How do growing businesses automate for scale?

Publications
08 April 2019

How do growing businesses automate for scale?

David Burke, Director

Meet Amit Varma, currently VP of Technology at a major financial firm. For the last 20 years, Amit has used technologies to automate systems and processes. Realising significant efficiencies for organisations.

His latest initiative harnessed AI, big data and cloud technology to automate a payment risk process. It reduced the process from 1-2 days to less than 100th of a millisecond.

Amit’s focus continues to be on how to harness innovation, digital transformation and business optimisation. His aim? To transform and grow product sets to increase revenue.

This cocktail of credibility means Amit is well-placed to guide us on the next subject in our series on scale: how do growing businesses automate for scale?


The time is now

Doubting the relevance of automation in business today? Amit reminds us the world is moving to a real-time model.

“In five to 10 years time, if a business is delaying a transaction by one or two days, they’ll lose business.” And this is already happening. “Cross-country payments are free and instantaneous. If your business isn’t offering the same service, you’re losing out.”

When competitive advantage is in such great demand, pace and vision are key. For scaling organisations, this is as much about securing the future as saving time today.


“You may be able to gather data and launch a cloud solution, but what will you do with that data? What’s the goal?

“Should you want to automate the entire milk production supply chain end-to-end - that’s a fine goal. But introducing automation for the sake of it risks failure.”

To automate for scale then, know your why: build a clear vision and set objectives.


Don’t get drawn in by buzzwords

“IOT, bitcoin ... People hear these buzzwords and ask, what I can do to get this technology in?”, reflects Amit. “Which is fine as an initial drive, but at the cost of having a strategy and vision … that’s the biggest reason for failure.”

“It would be like introducing cloud-based processing into farming without understanding the nuances of what it entails. Or where you want to get to.


You may be able to gather data and launch a cloud solution, but what will you do with that data? What’s the goal?

“Should you want to automate the entire milk production supply chain end-to-end - that’s a fine goal. But introducing automation for the sake of it risks failure.”

To automate for scale then, know your why: build a clear vision and set objectives.


Align your operational model

The next consideration, Amit advises, is to ensure you have the right structures in place.

“What’s your operational model? What processes and toolsets are the team using?

Aligning the operational design of your business to the strategic vision is imperative. “If the two don’t line up, that’s another reason automation initiatives fail. It’s like having the best artillery but not getting it out there.”

Strive for harmony, advises Amit. “Think through your operational model. Align it to your objectives and ensure it’s working towards your strategic vision.”


Include your customers

“You could be producing the best goods in the world. But are they aligned with your customers’ objectives?”

Any automation initiative (whether you’re scaling or not) should meet client needs. The focus must be here from the outset. “What do they need and what are they asking for?” This commercial approach was central to Amit’s risk protection initiative.

“In the context of payment processes, one to two days makes fraud a major risk factor. That’s long enough for a possible fraud to be hidden in the system. From the outset, we knew we needed to automate and speed up the entire payment process for our clients.” Reducing the time to 100th of a millisecond locks out the opportunity for fraud. And better secures client transactions.

Amit followed a design thinking process here and step one was empathy. “Listen to client, end clients and senior stakeholders. Understand their pain points.”

Not only does this build the business case and enable buy-in down the line, it also puts you on the front foot. “In the case of fraud protection, it’s a matter of prevention rather than damage control. Using automation to prevent a problem builds your reputation. If you are controlling existing damage, your reputation is already lost.”

Getting deep into the client’s psyche early on helps preempt user needs. But be warned: realising an automation need today might not mean it is immediately activated.


Factor in wait-time

“From a fraud management perspective we’ve found that while we have the ability to block payment transactions that are fraudulent, clients don’t necessarily want to do that today,” says Amit.

“If we did roll it out immediately, our clients would receive 5000 phone calls asking why. Their operational models are not cut out for that. So there was an on-boarding and an absorption period to go through.”

“It took two years,” says Amit. This automation initiative needed the time and investment for pilot rounds. It was phased in. There were cooling off periods. Client partners and end clients were engaged in discussions. It was gradually rolled out.

In any automation initiative, “you cannot undermine client relationships”, advises Amit. “Solutions fair well when the human element is present, when you bring people on the tech journey with you.”


Automating for scale

Amit’s advice is in:

  1. Build your vision. Set objectives

  2. Align your operating model

  3. Consult with clients and all stakeholders

  4. Factor in wait-times and bring people with you

On April 10th, Harvey Nash Ireland will be hosting a panel at the Dublin Tech Summit. Join us for “Scale or Fail? How to navigate your way through change”. Register your interest by emailing - katy.smith@harveynash.ie