The robotics and cognitive automation conundrum: Big bang deployment or small steps?

Posted by Peter Lowes and Anthony Abbattista on October 5, 2017

The old adage, “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done” may be a reality for organizations that wait too long to develop robotics and cognitive automation (R&CA) capabilities. Momentum is building as more companies use R&CA technologies to replicate human actions and judgment, thereby performing a wide and growing array of routine tasks. Should your organization get started today or wait for technologies to mature before making a major transformation?

Waiting could mean being forced into a “big bang” implementation. Should your competitors start to win with R&CA technology, your executives and directors may demand it. Yet as business process outsourcing, supply chain reengineering, and ERP deployments have demonstrated over the years, big bang implementations are fraught with risk.

The “small steps” alternative is more prudent. Implementing small, iterative waves of R&CA capabilities can lower the deployment risks substantially, allow you to take advantage of lessons learned along the way, and gradually build internal support and competence – less pain, more gain. As a parallel, consider the leaders in the early days of offshoring who set up small operations and scaled them gradually. A similar approach can bring R&CA along as the technology matures and continues to gain adherents.

Funding R&CA development is likely to be an issue whatever approach your organization takes. Here again, small steps have an advantage. Most organizations have some level of staff attrition. If, for example, you have 15-percent attrition and simply do not replace the departures over three years, you could reduce staffing by about 40 percent, with the savings available to fund some R&CA activities. Process improvements that accompany R&CA deployment can generate additional returns on the investment. Also, as new technologies emerge they can be incorporated over the course of incremental R&CA implementation.

Organizations that sit on their hands the next three years because they’re hesitant to act on R&CA may find themselves under enormous pressure to do things in a hurry. Why not get started now. You can get ahead of, or keep up with, your competitors, while mitigating the risks of this step change in how businesses operate.

Are you undertaking R&CA initiatives today or planning to do so soon? Let me hear from you.

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