process. Every customer transaction and business workflow follows an individual path, often the one of least resistance, whether or not that was the path we initially had in mind for that particular operation. Being able to analyze the factors that drive behavior and shape processes is crucial for setting the foundation for efficient and successful automation initiatives. 

3. Automate Where It Matters Most

Automating the wrong processes can delay or prevent you from achieving your digital transformation objectives. In some cases, automating a bad process can also be detrimental and waste valuable time, labor and resources. It’s important to implement a comprehensive and real-time analysis of organizational processes prior to undertaking any automation project. This will help you improve operational efficiencies and identify which workflows are the best candidates for automation projects. 

Related Article: Automating the Digital Workplace

4. Understand Your Business Content

Business workflows contain documents that are critical to the success of each process. Achieving straight-through processing and end-to-end automation initiatives that require little to no human involvement is only possible if automation tools can understand the meaning, context and intent of business documents. Most robotic process automation (RPA) platforms cannot process unstructured content — such as invoices, bills of lading or claim forms — by themselves. They need complementary technologies, such as content intelligence solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies including optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) that help make robots smarter.

5. Empower Your Human Workforce

Hyper-automation initiatives free employees to focus on meaningful activities. Empower your workforce with RPA digital workers equipped with cognitive skills that enable them to read, classify, understand and extract meaning from documents and helps digital workers be more self-sufficient. Integrated intelligent automation augments your human workforce by executing mission-critical processes independently.

Employees freed from monotonous tasks can focus their time on responsibilities that leverage their talent, expertise and creativity and have a more direct impact on your company’s bottom line. 

Related Article: Digital Transformation: Why Now?

6. Assess Your Digital IQ

Scaling digital transformation initiatives may initially seem overwhelming, particularly if projects have reached a plateau. A good place to start in revitalizing your organization’s digital agility is to measure its digital IQ. I define digital IQ as a measurement of an organization’s proficiency in understanding exactly how its business operates through a transparent view of the processes that drive it. It’s important to understand where you are on the digital transformation continuum and what areas may need improvement. Be truthful about your organization’s capabilities and ask:

  • Do you fully understand your business processes, including deviations from the ideal workflows?
  • Do you know which documents are the most critical for your operations and how to automate the extraction of context and meaning from them? 

Digital intelligence means having the ability to fully see, understand and make decisions based on the processes and data that drive your business. Developing a high digital IQ means being able to identify shortcomings, operational inefficiencies and process bottlenecks in order to identify the most effective way to automate processes and scale digital transformation initiatives. 

Thriving in the Emerging Digital-First Era

These six foundational strategies will help boost your digital transformation initiatives in a way that makes the greatest impact for your organization. While some companies see digital transformation as an opportunity to save costs, its greatest value comes from the positive effect it can have on your organization’s ability to innovate, adapt to changing circumstances, think outside the box, and most importantly, best serve your customers.