For businesses that don’t have the luxury of being able to start from scratch, intelligent automation and AI investment could be the perfect route into re-imagining business models and services.

 

Every organisation wants to be “the Uber” of their industry, but Uber were innovators by design. Their entire business model was built around innovation and a bespoke and entirely new system.
 
For businesses that are hampered by outdated legacy systems and organisational structures, it can seem almost impossible to tear down everything that’s been built in order to start again with more digital foundations. You don’t necessarily need to tear everything down though; you just have to reimagine how the workforce fits around the new paradigm.
 
Steve Burke, the CEO of DigiBlu, a company that specialises in implementing intelligent automation solutions, explains: “Once people start to see the impact that Intelligent Automation can bring, they quickly move from ‘what can we automate?’ to ‘what should we automate?’.” This is the approach that organisations serious about expanding their digital workforce should take to heed and it’s one that underpins the concept of a platform business model.
 
Disrupting the business model
 
By definition, a platform business model is one that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups. Like Facebook, Uber, or Alibaba, these businesses don't directly create and control inventory via a supply chain the way linear businesses do and are the ideal proving grounds for the digital workforce.
 
These digital disruptors don’t have outdated legacy systems to fight against nor an existing customer base to potentially disappoint so are free and able to set the standard for seamless, high quality, transparent customer experiences. For businesses that don’t have the luxury of being able to start from scratch, however, intelligent automation and AI investment could be the perfect route into re-imagining business models and services without having to change their operating platforms.
 
End-to-end customer experiences can be subtly re-invented around a digital workforce that’s more cost-effective and flexible (not to mention reliable) than its traditional human counterpart. A digital workforce can catalyse a re-imagining of what is possible from a business model perspective and it’s within the grasp of any business with an internet connection and the ambition to compete with even the most forward-thinking Silicon Valley startups.
 
Adapt or perish
 
The market is uncertain (and is about to be even more so in a post-Brexit world) and highly volatile. In an increasingly fast-paced economy, your next competitor might not even have chosen a name yet. It might not even be in the same market! To thrive in such an environment, any business worth its salt needs to be agile enough to adapt but do so with purpose and integrity.
 
The first key challenge, however, is in giving operating teams a tangible idea of the kind of challenges these emerging technologies can solve and the opportunities they represent. This is particularly true in situations where most IT resources are allocated to operating platform stability and security rather than innovation.
 
Organisations are shifting away from traditional structures to more connected network structures to deliver innovation because we’re stronger and more innovative together than when fractured. By partnering with internal Centres of Expertise, supply chain partners and outsourced vendors, innovation is not only easier but it’s more practical too.
 
This great leap, however, requires ‘intrapreneurs’ (those working with the mindset of an entrepreneur from within an existing enterprise) to establish this network organisation and have the power and flexibility to rapidly build and collapse teams of both internal and external resources. Making these leaps requires the authority to act across traditional boundaries and be more flexible within our business roles. But moving from a managerial to an entrepreneurial mindset is not going to be easy for large organisations.
 
Disruption in action
 
Of course, this is all speculative without proof, so let’s look at an example:
 
Mining is not perhaps the market you would expect to find a digital workforce, but this example proves it can work in any environment where automation is achievable. Mines are remote by nature and are typically situated in far-flung places where normal connectivity simply isn’t available. Satellite Communications providers can equip a facility to transport data to and from these locations, but the real challenge is sifting through huge volumes of data to find the signals that need affirmative action.
 
To cut through the noise, we took data from an IoT (Internet of Things) kiosk and started using a set of bespoke rules to process it through a digital AI worker that was able to create valuable insights and trigger automated alerts. Within a week our digital worker had spotted one mine with a dam experiencing dangerously high water levels and was able to alert operations (who were unaware) immediately. Action was taken and a potential crisis was averted. Perhaps more importantly (for our purposes, at least) a valuable new service was created.
 
Act first and act fast
 
Business models need to change if they are going to have a chance to thrive in this new world. In the coming years, we’re likely to see more specialists offering streamlined automated and semi-automated services and businesses adopting models that challenge ‘shared service’ and BPO (Business Process Outsources) models. These models are traditionally built on per seat or head costs and they are going to be seriously challenged if clients embark on more affordable and scaleable automation programmes.
 
Ultimately, it’s all about being the ones to act fast and act first and get both internal and external RPA expertise into your teams sooner rather than later. Disrupt yourself before somebody does it for you. As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos explains: “If your business is competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.” And Mr Bezos certainly knows more than a few things about innovation!
 
If you are about to embark on automation or are scaling up your digital workforce, we’d love to talk to you. Whatever stage in your journey, we can help. Find out more about our Robotics services and solutions here.


 

About the author

 

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Chris Tin

Managing Consultant, Hydrogen Group

Chris has 7 years recruitment experience in placing Business Change and IT professionals. He’s currently focusing on Robotics Process Automation (RPA) projects placing RPA Developers, Analysts and Consultants, running RPA training programmes and embedding Digital Workers with various clients.