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New Year, New Me with GenAI

How it all began: A toast to innovation without compromise

The story of our automation program’s origin is a shining example of the commitment we bring to what we do. It really began with a (strong) recommendation from our executives that, bottom line, we need to be drinking our own champagne (beyond the New Year's Eve toast, that is). We call it being “Customer Zero”.

Our mission as “Customer Zero” is to be on the frontlines: that means maximizing the full potential of our platform with each new release, harnessing other technologies complementary to automation, striving for excellence in the operation of our automation program, and building showcases of the ‘art of the possible’ for our customers.

When we stand behind what we do and the solutions we deliver, it's because we've been there. And along the way, we're able to innovate and uncover even more value to bring to every customer's automation journey.

While it may not be obvious at first glance, over the four years that we've scaled our internal automation program, we've faced many of the same challenges as our customers. We started, as most organizations do, by automating in areas like finance and IT, focusing on “quick wins.” It was clear quickly that in order to scale and be effective at enterprise-wide automation, we needed to formalize the automation program and give it structure and permanence. This is when, like many organizations, we formally established our own center of excellence (CoE).

I’ve been leading our CoE for over two years now and can attest to how much automation has grown and evolved in that time. We’ve expanded into all different business areas and act as the innovation hub to ideate and deliver automation. The program has grown, not just in scale and variety of automations spanning departments—beyond IT and finance to teams like facilities, legal, customer support, and marketing—the program has really grown in depth and breadth.

Which brings me to our experience on the frontlines of adopting generative AI. This ‘New Year, New Me’ blog series is about sharing our experiences—while the New Year's Eve champagne is still sparkling—unlocking the power of generative AI within our own operations. I hope to inspire you to join the generative AI journey, pursue new skills, and embrace the new world of work taking shape before our eyes.

New technology, new rules of the game

When generative AI first hit the scene, it left us, just like many other organizations, with lots of questions—what is it? How can we harness it while protecting our data assets? What value could it actually bring? It was a whirlwind but a thrilling one. We knew we had to navigate this new territory cautiously, prioritizing security and data protection. We established a secure environment as a first step, where we could start experimenting to better understand the capabilities and limitations and where we could build our generative AI skillset, in particular around prompt engineering.

One thing became apparent quickly—the generative AI landscape was rapidly expanding, with big players like OpenAI, Microsoft, AWS, and Google advancing the field and adding really powerful options to the market for generative AI models from which to choose. This drove us to delve deeper, understand the nuances, the pros and cons, and determine strategies to match the right model for particular use cases.

The impact of generative AI on our CoE

Generative AI has already proven to be a game-changer for our CoE. It magnified the potential of our program to deliver business value beyond our initial expectations. It allowed us to aim higher with our OKRs, imagining levels of automation we hadn't previously thought possible. With the capabilities of generative AI, we saw the potential for improving processes that had only been automated by 50-60% to as much as 90%, increasing ROI from 2-3x to an exceptional 9x.

However, this journey wasn't without its hesitations. Security was paramount, and ensuring a safe environment for our data assets was non-negotiable. Collaborations within our organization, particularly with the legal department, were crucial to creating guidelines for usage and policy so that our employees knew how to safely use this new and exciting technology while protecting our data.

Putting generative AI to work at Automation Anywhere

We were eager to see what generative AI could do for real-world use cases within the business. So we went back to our automation program roots, so to speak, and started looking for low-hanging fruit. It might sound obvious, but I’ve found a great way to see where generative AI can help automate a process is to simply ask, what’s the content? If you have a process that involves creating, updating, converting, or extracting content, then it’s worth exploring how generative AI can reinvent how that process is automated.

One of our early applications demonstrated the step-change to scalability that generative AI offers. The use case was in the area of globalization. We have an extensive and growing library of videos—marketing, product demonstrations, etc.—and wanted to have subtitles created for seven or eight additional languages. With our Teams Co-Pilot, we could pass the final translated captions to a linguist for a quick review/edit to ensure the output was just right. By automating the process, we were able to save costs, and perhaps even more importantly, our automation would scale as we added more videos and more languages.

Of course, our vision for generative AI extended beyond these initial use cases. For example, we recently launched a program called “Automation for Everyone.” The objective was simple but ambitious—we wanted to make automation or digital assistants available to every employee. With this in mind, we started to expand our horizons to look not only for use cases that would benefit both specific business units but also those that would add value and a ‘productivity superpower’ to literally every employee.

Among the first solutions we developed in our “Automation for Everyone” category was the Content Assimilator. The challenge was a familiar one: We all experience the time-versus-knowledge conflict between the wealth of content like videos and articles that we want to digest on a daily basis and the limited time available to consume it all. Generative AI came to the rescue, able to rapidly and accurately deliver the top 10 most important points from any given piece of content. Employees can initiate the solution right from within Microsoft Teams via Teams Co-Pilot and receive a content summary quickly. The Content Assimilator is just one example of applying generative AI toward our goal of making automation accessible to every employee.

