Growing demand for Business Automation
The KOFAX 2020 Intelligent Automation Benchmark Study by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by end-to-end business automation company Kofax, Inc, found that the usage of automation technology has skyrocketed in recent years,with investment in automation having doubled in the past two years.
Forrester altogether surveyed 450 automation and artificial intelligence (AI) decision makers as well as 450 individual contributors across business departments, and the decision makers estimated another 40-percent increase investment in automation over the next two years across the entire enterprise, from the front office to the back office and everywhere in between.
Founded 30 years ago, the Irvine, California based Kofax provides a suite of end-to-end business automation solutions which allow different types of organisations to transform highly paper- or information-intensive business processes, which enables them to reduce manual workflow for greater efficiency, lower costs, meet regulatory compliance requirements, mitigate risks, improve the customer experience, and other benefits.
“In today’s business environment, customer experience is becoming increasingly crucial because companies need to be more competitive, more nimble and much more focused and we allow them to achieve this through our suite of applications,” Zakir Ahmed, Kofax Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan told Enterprise IT News (EITN).
Kofax achieves this by combining several of its solutions, mainly its Robotic Process Automation (RPA), analytics, solutions around PDF and document imaging, capture and cognitive capture in areas such as digitising paper-intensive operations, mobility and workflow.
“Whilst all these solutions can work independently by themselves, we bundle together the relevant ones and call it the Intelligent Automation Platform,” said Zakir.
Kofax’s solutions integrate with the Intelligent Automation Platform and they also protect customers’ earlier investments by allowing for integration with customers’ legacy workflow management systems, as well as their existing platforms such as Oracle, Siebel, SQL, customer relationship management systems, business process management systems and so forth, with some configuration and integration required. The company also offers customers APIs (application programming interface) which lets them integrate these solutions together.
To better understand what Kofax’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution does, let’s first look at ICIS, the world’s largest petrochemical market information provider, with divisions spanning energy and fertilisers.
With offices in New York, London, Milan, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo, ICIS provides pricing, news and analysis that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertiliser industries make strategic decisions, mitigate risk, improve productivity and capitalise on new opportunities – in essence it provides data and analytical tools that enable its customers to identify and act on opportunities in fast-moving markets.
ICIS must give its analysts, editors and subject matter experts around the world timely access to accurate information from a wide range of sources, so that they can in turn provide its customers with the insights to enable them to make well-informed, better business decisions.
However, in its over 30 years of existence ICIS had a time-consuming manual process for collecting, collating and visualising data which increased its exposure to risk. Also, these highly repetitive tasks are prone to risk of human error creeping into the data, since its people had to manually export data from the web, and on some occasions it could not provide market updates outside of regular office hours.
However, for many years, ICIS’ parent company Reed Business Information had been using Kofax RPA to eliminate the need for repetitive, manual processes across a number of key business areas and had solved similar challenges through automation, so ICIS decided to adopt Kofax RPA itself.
So ICIS worked with Kofax to design software, build and test robots which mostly capture critical data from the web automatically, as well as to download and extract data from spreadsheet files. Within a few months they eliminated the need for manual copying and pasting, with improved quality and frequency of data capture, and freed its team from repetitive work.
Today, ICIS has 155 robots in production, and is currently validating 100 more in its test environment. The majority of its data-gathering robots run once a day, whilst some run as frequently as every five minutes to capture fast-changing data and deliver it to its analysts, editor and subject matter experts almost instantly.
Acceptance to engage
Whilst some of ICIS’s staff were initially unnerved by the change but they soon became enthusiastic when they saw the positive impact Kofax RPA was having on the business, and they now have more free time to develop new skills, such as analytics and data science, and the company has seen a dramatic increase in engagement.
Besides using Kofax RPA to capture data points such as petrochemical production, demand, volume and prices, ICIS is using it to support its data visualisation and delivery processes.
Also, to maximise on its investment in technology, ICIS looked into other ways it could use Kofax RPA, for example, to build a robot to automatically load data captured from the web into a SQL database. Each time data changes in the back end, ICIS’ Tableau business intelligence platform creates new data visualisations, offering its internal analysts and market reporters immediate access to the latest data in an easy-to-digest format.
Moreover, Kofax RPA works round the clock, seven days a week to deliver accurate, timely data to its teams around the world, which also has enabled members of ICIS’ data operations team to upskill themselves, such as to become a business systems analyst and to develop new skills in Python, Alteryx and Tableau.
“Today, Kofax has 28,000 customers worldwide with many in the Asia-Pacific, Japan and Malaysia and these include very large organisations in the Fortune 500, Global 2000 and multi-national companies worldwide, including eight of the top 10 banks, seven of the top 10 insurance companies, three of five to 10 logistics companies, as well as many small and mid-sized companies,” said Zakir Ahmed.
Most ready adopters of Kofax’s automation and digitisation solutions in Malaysia are amongst the banking, financial services and insurance industries, whilst there also has been lots of uptake amongst the logistics, manufacturing and automotive industries, as well as amongst colleges and universities.