Our podcast, hello, Human, features the leading builders, explorers, and warriors of AI. Together, we investigate how they’re putting AI to work to transform enterprises and make sustainable progress on automation, privacy, business disruption, human-bot teaming, and much more. We strive to make each episode intelligent and engaging, with the ultimate goal of improving your understanding of the opportunities AI can bring to your business and our world.
Episode 4 – Building a Resilient Digital Core
In episode #4, my guests were Abhinav Kolhe and Sudhakar Pemmaraju, both from Cognizant.
Abhinav is the firm’s Technology Director for Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning, and he’s been with Cognizant for more than 20 years. Sudhakar is the North American Head of Cognizant’s Digital Strategy & Operations Transformation Consulting Practice, and he has deep consulting experience across digital marketing, customer management, and operations transformation and automation. Cognizant, if you’re unfamiliar, is one of the world’s leading professional services companies, transforming clients’ business, operating and technology models for the digital era.
We jumped right into our conversation talking about the pandemic and its impact on automation. Every business function has had to make adjustments this year to keep up with the chaos. Yet organizations remain under pressure to digitize and automate more and more as the uncertainty continues. Some companies are doing very well in this regard, with Abhinav pointing specifically to bright spots in banking, healthcare, and education. But for most companies, it’s going to take a continued commitment to digital transformation and process agility to be successful.
“First of all, companies will need to ensure that their digital channels are on par to succeed in the current environment,” said Abhinav. “Secondly, I think as the economy comes back in the next few months, demand recovery will be unpredictable. There will be the uneven spread of recovery across geographies, across products, customer segments, and whatnot. This will complicate matters for leaders.”
“Automation-first, or a digital-first mindset, will be an absolute essential center stage that companies will have to prepare for. We are seeing an upsurge from a lot of customers in terms of hyperautomation use cases.”
Hyperautomation is the application of advanced technologies, like AI, machine learning, RPA, and process intelligence, to automate both repetitive tasks and more cognitive business tasks. Gartner named it to their 2020 and 2021 “Top Strategic Technology Trends List,” and it’s on the radar of most progressive organizations.
“Hyperautomation goes beyond deploying bots for individual tasks,” explained Abhinav. “We are talking about a connected, enterprise-wide change program that connects multiple teams, multiple work streams across an enterprise. One of the most key attributes of that platform would be the ability to loop in humans into the process.”
Of course, organizations need to understand their processes before they can be hyperautomated, or even automated. But just simply understanding your processes and preparing for potential scenarios helps your business perform at a higher level. Then, when a scenario comes to fruition, like, say, a pandemic, you already know how to react and respond. A recent article in Harvard Business Review points to process mapping as a catalyst for building resilience. “You’ll manage a crisis better if you’ve analyzed and discussed your processes—and done at least some reinvention—before you’re in the thick of things.”
Abhinav gave several examples of how companies that already had deep process intelligence were able to quickly react once the pandemic took hold. An airline used virtual agents to process refund requests. A financial services institution used natural language processing (NLP) and automation to quickly implement a government-mandate loan program. And, an insurance firm used NLP to quickly assess the pandemic’s impact on customers to determine how cancellations would impact their business.
So where do you begin? If you have little or no process intelligence, how do you attain this deeper understanding of how your business works so you can start to optimize, streamline, and automate?
“The very first one is to establish a service demand catalog to understand the end-to-end value chain of the processes across all the departments,” said Sudhakar . “(This includes) process mining, process simplification, process standardization, and business improvement techniques.”
Only after you map how your business works should you seek to actually start championing the initiative and executing the transformation. Success is built on that initial process intelligence gathering. And it makes sense, since it’s difficult to change what you don’t know.