I recently spoke at the O’Reilly AI Conference, where I shared our simple strategy—what I call the “4S Model”—to scale and sustain intelligent automation at an enterprise wide level. 4S stands for Simple, Seamless, Scalable and Sustainable—four key principles that we have found extremely useful when helping our clients on their automation journey. I’m pleased to share a summary of my talk below and in this video interview.
The very first step is to get your business processes right by applying techniques like lean principles and Six Sigma to eliminate work and eradicate unnecessary processes. Do not automate inefficient processes because, once automated, inefficiency will just run more efficiently. And you do not want to get into that situation! Eradicate, optimize and automate.
Once you have eliminated wasteful, inefficient processes, you need to figure out where you are on your automation journey. It's a very important step. If you don't know where you are on a map, a map won't help you get to where you want to go. Perform a baselining and benchmarking exercise so you know where you are and how you are progressing. Establish an approach for reporting, governance and tracking benefits. It’s all very simple and very basic, yet very critical.
The second important principle revolves around ensuring you can introduce new innovations to your tech and tooling landscape without causing a wave of disruption. You need seamlessness between the existing technology ecosystem and the automation layer. If you are using ServiceNow, your automation enablement must be in line with your ServiceNow strategy. If you are using ELK as an open source software for your analytics and AI, you need to have open source plug-and-play APIs that you can connect to. You need to integrate your automation layer using APIs, microservices and containers, as opposed to pushing one more tool or asset into the existing technology environment. A seamless, accurate data fabric is also critical.
At Accenture, we built myWizard, an intelligent automation platform that uses open, microservices-based architecture, APIs and a seamless data fabric that allows clients to plug in new innovations and tools all the time without disrupting the existing tooling landscape. Irrespective of the tools and technologies our clients use, myWizard offers API gateways and plugins on top of a seamless data lake and AI core engine to enable seamless integration into the environment they are operating.
But how do you scale? By building capability and expertise. Scaling AI and automation capabilities at an enterprise level requires a holistic strategy that cuts across all types of talent segments and skills. Within Accenture, we established an Automation University that offers automation certifications and training to our people—starting from Automation Prime, Automation Architect, and Automation Coach, to Automation Champion. An Automation Prime, for instance, has deep expertise in a set of tools such as Splunk or Kubernetes, while an Automation Architect has the skills to build automation across every aspect of software from development and testing to maintenance and infrastructure. An Architect can then graduate to become an Automation Coach and help clients implement and deploy automation. Throughout this journey, the goal is to constantly build expertise not just in automation and AI but also in Agile and design thinking.
Automation cannot be just a small team’s responsibility. It has to be everyone's responsibility within the enterprise. Investing in talent and skills at an enterprise level, therefore, is very crucial to get the organization ready for the future and to build these capabilities at scale.
Change is the only constant. And this is true of automation too. To keep pace with relentless change, you need a sustainable way to harvest news ideas and continuously invest in automation. Whether this is through hackathons, AI-thons or any other continuous innovation initiatives, your own people can provide the best ideas and can help you track industry trends. Secondly, user experience is often overlooked in automation initiatives. But bad user experiences can be a deal breaker and hindrance to successful automation at scale. Invest in design thinking and human-centered design to ensure success. Finally, you need a way to monitor business value. Track every dollar of investment and saving. Value realization and measurement is essential to sustain automation.
This, in a nutshell, is our approach to automation: Eradicate, optimize and then automate, in a simple, seamless, scalable and sustainable manner.