5 minute read 14 Sep 2018
woman examining robot laboratory

Intelligent automation: how to reshape the future of work

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

5 minute read 14 Sep 2018

The journey to the future — from back-office rooms to business technology and engagement centers — is underway.

Aided by groundbreaking technologies and advances in robotics, back-office operations are being transformed into future-ready global business support (GBS) centers. And the change is not piecemeal. It is a metamorphosis. By using intelligent automation (IA), GBS centers can offer demonstrable gains in efficiency and productivity while cutting down on process complexities.

Over the last two years, the number of enterprises adopting end-user process automation via robotics process automation (RPA) – the foundation block of the IA journey – has risen noticeably. The enthusiasm is due to double-digit improvements in productivity across many organizations that have implemented RPA.

RPA technologies have evolved from being piecemeal, isolated automation installations to comprehensive, connected, enterprise-class digital automation solutions. Doubts and concerns around RPA’s worthiness, manageability and security are disappearing. Today’s RPA architecture is more robust, reliable and future-ready.

IA tools are set to evolve further as they improve their ability to mirror human intelligence. We will see them undertake and perform more intelligent and complex tasks. This will further spur IA’s adoption across functions — even into areas such as planning, budgeting, analysis and decision-making, which were previously perceived as being for humans only.

RPA technologies have evolved from being piecemeal, isolated automation installations to comprehensive, connected, enterprise-class digital automation solutions.

Ten essentials for successful RPA implementation

While RPA may sound simple and easy, a successful, speedy implementation requires thorough planning, coordinated action and lots of rigor. Organizations may do well to follow these 10 key ground rules.

1. Start with a proof of concept

While RPA as a concept may be understood, showcasing RPA through a quick workable pilot project will trigger enthusiasm and help ward off cynicism.

2. Identify and bring evangelizers on board

Change is often resisted even if it is for common and individual good. Thus RPA-led transformation requires strong sponsorship and support. It is also important to identify functional leaders and opinion makers right at the beginning.

3. Choose processes wisely

The success of first steps will have a significant bearing on the outcome of this journey. Choosing the first set of processes is critical for the entire program. Initial processes have to be ones where success is almost built in, while inconvenience or the pain of transition is minimal.

4. Set the right expectations

Promise less, deliver more — this age-old wisdom holds true here too. It helps to set realistic expectations around the potential benefits. Avoid creating a hype or euphoria around what RPA can achieve for the business or individuals. Let people be impressed with the end results.

5. Follow the quick-win delivery methodology

Chances of success increase with smaller manageable sets of automations than large and complex ones. Follow an iterative process of fine-tuning the solution through build-test-deploy procedure.

6. Track and reap benefits simultaneously

Actual benefits flow in only on productive redeployment of the saved hours. It is important to track actual savings on the baseline.

7. Plan for sustainability

Institutionalize structure and governance to productively manage automations that have been delivered, and prioritize and deliver on the pipeline of opportunities. Adopt a holistic strategy to build, rebuild and sustain talent.

8. Leverage complementing tools

Be on alert to identify and explore tools that can complement and strengthen RPA implementation.

9. Make IT an integral part of the journey

Value from RPA has to be cocreated by both the business and IT teams. Given the short bursts of implementation and launch of automations, business and IT must work in harmony. Otherwise, delays and wasted resources are bound to happen.

10. Have a robust solution focus

Invest efforts in building the right solution to address majority of the variations, handoffs and process goals. Usually, 30% or less time is spent on actual bot configuration.

How to transform from back-office to business technology center

Traversing the IA journey at the back-office operations center has to be purposeful and driven by a shared vision, which helps determine the speed and choices that the GBS will have to make. This requires the business being in sync with the GBS’s current position in the value chain and the target state it aspires to achieve.

The centers will need to synchronize all that automation has to offer into a coherent value proposition, the same way an orchestra conductor harmonizes disparate instrumental sounds into beautiful music.

The centers can simultaneously navigate up the value continuum as well as the automation maturity curve. With every automation technology experimentation, the path will open up new opportunities for scaling up the automation process – finally elevating and transforming the back-office support room to a digital business technology center.

To fully achieve this transformation, consider the following steps:

Start hiring for flexibility with a stress on technology literacy across all levels

Building a robust operations center calls for personnel with a healthy familiarity with technology, in addition to core domain expertise.

Involve people to succeed

After implementing robotics across a process, create within the same team a follow-up campaign to identify additional automation opportunities and to generate ideas of a significant quantitative value.

Pilot technologies extensively

Do not hesitate to roll out technologies across board, but do so in a calibrated manner. It is a myth that these are cost-prohibitive — they are usually self-funding.

Build an appetite for technology and change

Catalyze change by building an activation model to continuously inspire the right appetite, attitude and behavior for adoption of automation.

Junk the current dashboard

Initiate and inspire discussions on business outcomes and the ultimate beneficiaries — the customers. The first step here is the articulation of the current value.

Demonstrate value rather than seek budgets

Do not seek exclusive budgets. Demonstrate value with the help of frugal investments and an entrepreneurial culture.


Careful implementation will help organizations realize the productivity and transformative benefits of intelligent automation.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.