While many of us tend to think of the Industrial Revolution as a specific era in history, society has actually gone through multiple industrial revolutions over the past few centuries. The first is the one most are familiar with, when new manufacturing processes harnessed steam to power mechanical production. The second began nearly a hundred years later, with the widespread use of electricity. The advent of computers, which brought about dramatic increases in productivity and efficiency marked the Third Industrial Revolution
Some would argue that the Third Industrial Revolution hasn’t yet ended. But many agree that the transition to the next big thing is already underway. That next big thing? Cognitive automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
"Cognitive automation," or using advanced automation technology to complete complex information-based tasks, is transforming business as we know it. Automation is nothing new - we’ve been using varying forms of automation to amplify labor for hundreds of years (thousands, depending on your definition). But automation has mostly been applicable to simple, repetitive tasks. The leap to more complicated functions is what will come to define this latest Industrial Revolution.
So, how do you make sure your company doesn’t get left in the dust as your competitors incorporate cognitive automation? Here are three simple steps to help you successfully implement this technology:
1. Identify use cases
The first step is to develop an automation road map, including realistic automation use cases within your company. Focus on solutions that will drive the most value behind the scenes rather than flashy outward-facing options. Automating your payroll or billing and payments processing may not be the most exciting moves, but they’ll provide significant returns and open the door to greater downstream integrations as you begin to automate more parts of your business.
2. Lay the groundwork
Just because you’ve chosen some likely opportunities for automation doesn’t mean you’re ready to pull the trigger. It’s important to first get buy-in from leadership as well as frontline employees whose day-to-day workflows may be impacted by the change.
You may want to conduct workforce assessments to measure overall sentiment toward automation, and be sure to schedule hands-on training sessions as a part of the implementation process. This will not only make adoption easier and more successful, but can also be a great way to tangibly demonstrate the new tech’s value to relevant personnel.
3. Consolidate databases.
Cognitive automation, AI, and machine learning all run on the same basic fuel - data. And while our ability to mine and make use of data is growing, in order to get your business ready for the latest smart technology, you should prepare your data by centralizing and organizing it.
For some companies, physically consolidating all datasets may not be possible, but there are other options. For example, federated search solutions could tap into disparate data sources simultaneously, allowing you to maintain multiple data sources while you - and your automated systems - can still access them all through one unified entry point.
As automation continues to advance and deliver valuable operational benefits, businesses that neglect to update their systems will quickly find themselves at a severe disadvantage. But with a little preparation, you can ensure your business is well-positioned as the Fourth Industrial Revolution marches on.