Automation Maturity Index.

Article.

Written in collaboration with Longitude,

A Financial Times company.

How do you measure automation excellence?

Tracking the diverse dimensions of automation maturity in financial services.

Modern approaches to automation have unlocked a cascade of opportunities for financial-services firms, dramatically expanding the scale, scope, and significance of potential benefits.

Organizations have been quick to pursue these opportunities, a trend that has only become more pronounced as the Covid-19 pandemic has worn on. However, many businesses only recognize and evaluate a fraction of the real impacts of their automation investments, which can lead to costly blind spots, hidden risks, and inefficiencies.

A new measurement framework is needed to allow financial-services organizations to measure their progress comprehensively and benchmark their true level of automation maturity relative to their competitors.

In this article, we introduce 10 dimensions of automation maturity. Together, they represent the foundation of modern automation excellence. Organizations that measure – and excel across – these 10 dimensions are on a path of ever-improving resilience, growth, innovation, efficiency, agility, and operational performance.

The new era of automation

Of course, automation in a broad sense is not a new trend in financial services.

A hundred years ago, pneumatic tubes automated the movement of cash and documents around banks. Fifty years ago, banks began to use giant mainframe computers to automate manual back-office operations.

Today, automation is more pervasive than ever. It builds on the digital foundations that organizations have laid in recent decades, but has nevertheless broken from past trends in important ways.

Automation used to be thought of as simply plugging machines into manual processes. Unfortunately, this outdated view still circulates and it tends to lead to poor outcomes.

Starting with the right perspective

Financial-services organizations today should think of automation as flexibly and reliably uniting the strengths of people, bots, and artificial intelligence (AI) – ideally from a single workflow platform.

It is also important to recognize that the scope and scale of automation now have few limits. Automation covers everything from simple tasks to complex end-to-end processes, in areas including customer service, regulatory compliance, core operations, technology management, data integration, risk mitigation, and analytics.

It also incorporates many different methods and capabilities, including robotic process automation (RPA), workflow and business-process management, AI, decision rules, intelligent document-processing, and case management, to name just a few.

Beyond the simple metrics

One consequence of these wide-ranging developments and opportunities in contemporary automation is that it becomes more complex to measure the true impact of automation investments.

Simplistic metrics often miss important benefits or pitfalls, so it is important that we try to develop more thorough evaluation tools.

As a baseline, many companies will measure the most salient impacts, such as hours saved on tasks, speed of response, and reduced operating expenses. These are fundamental indicators, but they only begin to tell the story of whether an organization is maximizing the opportunities that modern automation affords.

Some important impacts require a more qualitative framework. Is automation enhancing the customer experience? Is it producing more satisfied and engaged employees? Do we have a culture that allows non-technical employees to take ownership of the design and management of automated processes?

Strategic and organizational factors

Many other factors are important. Automation is sometimes deployed without an appropriate enterprise-wide strategy, leading to wasted resources and missed opportunities.

In some cases, there is a centralized strategy, but one with key flaws, such as adopting a task-by-task, rather than a platform-based, approach. A low-code automation platform can support more impactful strategies, helping to orchestrate end-to-end processes across diverse systems, departments, and databases.

Aspects of the wider organizational culture also impact the success of automation. For instance, automating a bad process does not magically turn it into a good process. Organizations with strong business-process management capabilities, therefore, tend to attain greater benefits from automation, which then leads to improved processes, in turn leading to more benefits, in a virtuous circle of improvement.

A similar compounding effect flows from other organizational attributes. For example, organizations with robust capabilities in digital, AI, cloud, data management, governance, and risk can use these to support greater initial and long-term levels of automation maturity and excellence.

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Full report available soon

Defining the dimensions of automation maturity

We have developed a set of key indicators that describe the diverse factors that contribute to automation excellence. We call these the 10 Dimensions of Automation Maturity:

1. Enterprise-Level Thinking:

Manages workflows holistically, as a unified enterprise, rather than as individual departments or teams. This relies on strong business process management in relation to all operations, whether automated or not.

2. Platform Power:

Takes a platform approach to automation, rather than a task-by-task approach; mature organizations use low-code automation platforms to automate end-to-end processes and orchestrate diverse systems, databases, AI, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), bots, and people.

3. Democratization:

Views automation as a business problem, not just an IT problem; embraces a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to developing solutions, including creation of an automation center of excellence with equal, collaborative participation from IT and business experts.

4. Governance & Visibility:

Maintains strong governance, visibility, and control over all automated and non-automated workflows, supporting proactive risk management, robust regulatory compliance, and operational excellence.

5. Speed & Agility:

Develops flexible, agile, responsive processes and systems that help the organization adapt rapidly to change, while supporting continuous monitoring and optimization of processes.

6. Impact:

Realizes significant business benefits from automation (e.g., shareholder and stakeholder value, cost efficiencies, etc.) across a diverse range of business areas. (This dimension includes the most commonly used metrics).

7. Digital & Data:

Excels within a digital-first culture; continuously improving digital and data systems, governance, and expertise, which support wider and more sophisticated automation use cases.

8. Added Intelligence:

Harnesses AI to develop more advanced and effective automations on an ongoing basis, transforming workflows, business processes, decision-making, case management, etc.

9. Customers:

Uses automation to enhance customer experience and satisfaction, providing industry-leading customer service, online and mobile experiences, and product/service innovation (including end-to-end visibility and control across the customer journey).

10. Employees:

Uses automation to augment and empower employees, helping the business get more from teams and individuals, while ensuring that employees are stimulated, motivated, and productive.

Appian helps organizations build apps and workflows rapidly, with a low-code automation platform. Combining people, technologies, and data in a single workflow, Appian can help companies maximize their resources and improve business results. Many of the world’s largest organizations use Appian applications to improve customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and simplify global risk management and compliance.

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