3 ways intelligent automation can improve productivity
17 March 2023
Given that, it would be safe to assume Australian companies would be taking full advantage of the power of tech tools but there is evidence to suggest many are failing to do so. As revealed in a report recently released by the Australian Productivity Commission2, the country is doing well on basic technology and data uptake but falling behind on advanced uses, which could limit future productivity growth.
“Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic automation and big-data analytics could revolutionise how businesses operate and help lift Australia’s productivity growth by reducing costs, improving the quality of goods and services, and increasing product choice for consumers,” wrote Productivity Commissioner Dr Stephen King.
“Businesses of all sizes should be encouraged to invest in digital technologies.”
There is no doubt that organisations that fail to harness the full potential of their data forego productivity gains. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enables organisations to make better decisions, reduce errors and engage their staff with higher-value work. As an example, research firm Gartner found the average amount of avoidable rework in accounting departments can take up to 30% of a full-time employee’s overall time, which equates to savings of 25,000 hours per year at a cost of U.S. $878,000 for an organisation with 40 full-time accounting staff3.
So why isn’t everyone embracing RPA and digital transformation initiatives? One study found the blame lies with CEOs or boards of directors (37%), senior executive teams (32%) and department heads (26%)4 but sometimes the hesitation is a simple failure to recognise the ongoing ROI of the initial outlay to get it in place.
What we do know is any department or function can be truly transformed by expert deployment of RPA technology. Companies that simplify and then automate core business processes will achieve superior productivity and to help them get started, here are three areas to find quick wins.
Align staffing with demand: we know there’s a skills shortage – not just in numbers but of the right skills in the right areas. Amid such pressures, businesses need to gain a better understanding of how to meet demand without carrying head count that exceeds needs and that is where data and analytics comes into play. It is not so much about predicting when a market will tank as preparing to deal with the repercussions.
By using analytics, firms can remain nimble and use insights from forward estimates to inform decisions around staffing. It may mean having a mix of 60/40 permanent and casual contracts or a pipeline to agency resources who can help when the need arises. The key factor is using data and analytics to be responsive and track and project changes in demand. Get the staffing mix right and you get superior productivity.
Identify and quantify margin erosion: this is all about the profitability side of productivity. Too many businesses end up asking: “Why is my pocketed price so much less than my list price?” If the list price is $100 and they are only pocketing $72, it is vital to establish where the leak is happening – from volume discounts, rebates, advertising costs and discounts for early payment to unbilled freight, free samples or product returns.
Setting up systems and tools to analyse data along the whole price waterfall can reveal powerful insights. If salespeople are giving away free samples that account for 2% of the margin, do they need to? Are discounts really driving volume or simply giving away margins with no return? By deploying tools that analyse company data, management can identify opportunities for margin improvement.
Map characteristics of valuable customers: if 20% of customers are delivering 80% of the profit margin and 80% are providing only 20%, does it make sense to let the latter go because they are unprofitable? It is definitely a question worth asking but one that can only be posed after first applying data analytics. Cutting-edge tools allow businesses to identify the characteristics of their most profitable customers via data profiling and then dedicate resources to helping move the next best up the curve, rather than waste them on retaining those who are less profitable.
Integrating several data sources can provide accurate and fascinating insights, be it their geographic location or a particular style of contract or procurement. Whatever it is, a data-driven system will keep you apprised of trends and ensure you can act as needed.
Deploying digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic automation and data analytics can clearly help companies realise their latent productivity. Better still, doing so will help address Australia’s national productivity challenges at a time when the issue is of national importance.
Embedding technology throughout a business can help executives rethink customer journeys, empower staff and streamline processes. Discover how Innovior is conceptualising, building and scaling innovative digital processes to deliver business excellence.
 IDC: The "Digital-First Enterprise" Will Be Half of the Economy by 2023. Are You Ready? | PCMag
 Interim Report 2 - 5 Year Productivity Inquiry: Australia's data and digital dividend - Productivity Commission (pc.gov.au)
 Robotic Process Automation Saving Finance Work Hours | Gartner
 72 Vital Digital Transformation Statistics: 2023 Spending, Adoption, Analysis & Data - Financesonline.com