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How AI Can Drive Business Growth By Accelerating Process Automation

Seventy nine percent of business and IT leaders expect to see efficiency gains of at least 25% from the fusion of AI and process automation, according to a recent survey conducted by my company. That’s huge, especially in terms of what that means for enterprise growth and cost optimization. But what shape will these new gains in efficiency and productivity take? According to the survey of those business leaders:

• 53% anticipate better use of employee time

• 51% plan to benefit from a competitive advantage

• 50% expect to improve operational efficiency

• 59% anticipate better decision making

It’s clear that business leaders see the business benefits of applying AI to process automation. And while these individual anticipated benefits are good news for business operations, it’s also critical to consider what they mean for business strategy. The picture becomes clearer when we sort these benefits into three primary categories: process optimization; faster access to data; and improved user experiences.

Building Optimized Processes, Faster

Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for teams to build the best version of any process in a matter of seconds. These new processes are constructed by AI from inputs and requirements defined by the user. These inputs can then be supplemented with data from existing processes. AI then takes this information and transforms it into a structured, efficient process.

For example, let’s say the IT team gets a request to build an approval process for the procurement team. Users can tell the AI what phases or activities need to occur, who needs to be involved and what kinds of rules apply to the new process. AI then takes these parameters and constructs an optimized process that can be implemented as-is or fine-tuned as needed.

This reduces the burden of manually building processes from scratch, which can reduce the burden on teams who manage many different processes that may change often as business strategies or internal requirements evolve.

Enabling Data-Driven Decisions

I believe another important impact of AI on process automation will be its effect on decision making. Every business depends on data-driven decisions to inform, execute and assess its overall strategy. AI will play a pivotal role in decision making by collapsing the distance between data access and data analysis.

What does that look like? One common challenge, regardless of industry, department or team, is getting access to reliable data quickly. AI can dramatically reduce the time it takes to gather and organize crucial data—users simply have to ask for it. Let’s say the procurement team needs to understand average lead time or see how often invoices are being paid past due. By simply framing their query to an AI chatbot, they can have that data in a matter of seconds; there’s no need for spreadsheets or manual data gathering.

But AI can also deliver more sophisticated data analysis helping teams spot trends, detect anomalies and uncover root causes. All of which can be essential for defining strategy, staying agile and evaluating success.

Improving User Experiences

In addition to creating more efficient processes and enabling data-driven decisions, I find that AI will transform user experiences. AI will do this in a couple of ways. First, generative AI provides a single-entry point from which users can access all kinds of data, documents and information. In this way, AI provides a centralized portal from which users can take action and access information, without having to switch apps or spend time hunting for what they need.

Think about the typical experience for an employee who is ready for a vacation. To do this, the employee will need to consult the company policy on PTO, check their available time off balance and then submit a vacation request to their manager. If their HR team uses a solution with generative AI, the employee can complete all these actions from a single starting point: an AI chatbot.

Implementing AI For Process Automation

AI complements and enhances process automation initiatives, but it’s important for any company considering this option to think about what they hope to gain and how they will measure their success, before implementing it. Key metrics to monitor include:

• Impact on SLA lead times

• Productivity, as in the number of requests served per IT headcount

• Average time it takes to deploy a new workflow

• The number of workflows being created by non-technical users

• Increase in the number of IT deliveries to the business line

• Decrease in the size of the backlog

• Reduction in costs resulting from errors, manual work, missed deadlines, etc.

To make it a smooth transition for employees, leverage the user-friendly and intuitive options for AI. With these, users can submit a question or request to a chatbot using natural language, and the chatbot can retrieve, organize and deliver the information or action requested.

Best practices for successful implementation for AI and process automation also include developing and delivering structured training for the entire company, with training that is tailored for each department or team. This can ensure that employees get the most out of their AI by leveraging all its features and capabilities. AI is quite powerful. Companies can potentially maximize their ROI by preparing all employees to engage with it fully by applying AI to their specific processes and workflows.

Enhancing Enterprise Growth And Cost Optimization

All the benefits of combining AI with process automation—more efficient processes, better decisions and improved user experiences—are valuable in and of themselves, but they are also a means to an end. Business leaders should take note of their potential impact on business strategy. Each plays a key role in supporting enterprise growth and cost optimization. They do this by enhancing efficiency, driving new productivity gains and eliminating the process friction that can complicate strategy planning and stymie its execution.

Original Article: How AI Can Drive Business Growth By Accelerating Process Automation (forbes.com)

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