Monday, July 20, 2015

Mobility, Sensors, Robotic Process Automation and the Principle of Acceleration

If you have spent any time working on IT projects you would have heard the comment, "The system is only as good as the data." It's an accurate and necessary statement, as it describes a prerequisite for many technological innovations. Many system designs fail in the face of reality. Reality is often a cloaked term for implementing a digital solution in a physical world without a sufficient understanding of how the physical world operates. This is one problem where sensors can really help.

Sensors fill in the blind spots in our systems and operations by measuring the physical world and providing us with the data. Where previously we operated on conjecture or false assumptions, sensors provide real data on how the real world functions. Operating on real data allows for new and different approaches and IT strategies. Strategies that utilize artificial intelligence or in more complex environments robotic process automation solutions. These automated processes or solutions know exactly what to do in a complex process given specific data. Robotic process automation offers operational speeds and levels of accuracy never before possible with humans alone.

In a world of ubiquitous mobility, businesses must learn to operate in real-time. Marketing, sales and commerce must all evolve to operate in real-time. Think about a LBS (location based service) where retailers want to inform their customers, via SMS, of nearby discounts or special offers. If the SMS is delayed, the customer will likely have moved on and the SMS will be irrelevant. Payments must operate in real-time. Real-time is a speed deemed impossible just a few years ago and remains a future goal for most companies. Today, however, with mobile devices and real-time wireless sensors updating complex systems, it is often the humans in a process that are the sources and causes of bottlenecks. Think about how slow a credit or debit card transaction would be if every transaction ended up in a human's inbox to review and approve before it could be completed. Global and mobile commerce would stop. The credit and debit card processes have long ago been automated. Enterprises are now feeling the pressure to automate more processes to enable an operational tempo than runs at the speed of mobility.

What does it take to automate and run at real-time operational tempos? First, it takes accurate data that has not expired on the shelf. Data that has expired on the shelf means the value it once had, no longer remains.  For example, the weather forecast for last weekend, is not useful for this weekend.  The value of the data has expired. Second, it takes IT infrastructures capable of supporting real-time transactions and processing speeds. Thirdly, it takes defining decision trees, business rules and processes to the level where they can be coded and automated. This will then enable artificial intelligence to be added and utilized. Once enough artificial intelligence is supported it can be connected together into a complete process for RPA (robotic process automation) to be supported. Now you have a chance at real-time speeds.

In summary, accurate and real-time data, especially in a physical environment, will require sensors to fill data blind spots and replace data that has expired on the shelf. This is just one of the many ways enterprises can take advantage of the IoT (Internet of Things).

Mobile apps are driving the demand for real-time interactions and information.  Real-time demand drives a need to change business processes and IT (digital transformations). Digital transformation increases the demand for real-time IT infrastructures and processes, which in turn will increase the demand for IoT and robotic process automations. In economic circles this is known as the principle of acceleration. If demand for a product or solution increases, then the production capabilities for supplying the demand increases at an even greater amount. What does that mean for us?  Mobile is going to drive all kinds of increasing changes in business and IT. Mobile technologies are having an acceleration effect across enterprises and IT today. This effect is driving digital transformation initiatives toward reaching the "real-time" benchmark that will require more enterprise IoT and robotic process automations to achieve real-time speeds.

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.