Business moves fast. Customer desires, technological advances, organisational requirements, financial constraints and regulations all require business leaders to run at a furious pace on a treadmill that lacks the ability to slow down. Do executives ever wish they had a big, red STOP button on their desks that would allow them to pause, take a breath and think?
In a new report from SSON, AntWorks CEO, Asheesh Mehra, takes a deep dive into the topic of using intelligent automation technology to meet ever-changing and highly complex business challenges with SSON Principal Analyst and Global Digital Editor Barbara Hodge. But achieving straight-through automation, Mehra tells Hodge, is not solely about the technology your enterprise chooses to implement. It’s also about changing the mindsets of an entire community of professionals. And the time to think, and do it creatively, with an eye on the future, is currently a luxury that most organisations and their leaders just don’t have.
In the excerpt below, you’ll get a sample of Mehra’s thoughts on how organisations can begin to take a more holistic approach to changing the way work is being done.
BH: What is required in terms of data and systems to enable automated outcome delivery?
AM: I agree that automated service outcomes as a result of straight-through processing is Nirvana for a business owner. This goes beyond technology tools. It also goes beyond an automated outcome delivered for a claim or a mortgage or an invoice. This is about a top-down approach that emphasises the far-reaching change in how work is done, and how customers are being served.
It begins with people’s behaviour.
To start, enterprises need to change their recruitment strategy in terms of whether they hire doers or thinkers, because now the doer can be a machine. So, they need to reassess their technology stacks, re-define their core objectives, and rethink their mission and vision statements. It’s about redefining what is being sold to the marketplace. And that means also redefining customer success and customer delight.
I also think that there is a certain amount of influence that needs to be exerted on governments, from a regulation perspective, because a number of processes, especially in the financial services space, are driven by regulation. Now, security needs to be maintained at the highest level, but enterprises may find they need to also align governments to their redefined objectives. That is going to be tough.
However, let’s take Dubai as an example. Dubai does this beautifully. They have a ministry of AI that has just been set up and every single government department is linked to each other and to the enterprises operating within Dubai. This whole seamless flow of data is transparent and auditable and available to anybody at any point in time. What that means is that they’ve just taken away 20 different layers of paper from the entire workflow.
So, it’s really rethinking how we function as a community and how we function as an industry.
BH: What we’re highlighting here is the bigger picture. But if we want to ‘think big’ for the next five to 10 years, we have to adopt a new kind of thinking. Do organisational leaders understand what’s at stake?
AM: Do they understand it today? The answer is no. However, the answer is no, because they are expected to deliver certain outcomes and behaviours, right? Because that’s what the CEO has prescribed. Enterprise behaviour is prescribed by the CEO’s expectations.
Now, the CEO writes that prescription because the government has requested it, or shareholders expect it, or whatever. So, it comes back to the fact that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we operate as a community, and the objectives we want to achieve as a community. The minute we start changing those prescriptions, human behaviour will change and align to the need of the hour.
Do they understand it today? Not yet. Everybody is still running with horse blinders. Because they’re all operating in the here and now. Nobody’s really saying, “Let me think about the next 30 years. And let me redraw the blueprint of how we would like to function.” Most organisations are still by and large operating as they have for the past 20 years. Nobody has the time to rethink today. That is why I believe it’s so important that a separate business unit – a think tank – be set up in every enterprise to think creatively, without being distracted by having to deliver on the day-to-day functioning of the organisation. The focus should be on where the enterprise needs to get to, and what needs to be done in order to get there.
For this, you can’t rely on automation to free up individuals for creative thought. Because business goals are changing as automation frees up time, so now there are new products being added, larger markets to go after, etc. So, it’s more of the same, just growing across a larger geography or a larger product spread, which eats up time. That is why I think you need specialists. Give somebody the responsibility to think, and measure them on that, and that only.
I believe enterprises need a Chief Thinking Officer to lead this, because everyone has so much on their plate that there is no thinking taking place. I haven’t seen this anywhere yet, and that’s my point.
Who’s saying “let me think about the next 30 years” in your organisation? If taking a creative, thoughtful and innovative approach to building your organisation’s future is important to you, SSON’s “IA Global Market Report 2019” is a great foundation. You can read the rest of Barbara Hodge’s interview with Asheesh Mehra on pages 11-13.