The power of combined forces

As we progressed and explored different use cases, we discovered that combining automation and generative AI really brought out the best of both technologies. It’s not an exaggeration to call it a match made in heaven. For example, a key question when using generative AI is trust: can you rely on the answers you are getting from the model? For verification, ideally, you would want a quick review of the output by a human subject matter expert, also known as having a ‘human in the loop.’ This scenario is, in fact, a perfect opportunity to leverage our Automation Success Platform and Automation Co-Pilot technology, integrated with generative AI. We were able to get responses from generative AI and route output or process exceptions directly to the right business leaders for review in the applications they were already accessing.

It was clear that our people were the key to effectively adopting generative AI. We needed to understand it, learn a new vocabulary and some new skills, and be clear on where it could be best applied. We began upskilling our workforce in earnest, starting with our IT department. We recognized from the get-go that generative AI as a technology had to originate with the IT team and ensure they became not only familiar but fully comfortable with the application of the technology.

Our training approach began with peer-led sharing, where our IT organization would present real, practical topics and showcase everything we were accomplishing to inspire more innovation and spread the excitement. The IT team developed a depth of knowledge and eagerness to evangelize generative AI across the business. This is what we are doing today—taking the training to other teams. Right now, we are focused on upskilling our entire finance organization to give them the capability to use generative AI as a powerful complement to automation that can solve very real business challenges for us. Automation and generative AI is a partnership proving to be as seminal as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

The breadth of automations and up-and-coming use cases across departments is a testament to the strength of this automation-generative AI partnership. We recently launched our 20th automation with generative AI. We are in the process of delivering solutions in diverse areas like sales, finance, marketing, customer support, contract operations, and legal. Our pipeline of ideas is robust, and it keeps growing every day. The pace and trajectory we are on is very exciting and, for me personally, immensely rewarding to be part of.

Measuring success and accelerating time to value

Beyond the excitement is the question of how we measure success and shape our sense of progress. Like so many automation programs, we began with a singular focus on productivity. How many hours of time savings would an automation deliver? That was the gold-standard benchmark. 

Over time, we have expanded the types of value drivers we consider to include cost savings or cost avoidance (building capacity). And now, we are asking, quite simply, where will automation have an impact? What needle will it move? 

For example, we have automation helping us with our pipeline growth. So now we talk in terms of business KPIs, which can always be converted to a dollar impact, to business value. Maybe it’s a reduction in cycle time or an increase in customer satisfaction; if it’s possible to demonstrate that automating can move the needle on it, we’re game.

The other half of the ROI story is effort/cost. Once again, generative AI has redefined the boundaries for us in this area. Time to value is suddenly so much faster, the runway to ROI is so much shorter than we were familiar with—and we were pretty good at automating! Yes, a year ago, we could have delivered some of the automations we're doing now with generative AI. But it would have been complex, with a lot of granular logic; it would have taken much longer to develop and more effort/cost to maintain. Combining automation with generative AI dramatically accelerates time to value for us.

Pioneering the future of Intelligent Automation + generative AI

Looking ahead, we are not just aiming to maintain our current momentum; we are striving to maximize our potential across all dimensions. We’ve got our sights focused on scale, guided by our Pathfinder program, which provides a backbone for our growth, and we strive to build our effectiveness and efficiency against each of the program’s five pillars.

With the integration of generative AI into our operations and how significantly it has elevated our capabilities, we are aiming higher, with bigger aspirations. It has empowered us to set goals that surpass our previous benchmarks by twice as much in some instances. This technology isn't just an addition to our toolkit; it's a transformational force that’s driving us to achieve new levels of business value.

Our focus is not only on delivering substantial business value for Automation Anywhere but also on demonstrating what is possible and the potential of our technology. We’re committed to our Customer-Zero mission to be pioneers, showcasing how these technologies can create impactful solutions and illuminate the path for our customers to help guide their success.

To be honest, it's a challenge! We are thrilled to have a customer base with a high level of automation sophistication and maturity. However, as “Customer Zero,” we have the opportunity to be the first to experience our new platform functionality. Generative AI and other advancements like Co-Pilot for Automators are reshaping our platform. To better serve our customers and prospects, we strive to be at the forefront of these changes, fully understanding their workings and implications.

Our journey is ambitious, but with our collective efforts and the power of Intelligent Automation, we could not be more enthusiastic about the future and our role as CoE in setting new standards and redefining the future of automation.

The potential to deliver exponential value at work

As the leader of our CoE, I am most excited about the transformative potential that generative AI brings to our work. This technology is not just about incremental or “step change”; it's about a fundamental shift in how we operate. It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity, a seismic shift that we are fortunate to be part of.

The promise of this technology goes way beyond delivering value and meeting company objectives. It goes beyond efficiency and productivity; it's about maximizing our capacity as humans. Imagine a workday that's not only productive but also more enjoyable, more collaborative. That's the future we are striving towards. That's the true promise of this technology—to make our workdays more engaging, more creative, and, ultimately, more fun.

This vision is not just mine. When I speak with our business partners, I hear how they are equally excited about the potential of automation and generative AI. Together, we are on a journey to reshape the future of work, and we're excited to be leading the way.

I invite you to fill your glass and join our journey. The following posts in this series will delve deeper into our internal use cases, where we have automation and generative AI working for us right now. Cheers!

About Mark Goodaire

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Mark is the Director of Automation & Business Transformation at Automation Anywhere and leads our internal center of excellence (CoE).

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