Are you automating for growth or cost savings?

Blog: Nenad Veselinovic and Mika Kärkkäinen

Automation of knowledge work is almost always associated with cost savings. As a result, nearly every discussion about automation usually ends with “releasing time for the more valuable work”, without going further into what that work might be. At best, organization will think of how to redeploy the affected people into automation supporting - and other existing roles. Is this the best we can do? Isn’t there a better way to automate? We believe there is.

Organizations are good at what they do and they automate what they are good at

Most organizations are very good at what they do for their customers. A bank knows very well how to decide which client to grant a loan and under which terms. An insurance provider knows well what is the proper premium to pay for the insurance claim. A fitness services provider has good knowledge of what client behavior is associated with good health conditions. A healthcare service provider knows very well how to treat already existing health conditions. A taxi service provider, elevating and escalating service provider and public transportation companies all have a great skill of finding the best way to move people around, within their own areas of operation.

It is not new that these organizations already automate many of the things they are good at.

Every knowledge work automation project puts current organizational knowledge, capabilities and skills into computer code to be executed by the robot.

Are you stuck in “more with less” thinking? Look at your customer’s journey map!

Probably 99 % of all strategies behind automation are based on a need to do “more or same (amount of the same work) with less (people)”. These alone help but do not unlock the upward spiral of growth. And the key to unlocking it with automation might be as close as looking slightly beyond the journey map of the organization’s clients. 

Let’s first look to the left. The insurance provider above might want to advise on behavior that reduces health related claims. It can do so at low cost by re-selling the already automated skills of the fitness service provider. The insurance provider thereby benefits from a new revenue stream and through reduced insurance claims (which it can use to reduce prices and attract more clients). The fitness service provider charges for usage of its own automated skills and possibly gains new customer base. The client benefits by being healthier and paying less for the insurance.

Let’s now look to the right. After the incident has occurred the insurance provider might itself want to advise on which physician can provide the best care or even what the treatment should be. It can do so at low cost by re-selling the automated skills of the healthcare service provider. This means yet another possible revenue stream for the insurance provider. Yet another use for the already automated skill of the healthcare provider’s customer center and physicist. And yet another happy client possibly willing to pay more.

Automation enables a growth spiral with very low obligations

With robots there are no hard strings attached. If the above experiment does not work it is easy to terminate the use of the robot and move on to try the next big thing. As long as automation is designed so that it can empower not only your own but also other organizations, there is a fertile ground for prototyping and growth. Finding the next thing to try might require some design-, futures- and systems-thinking, but it is certainly not impossible.

Some of the trials will eventually work and the organization might soon need to do even “more with more”.

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