APA engines are leading the global automation spree, and the changes are radical. Let’s find out why.
Whilst the global digital transformation of businesses is a process well and truly underway, definitive workloads relating to Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other data-driven technologies usually require the simultaneous deployment of a number of technologies and platforms — most of it needing technical expertise — to get the job done. Given, instead, the need for simplification — the ‘democratisation’ of data, if you will — i.e., the widening of access to said data and processes beyond those involved in the realm of data science, the objective now, according to much research, is to expand the scope of said technologies to guarantee maximum reach and usability.
‘Quick win’ Automator
One of the major ways by which firms are making the aforementioned a reality is through a process called ‘Analytic Process Automation’ (APA). According to technologist Bernard Marr: “At its core, this is all about bringing together advanced analytic capabilities, automation of business processes, and workforce upskilling under one umbrella. These are three essential areas that businesses have to tackle if they want to make the most of the opportunities of digital transformation. Therefore, managing them together in a synchronized and integrated way on a unified platform makes a lot of sense.”
While automation has found a myriad range of use-cases in industries worldwide, the biggest ‘wins’ are regarded as the increased efficiencies noted in regular processes such as reporting, transactions, compliance and administration. Consider, in this regard, the case of US-based manufacturing giant Stanley Black & Decker, who have reduced their internal tax journal processing from seven days down to 15 minutes by using APA processes, through collaborations with global APA leaders, US-based software firm Alteryx. In fact, Alteryx claims that their APA processes are now in use in almost 37% of the businesses in the Forbes Global 2000 list, and about 6,400 firms worldwide. According to Marr:
“Quick wins” are a vital objective in any data strategy. With relatively light requirements in terms of resources and time, they are an opportunity to quickly show that ROI is possible under your strategy, and to secure buy-in for more ambitious and resource-intensive initiatives. If a business is just starting out along the road to becoming data-driven, they create opportunities to ensure the framework and infrastructure are in place – from technology to skills, data governance, and compliance. Efficiencies will generally come from time-saving and reduction of waste, as routine processes are taken care of by machines, leaving human workers free to apply their knowledge and expertise in areas where it can make a real difference.”
Ain’t no code like ‘No Code’
APA platforms, such as those offered by Alteryx, Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Microsoft, are typically ‘No Code/Low Code’ AI- and analytics-powered automation engines which allow even non-experts to seamlessly automate tasks using just a few clicks. What this means, is that virtually anyone involved within an organisation can use such platforms to reduce their manual workload and prepare themselves to work with data in the future. Research finds that this could effectively turn out to be one of the most prudent means of ‘upskilling’ the workforce to make them adept at understanding how exactly data flows through the business, and how to overcome the challenges involved therein.
It is this focus on democratisation that sets APA platforms apart from paradigms such as data science, Business Intelligence (BI), ETL and analytics tools such as Python, Spark or Tableau, that have traditionally been deployed as carriers of the digital transformation around the world. APA does indeed considerably lower barriers to entry in a manner than can only facilitate levels of innovation, transformation and growth in future.