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Automate for business sustainability

Automate for business sustainability

By Kalyan Madala, CTO for IBM Australia, Southeast Asia, New Zealand & Korea (ASEANZK)

Credit: IBM

92% of polled executives agree that their organisation’s workflows will be digitised and will leverage AI-enabled automation by 2025.

The need for greater efficiency and productivity prompted enterprises in the 1990s to automate business processes to tackle time consuming and labour intensive processes as a cost saving measure. However it took the recent pandemic to propel automation from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for enterprises to stay in business as the world dealt with stay home orders. In a recent study done by IBM Business Institute of Business Value, 92% of polled executives agree that their organisation’s workflows will be digitised and will leverage AI-enabled automation by 2025.

In addition to potential costs savings, intelligent automation can vastly enhance an enterprise’s ability to respond, adapt, and thrive in a challenging market. Organisations that build a robust automation program adopt a broad set of technologies, including robotics, bots, and devices, and leverage AI capabilities such as machine learning, natural language processing, augmented intelligence, and computer vision and hearing. Enterprise-wide intelligent automation – the pervasive use of intelligent automation across the enterprise – looks beyond the technologies in use, to the breadth of their application and the extent to which the use of intelligent automation is transforming the way work gets done.

The massive explosion of data sources and micro-insights born from extreme digitalisation makes it possible to solve complex problems across the enterprise and its vast ecosystem - with data feeding the AI that fuels intelligent, automated workflows.

Ninety percent of executives whose organisations are scaling intelligent automation tell us it creates higher-value work for their employees. And our leading customers are telling us that in just three years, the nature of machine work will change dramatically, with the both the percentage of tasks and the level of their complexity growing.

Chip manufacturer, Smart Modular Technologies Sdn Bhd deployed AI-powered collaborative robots (cobots) to help operators detect defects in the production lines. Another instance is at Australia-based Woodside Energy that successfully harnessed AI to extract meaningful insights from 30 years of complex engineering data to help employees fact-based decisions.

Augmented intelligence

The pandemic showed that manual and repetitive processes can disrupt or slow your operations. Workflow software will help you manage people, processes, and data to achieve better business outcomes. By using rules-based logic to automate business processes and reduce or eliminate time-consuming tasks, workflow software enables your teams to speed their work. This increased efficiency empowers your team to focus on high-value tasks and boost work quality as human error is minimised, removing a variety of bottlenecks that can hurt your bottom line. 

Automation  did not replace humans but filled gaps to keep businesses running and enabled them to make better and faster decisions. An IDC study of IBM Automation tools powered by AI  found that the business value of using IBM AI powered automation solutions can enable 34% more IT Infrastructure staff efficiency, 30% higher developer productivity and 24% more efficient business process management team and 30% greater analytics team productivity. 

Automation is most effective when it operates at the organisational level and spans the entire enterprise because a new way of working and a new seamless operating model emerges when workflows between people and machines are comprehensively thought out. 

Digital business volume tripled at Max Mara during the pandemic. This prompted the retailer to invest in creating an efficient and  seamless buying experience for customers across their 10+ websites and 2,300 brick and mortar stores. The Italian fashion leveraged IBM Process Mining to uncover and resolve bottlenecks in back-end systems which improve customer service resolution by 90%, lowering cost for the company.

Closer to home the IBM’s HR team implemented IBM Watson Orchestrate to automate the manual data gathering and entry tasks to enabling its members to devote more time to high-value tasks including helping the business units evaluate the data, help identify who is ready for promotion and help coach other employees to get them ready for a promotion in the future. In a pilot project, the team automated 12,000 hours manual data-gathering and data-entry tasks through a single platform. 

Sustainable automation 

According to IBM’s Institute of Business Value 2022 CEO Study on sustainability — “Own Your Impact” — more than 80% of CEOs say sustainability investments will drive better business results in the next five years. Yet more than half of the 3,000 CEOs surveyed ranked “unclear economic benefits” as the biggest blocker to achieving their objectives. 

In addition to the business and IT automation we discussed, a practical first step the C-suite can take on the road to greater sustainability and cost savings is — get IT to consume less. Reducing (if not eliminating) resource waste in your company’s IT environment – without giving up performance – is the aim. In a world where our applications are our business, maintaining performance is key to maintaining a competitive advantage. Now, it’s also a path to carbon neutrality and green computing. In other words, let application performance drive cloud cost optimisation, sustainability and green data centres.

66% of enterprises are either currently applying AI or plan to apply AI to accelerate environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

Our studies found that 66% of enterprises are either currently applying AI or plan to apply AI to accelerate environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Examples in this space, include an innovative use was embedding sensors to improve lifespan and commuter safety of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Home appliances maker Electrolux used IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps to speed up resolution times for IT issues to an hour as part of its larger mandate to support ambitious carbon reduction goals. 

Nine out of ten employees who have used automation tools have improved their work-life balance as automating processes had resulted in healthier workforce and sustainable business growth. As such the triple benefits of automation to increase efficiency, reduce cost and improve accuracy also makes it a sustainable business imperative. 

While Forrester forecasted that by 2040, 63 million jobs across Asia Pacific would be lost to automation, the emergence of a green economy is expected to offset some of the job losses. Roughly 28.5 million new jobs that will be created are in renewable energy, green buildings, smart cities, smart infrastructure and professional services.

Credit: IBM

Enterprises that prioritise people and fold in design thinking techniques as they continue to add more automation throughout the organisation and ecosystem are a step ahead towards growing their businesses sustainably. Technology advancements continue to create new jobs even as it replaces old ones. 

Kalyan Madala is the CTO for IBM Australia, Southeast Asia, New Zealand & Korea (ASEANZK). He enjoys peeling off layers of tech red tape to uncover gems that help businesses implement sustainable solutions.

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