Can You Achieve 100% AI Automation?
by Mark Clark, on January 15, 2020 10:15:00 AM PST
Do you think 100% automation is a pipe dream? You’re not alone. But what if you’re wrong?
Prior to joining Infrrd, I worked for a leading software vendor that helped Fortune 500 companies optimize their contact centers. We offered all sorts of analytics, customer engagement, and automation solutions, including self-service automation like chatbots.
Having a Beer with a Forrester Analyst
Not long ago, we had an advisory day with one of Forrester’s leading contact center analysts.
After eight hours of a deep-dive into the market, competitors, product, and strategy we called it quits and headed out to a brewpub.
We held a really interesting discussion over some really good beer.
Then I threw out a strong point of view to get the analyst’s gut response:
I think we should shoot for 100% automation in the contact center. No human agents.
We have one client (a digital bank) who has that goal.
Shouldn’t everyone ask, Hey! How can we get to 100% automation?”
Kate’s response? No, it’s not possible.
I continued, if the enterprise doesn’t ask that question, some AI start-up will:
- Ask the question
- Build a solution to achieve 100% automation, and
- Threaten the enterprise’s business model
(My former employer would have agreed with her; they had a significant revenue stream coming from managing agents. 100% automation would kill profitability.)
A short time after that really good beer and really interesting discussion, I joined Infrrd.
One thing that immediately impressed me about Infrrd is the culture. You are encouraged to ask tough, penetrating, insightful questions... anything that can create value for our customers.
I find this extremely refreshing.
The 100% Automation Question
So how do you ask the big, audacious, 100% automation question?
Well... what we advise our clients is this:
Start with this question: How do we get to 100% automation of a process or a workload or a decision process?
This is the big one.
A similar question that has the same effect is the 10x question:
What would it take to improve your business performance by 10x?
You cannot sit still after the question is asked.
Why is this such a great question?
- It will force you to examine the entire system vs one component.
- It will force you to think beyond just the technology.
- It will surface hidden assumptions and mental roadblocks.
- It will uncover bottlenecks.
- It might just unlock real enterprise value otherwise lost.
Once you get some ideas flowing about getting to 100%, then ask what if we could….?
This gets you thinking about the art of the possible. This gets you thinking about how to attack individual components in the system.
A 100% Workshop
So how do you actually ask the question in a way that creates value, clarity, and direction for your team?
One great way to tackle the 100% question is through a workshop.
Infrrd conducts workshops like this with clients to help them explore what is possible in a safe environment.
Here is an illustrative outline for a 100% workshop. These are steps that we’ve learned after conducting more than a few:
1. Bring in the team. Include people with diverse views and different responsibilities.
2. Set ground rules. This is about exploring the possibilities and ideation, not attacking and blaming...or worse, having people trying to hold onto their territory. Make it safe to explore areas the team might fear.
3. Focus on core workloads or processes. Identify all possible processes, then pick one or two top processes that could have the biggest impact. Be sure to consider both cost savings and revenue-generating processes.
4. ID key assumptions. The processes are designed and operate based on assumptions about people, technology, budget, culture, and goals. Start asking why. Why are things like they are? Ask why again, and again.
5. Challenge assumptions with what-if questions. After the why questions, ask what if. What if we could automate this? What if we had that data? What if…...?
6. Get an understanding of what this could look like: If we could get to 100%, what would the outcome be? What business impact might we achieve?
7. Get to know potential pitfalls before you face them. What specific challenges would we need to overcome? Data, people, technology?
8. ID enabling technologies that could help. What tech would we need? How could AI help us?
9. Consider potential organizational changes to maximize the right outcomes. How would we need to restructure and align the org to achieve our 100% goals?
The workshop deliverable is an outline of what AI-based process automation you could do and what bottlenecks must be addressed to achieve the 100% automation goal.
Remember, these are the very questions some nimble startup is asking about your business right now. The risk is that a competitor figures this out before you do and creates their own competitive advantage using AI enablement.
A 100% Automation Customer Example
One Infrrd client wanted to implement a 100% automated insurance claim process. Such a process would give them a competitive advantage over other providers.
After collaborating on the 100% question, we found the most critical bottleneck in need of a fix was accurately extracting data trapped in various unstructured documents and images.
If we could help them automate data extraction with a high degree of accuracy, the claim process could run using straight-through processing—with minimal human involvement. We removed the data extraction bottleneck for them...Today, they operate right on the cusp of 100%.
Ask the Right Question
AI is a great technology that can drive real business impact. But, if you don't ask the right questions, AI enablement will not generate the business results you expect.
Consider this article as an encouragement to ask the big, system-level questions!
Don’t ask can we achieve 100% automation for an end-to-end process or workload?
That answer will likely be no.
Instead, ask how do we achieve 100% automation for an end-to-end process or workload?
We find these questions help our clients gain clarity around AI enablement and open up real possibilities for significant business performance improvements.
Want some help asking the 100% automation question in your organization?
Want additional tips or help in running your workshop? Just ask. We are here to help.