20 Sep 2021

Six essential ingredients to ensure your intelligent automation project is successful

Guest Blog: James Duez, co-founder and CEO of Rainbird #LTW

I want to tell you about a project we did many years ago that failed.  

A major high-street bank engaged the team at Rainbird to develop an intelligent automation tool to reduce their complaints rate. Like many banks, their technical legacy made it challenging to diagnose problems quickly and the customer journey was far from ideal.  

We designed a problem diagnosis tool that all branch staff could use to rapidly solve customer problems. We completed this in just six weeks, by modelling the bank’s expert tribal knowledge and delivering a consultative tool that could resolve over 260 different trajectories of questioning.

It was much admired by the bank. The tool was powerful, and the proof of concept was successful.

So, why did the project ultimately fail? It was not because of our technology, nor the team. What was underestimated was the lack of cultural buy-in for this sort of automation and change.

Many years later, I often reflect on this project. It’s an experience that led us to develop a set of six essential ingredients that every intelligent automation project should have to maximise its likelihood of success. These have seen us guide a wide range of clients—including complex organisations like the NHS—through successful projects, large and small. With organisations accelerating their digital transformation in the wake of COVID-19 and, according to IBM, 43% of organisations having sped up their AI rollout, it’s crucial that firms get to grips with these ingredients.

So, here are the six ingredients you need. Note: you need all of them. 

1. An immediate and painful problem that needs solving 

Plenty of intelligent automation projects change an organisation’s operating model entirely—but that’s not the best place to start.

Generally, it’s better to start by improving the organisation: fix smaller problems first. Don’t try anything radical until you have achieved a couple of successful projects that have made incremental improvements to the business.

What are your organisation’s most painful problems capable of being improved by automation? What will make the most impact, the fastest? Find a point of great tension that can be resolved for relatively low effort/risk.

2. A well-defined use case 

Narrowly define your use case. Think small. Focus on what is achievable: one business case that has a clear return on investment. Tip: client-facing initiatives will add additional stakeholders and complexity and work best as subsequent projects.

Once you’ve decided, be clear on what you are trying to achieve and communicate this well.

Document the purpose, importance and ideal outcome. Ask yourself: What’s the best outcome? What’s the outcome of doing nothing? What are the measurable success criteria?  

3. Senior buy-in  

You need stakeholders who will recognise and back a need for change. Ideally, senior buy-in should be manifested in a written strategy that demonstrates a commitment to digital transformation and automation. Senior stakeholders must be willing to fund and engage with this process.

4. An effective team 

Those who are more established in creating workflows and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) may have established a Centre of Excellence (CoE). For those who have not reached that stage, what’s crucial is that you have an engaged problem owner—someone responsible for realising the project’s vision—with enough weight behind them to drive a project from a proof-of-concept to full deployment.

5. An open and positive culture

This one is tricky. We all know that “culture eats strategy for lunch” and it may take time for your organisation's attitude to automation to become positive. A culture that is open and positive to the adoption of automation is critical. This generally occurs through smaller “quick win” projects.

Once your workforce recognises the benefits of having tools that enable them to perform to a higher standard, it will be self-reinforcing.

6. A guide

Depending on the level of automation experience you have accumulated in your organisation, you may need a guide—someone who has the empathy to understand the challenge and the authority to move you forward based on previous successful projects. The right candidate will have frameworks for evaluating and building the right projects and an ability to call you to action in a way that is incremental and ensures you do not lose your shirt or job!  

When your first project is successful, I guarantee you that it will scale, because you will have created a new capability to transform. Once you’ve adopted a platform for one project, you’ll recognise that you have not only new technology but also the skills and experience to apply it to new use cases. You’ll also be able to innovate new solutions and revenues based on this capability.

Rainbird is an intelligent automation platform that lets you automate complex decision-making, at scale. Rainbird’s automated decisions are typically 100x faster and 25% more accurate, while being fully explainable.

James Duez is a technologist, entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Rainbird.