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Harnessing intelligent automation

Harnessing intelligent automation Harnessing intelligent automation

Intelligent Automation (IA) and Data Analytics must be at the top of every organisation’s strategic and tactical agenda. So explains Cian Kelliher, KPMG Head of Consulting in Munster, underlining the fact that these technologies promise much more than just improving operational efficiency and effectiveness.

He rightly points out their crucial role in providing the basis for a broad range of new and enhanced products and services. Indeed, a growing percentage of today’s business leaders view IA as a means of driving future revenue growth. 

IA: key to skill shortages & an ageing workforce

“Business leaders need to recognise and pro-actively manage the why, what and how of fully exploiting the potential of IA,” Cian explains. “More than just cost savings or gaining operational efficiencies, IA is about fundamentally changing how an organisation operates from the standpoint of internal operations, how it deals with its customers and suppliers and how it delivers its core products and services.”

While there is much concern around IA - that it will, for instance, lead to job losses, marauding bots and privacy invasions - the reality is that it will have a huge impact on how organisations operate and on the nature of what constitutes work in the future. In fact, it is already clear that IA will be key in addressing skills shortages in aging workforces, enhancing skills and automating lower value activities in order to free up time to focus on value-adding services such as analysing data instead of simply processing it. “KPMG has a proven track record and a wealth of experience offering end to end support for our clients in addressing such concerns and unlocking the game changing potential of these technologies,” Cian points out.

KPMG's Cian Kelliher

Prioritising IA investment for maximum return

“The key for organisations is better prioritising of IA investment areas and understanding that all pilots or proof of concepts are not equal in terms of benefits returned,” he explains. “The onus is on organisations to determine how best to integrate and coordinate cross-organisational efforts, and ensure adequate management programs and practices are in place to address the disruption IA adoption will entail.”

While the adoption of advanced Data Analytics is at a more mature level, the adoption of IA remains largely in its infancy, with most Irish organisations still in the pilot stages of getting their efforts fully operational: “This is due to many factors, including immaturity of the technologies and cost of deployment, but more so due to organisational uncertainty on where to start, whether or not to coordinate and integrate  disparate efforts, and how to address the impact these technologies will have on their operations and workforces.”

He cites the example of how Robotic Process Automation (RPA) could partially or fully eliminate certain roles in an organisation. “In addition to managing the resulting disruption, organisations must determine how to address the future of their workforce: will you re-train, re-skill, or retire employees affected.”

Ironically, at the same time organisations are struggling with what to do with roles that are automated, they also recognise that their intelligent automation efforts, especially in the areas of machine learning and artificial intelligence, are hampered by a lack of skilled resources needed to design, build, deploy and manage these systems and initiatives. “The evolution and adoption of IA technologies is proceeding at such a rapid pace that, while executives recognise its game changing potential, many struggle to understand what that means to their own organisation and its operations, and where they should place their own IA bets and investments”.

AI’s game changing potential

Regardless of the challenges involved, organisations must press ahead with their IA efforts or seriously risk longer-term marginalisation against competitive peers that are already forging forward. Cian underlines how the evolution and adoption of IA technologies is now proceeding at such a rapid pace that executives struggle to recognise its game changing potential. “If the only thing an organisation gains through IA is incremental cost savings, it is missing out on the technology’s full potential.

To get the most from IA efforts beyond cost savings, broad-ranging transformation is needed, not just in a piecemeal way. It takes an enterprise culture that is ready and capable of embracing fundamental changes in how it operates,” he adds. Effective adoption requires tangible and active top-level executive commitment and strategic leadership: “It takes an understanding of the impact of IA on the workforce and the changed management capabilities to address it. Crucially, it requires practical knowledge of the various IA technologies, judicious use of third-party expertise and, finally, a recognition of the amount of time, money and resources it will take to exploit IA’s potential.”

Press ahead or face being left behind

Pushing forward with IA efforts requires patience, especially given that the transition may face resistance from staff feeling threatened by change, especially when it might lead to changes in roles and operating models. “Despite these challenges, organisations must press ahead with their IA efforts. They must pay keen attention to how best to address not only the technological challenges they will face, but also those more operational and cultural in nature. Intelligent automation will span quickly across all industries and will disrupt businesses at an accelerated pace. The most competitive businesses of the future will be far along the IA curve of development.”

Cian was recently appointed as KPMG’s Head of Consulting in Munster, bringing a deep consulting expertise to the position, with 15 years of management consulting and commercial experience.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner and has been reproduced here with their kind permission.

KPMG's Head of Consulting in Munster

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Cian Kelliher

Head of Consulting in Munster

Management Consulting


T: +353216025515