Is your enterprise machine ready? If it isn’t, you need to act. Make no mistake, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies – such as machine learning (ML) and robotic processing automation (RPA) – are coming and coming fast. In this article and the two that follow, I will provide some thoughts about the impacts these new technologies will have on business and offer some suggestions to help your enterprise embrace the transition to a more automated future.

The transition away from the manual processes of the 1950s to digital ones is well underway and in the near future we will enter the age of intelligent and autonomous processing. Automated machine technologies are being incorporated into mainstream software at an ever-increasing rate and they will have significant business and societal impacts.

The co-dependence that exists between society and technology serves to intensify consumer demand for improved product and service experiences. Continuous improvement, convenience, ‘channel of choice’, anytime anywhere communication are not just buzzwords, they are mandatory for all participants in B2C and B2B economies.

To succeed in the digital economy, simplification, automation, agility and the ability to undertake constant transformation are attributes that need to be built into the DNA of every enterprise. They are fundamental to maintaining competitive advantage, shoring up customer loyalty and capitalising on new business initiatives.

So how do you best prepare your enterprise to embrace new technologies and build these capabilities? The first thing to do is really believe change is happening and then adjust the culture of your organisation to suit. A recent IDC research paper suggests that by next year intelligent automation and digital assistant tools will quadruple knowledge worker productivity. On the factory floor there will be around 2.5 million industrial robots in action. By 2020 30% of all back-office processing will be automated, and by 2021 20% of enterprise application spend will be on intelligent ‘killer’ apps.

Yet despite these statistics another recent New Zealand survey suggests that less than half of businesses have plans to address technological disruption in their industry. They are at risk of becoming ‘zombie’ firms, organisations that continue to put staff to work on repetitive, manually intensive tasks without a plan to address the threats and opportunities afforded by artificial intelligence and changing consumer habits.

Without taking calculated risks to embrace future disruption your business runs a greater risk of not fulfilling its potential, failing its workforce and being quickly swallowed by change. If new technologies replace many facets of current human activity within the enterprise, your business needs to be prepared to adjust, re-train affected workers and ready itself for the new opportunities automation creates.

Getting the culture right is important as it creates the glue to make the transition – and transformation – successful. It builds connections between the enterprise’s business objectives, its workers and the IT group charged with implementing the automation technologies – a virtuous circle that stimulates success.

In my next article I look at the enterprise building blocks – data, process consistency and system integration and connectivity – that are important to get right to smoothly adopt technology and capitalise on its flow-on effects.