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Virginia MausJune 18, 20244 min read

Automation to Innovation: Your First Step Toward AI Success

Automation to Innovation: Your First Step Toward AI Success

If an aspiring crop farmer invested in an expensive tractor before buying land first, you most certainly would question their strategy.  The tractor will exponentially increase their ability to harvest, but with little or no land to plant the crops, the results are few.  The farmer may look impressive driving around in a new machine but will end the day with a hungry stomach.  When an organization invests in AI without first investing in automation, you may also question its strategy. They may have complex and powerful AI tools but be left hungry for results.

According to IBM,  “automation is the application of technology, programs, robotics, or processes to achieve outcomes with minimal human input.”  Automation requires clear and defined steps and may not be the right fit for processes that require creativity or hands-on expertise.

AI has the potential to transform our lives in so many ways, but it hinges on a certain volume of high-quality data inputs.  There are a myriad of steps it takes to get this data cleaned and stored where it can easily be consumed.  Automation creates efficiencies in this part of the process and quietly sets up AI to be the hero.

If your organization’s strategy includes AI, starting with automation is a great first step.  If you’re wondering where to start, look at these three high-impact places first.

Identify Places Where a Human Is Doing Repeatable Tasks

There are people in every organization doing the same tasks over and over again.  Sometimes, it’s once a year or a quarter. Other times, it's multiple times a day.  Look for users refreshing data, resending information, and using an abundance of templates or spreadsheets. Repeated tasks could be found in various departments, from onboarding in human resources to invoicing in finance or completing audits in legal. Usually, they require backups when team members are out and upkeep of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).  Automating these tasks, no matter how complex, creates a consistent data source for AI to use in the future.

When a new order comes in, is a human manually entering the order information into another system to fulfill the order?  Building opportunities to minimize repeatable tasks will save a lot of time (sometimes hours a day). By automating the flow of information between systems, you will reduce the potential for human error. Accelerating this process could increase customer satisfaction by providing order confirmation and delivery of goods and services even faster.

Look for Integration Opportunities

Today, organizations can receive data from many sources.  There may be information on one customer from the website, their previous orders in a database, satisfaction surveys on paper, an external vendor, and even data getting lost in emails. When you support your AI initiatives with more information about your customer from various sources, it can produce better, more tailored results and in return provide visibility to more details about your customer's experiences with your goods and services. Find ways to join this information together through automated integrations.  Having one trusted source for information will support accurate AI results in the future. AI can only make decisions based on the amount of data you provide and will assume it is all true.

Are you asking a customer for order details through email without attaching those emails to that customer for future reference? Some companies purchase customer relationship management (CRM) software to aggregate this information. If the software features (such as integrations) aren’t set up or being used consistently by all users, it still won’t capture as much information as is available.

Recognize the Most Time-Consuming Steps in Each Process

An overwhelming amount of data is created today, organizations have bottlenecks between the initial source and where it can be consumed by the end users.  Sometimes, these delays are caused by technical limitations like processing time. Other times, delays are caused by manual interventions like user review and approval.  Either way, recognizing them will highlight places where automation can make the most impact. Mapping out processes is a worthwhile exercise. Use automation to speed up the process and enable AI to make the most up-to-date decisions.

Does your team need to wait until a nightly batch process is completed to see new orders?  Imagine if your infrastructure allowed hourly processing.  Would there be value to the organization or your customer to have the information faster?

Automation Maximizes Your AI ROI

Before you focus on AI, start with automation.  Immediately you will see the benefits of higher productivity, reliability, availability, and hopefully reduced operating costs. Not only will this enable users, it will prepare you to maximize the impact of any future investments in AI.

Where are you on your AI journey? Find ways your organization can explore readiness in our AI maturity and analytics assessment blog.  


Virginia Maus

Virginia is a problem solver who is passionate about using the power of data to make informed decisions. She wants to lead your most undefined, innovative, and challenging projects with clear communication and genuinely collaborative execution. To her, energy comes from building relationships and taking action to make a positive, infectious impact on the world.