How to get started with intelligent automation

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Business owners will attest that running a business, new or old, large or small, is not an easy task. Indeed, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. businesses fail in the first year. 

The road to creating a successful, long-standing business is full of challenges, including increasing customer expectations, gaps in skilled labor and rising complexities across business and IT functions, all of which can be hard to predict and prepare for. That’s why AI and automation (which can be referred to as “intelligent automation”) can be used to automate low-level tasks within business to better prepare for the unpredictable. 

In fact, AI adoption has been growing steadily over the past few years. According to IBM’s 2022 AI Adoption Index, 35% of companies use AI in their business, and an additional 42% are exploring AI technologies. Intelligent automation is no longer a technology of the future. It has become an increasingly important investment to help businesses grow and thrive. 

Business process automation: Start with process mining

Intelligent automation is helping businesses push past challenges. But oftentimes, effectively implementing and scaling these technologies can be a challenge itself. Many automation efforts fail at first due to a lack of vision and uncertainty as to where to start.

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Process mining, which is technology for discovering, optimizing, and monitoring processes, is proving to be an ideal starting place for businesses ready to embrace automation and begin their digital transformation journeys. 

All organizations, regardless of size, location, industry, or other demographic, rely on processes to operate effectively. Process mining enables businesses to better manage day-to-day business functions across accounting, procurement, project management, risk management, supply chain operations (and more), and ensure that employees can focus on higher-value work.  

By having an understanding of how business processes actually work, a Chief Automation Officer (CAO) and their team can identify automation opportunities prioritized by impact and expected return on investment (ROI).

Process mining drives continuous improvement in every industry

It is vital for organizations to change and act with agility, and understanding business processes is the first step in process improvement. With a better understanding of how underlying processes run, organizations can make smarter decisions to boost efficiencies and save costs. 

Max Mara, a large Italy-based luxury fashion house dedicated to making high-quality fashion accessible to everyday people, saw the digital share of business volume nearly triple over the course of the pandemic. They recognized that the efficiency of its back-end operations would now have an even larger impact on customer satisfaction. So, the retailer implemented process mining to improve the customer journey during high-demand times, and was able to demonstrate a 90% increase in customer service resolution times and a 46% reduction in average cost per resolution. 

Another organization embarking on a digital transformation journey is Credem, an Italian bank spread across 19 Italian regions. Credem prides itself on well banking, a philosophy that helps ensure that its customers’ financial needs, from everyday banking to wealth management, are taken care of.

The financial institution realized it needed to improve its business value, reduce costs and increase efficiencies, all while enabling monitoring and control of vital business processes. To start, the bank took an in-depth look at processes and areas that could be automated. For example, credit card checks and approvals for retail customers.

They then applied business automation to shorten the approval time from four days to one and save approximately €500,000 per year. Overall, Credem was able to apply automation to 91 processes, saving them more than €1.4 million and cutting the loan process by 70%. 

Process mining provides the power of information and data to improve business process execution to achieve operational excellence. Greater knowledge of processes can mean more effective data-driven decision-making, costs savings and improved services to customers.

By starting automation initiatives with process mining, organizations can create deeper efficiencies in business to focus efforts on driving innovation, delivering quality products and services, and improving customer retention. 

Dinesh Nirmal is Senior Vice President, Products at IBM Software.

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