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UK BUSINESSES INVESTING £3 MILLION EACH IN AI BUT STRUGGLING WITH LACK OF STRATEGY AND SKILLS

~ 94% of UK businesses have embarked on automation projects ~

UK companies are currently spending an average of £3.1 million per company on AI technologies, with large businesses investing over £6.5 million, new research from content IQ provider ABBYY has found. The UK’s investment in automation projects averages at £1.2 million per company, but more than two-thirds (67%) aren’t educating staff well enough on how to use it and 1 in 6 said their business had no strategy in place or that they weren’t aware of one. Across the automation stack, the research found that content-centric process automation is a particularly promising area delivering benefits for businesses, and creating huge opportunities for early adopters of new-generation technologies.

Efficiency was the highest-ranking benefit for these technologies, with a majority of businesses already seeing improved efficiency from their automation investments. Content-centric process automation in particular impressed on efficiency – with over 62% seeing efficiency gains as a result of implementing the technology.

It also provided higher ROI than general AI technologies when it came to productivity, revenue growth and business transformation (see Figure 1). What’s more, content-centric automation beat businesses’ expectations, helping businesses grow their revenue, increase market share, and get ahead of the competition by 15% more than anticipated before deployment.

Automation type Improved efficiency Increased productivity Increased market share Grown revenue Transformed business Reduced headcount
Automated systems 63.2% 34.5% 25.5% 40.9% 41.8% 28.2%
Artificial intelligence (AI) 51.5% 29.9% 45.9% 40.7% 34.5% 39.2%
AI Content-centric process automation 62.2% 37.8% 37% 45.4% 43.7% 36.1%

Figure 1. ‘Since implementing X technology, which of the following has been accurate?’

It’s clear that the majority of UK companies are still at the start of their automation journeys –on average, UK businesses use only two types of automation, and only 1 in 20 use the full automation stack. This demonstrates that there is still a way to go before the full potential of automation can be realised.

A potential reason for this lies in a lack of training – two thirds (67%) of those surveyed feel their organisation isn’t educating staff well enough on automation technologies, and a quarter (27%) of those who have not invested in automation admitted this is because they “wouldn’t know what to do with it”. This indicates a substantial automation skills gap in the UK. An increased focus on strategy would also benefit businesses struggling to make the most of automation and AI, as 1 in 6 said their business had no plan in place or that they weren’t aware of a plan (15.4%), and 61% of businesses only have a plan for up to 5 years.

Automation isn’t a panacea – but the potential of automation technologies to transform businesses is abundantly clear. Making it work requires not only monetary investment, but also a watertight, long-term strategy and the right people with the right skillsets,” said Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY. “But many businesses are still not adequately educating their staff on technology, and as a result, the technologies that deliver the most ROI are often overlooked. It’s no wonder that the benefits of AI and automation aren’t yet being fully realised.”

Tapping the full potential of automation for businesses requires a long-term strategy. AI solutions need to be trained and customised to fit the company’s specific needs, focusing on accuracy, reliability, and speed. Therefore, ABBYY is encouraging businesses to choose a provider who can offer guidance in training a system, and in full solution lifecycle support.

For solution providers, it is important to eliminate barriers to AI adoption by developing platforms and solutions that are easy to use, that minimise complexity, and that reduce dependence on IT experts for configuration. This is why ABBYY is focused on building powerful content IQ technologies and solutions that are quick and easy to set up and use.

Murphy continues: “Businesses aren’t providing adequate training on understanding the benefits of the whole automation stack, or how to train AI and automation solutions to fit their specific business needs. This, coupled with a lack of strategy, means businesses may be unable to reap the rewards of their innovation. Enterprises must focus on improving education and strategy to avoid missing out on the automation solutions that could truly transform their business, and to help them succeed on their digital transformation journey.”

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CUSTOMER CARE TODAY WILL BUILD RESILIENCE FOR FUTURE CRISES

Customer

Cathal McGloin, CEO of ServisBOT writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created major spikes in calls to financial sector helplines dealing with customers who are concerned about temporary business closures, or seeking information on mortgage holidays and insurance cover.

 

Easing the pressure

With call volumes surging at many contact centres, moving customers from a voice to a text-based channel and encouraging some of them to self-serve via your website or mobile app helps to reduce pressure on contact centre agents. A call-deflection solution doesn’t have to be complex, costly or time-intensive, but it can be extremely effective in managing additional call volumes more cost-effectively, while still providing your customers the information that they need to allay their concerns.

If customers are able to interact with a chatbot initially and this resolves their immediate queries, this can significantly reduce call volumes and the business can still enable the bot to handover to a customer service agent for customers that require further assistance.

 

Setting up a Chatbot in 48 hours

Whether your interactive voice response (IVR) is based on legacy technology or is a modern cloud-based solution, it’s possible to deflect customers from an inbound voice channel to a messaging channel. We know, because we have done this for a client who considered this impossible with their legacy on-premise IVR system. Spinning up a solution took just 2 days and allowed them to successfully deflect calls, automate the response, and still offer customers a path to live chat.

 

Employing a Chatbot as a Call Deflection Solution

Financial services businesses can launch a very simple bot. The bot can be as simple as just pointing a customer to the COVID-19 FAQ page or it can be an extension of an existing customer service bot that offers multiple capabilities. On day one it may just be used to quickly assess queries and handover to a live agent. However, by gathering the training phrases from customer chats, the bot can be made progressively smarter and add capabilities, so that it can be trained over the course of  a week to start automating your customer service

After a week the bot can start automating to become more self-sufficient and take more of the burden from your customer service agents, allowing them to handle more complex customer issues.

Using a chatbot opens up a whole new path to automation.  Once customers start to engage with your intelligent virtual agent, the bot can handle simple requests, direct them to the relevant information on your website, or help them transact in a self-service manner. All of this can happen without the need for them to engage with an agent unless they specifically request this, or the bot escalates the request to an agent. It can even be integrated with your live chat systems so that the bot works in parallel with live agents when needed.

 

Future proofing

During crisis periods, when interactions with concerned customers need to be handled well, call deflection using a chatbot or virtual agent takes the pressure off contact centre agents. It also introduces an automation path that can help customers around the clock.

Once your chatbot has been trained to respond to common customer queries round the clock and reduce the pressure on your contact centre staff, your employees can focus on providing the best care for your customers who urgently need to speak to them. Introducing virtual assistants sends a clear message to your customers that they are your priority and increases the resilience of your business against future emergencies.

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NEW IVALUA STUDY SHOWS TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGES ARE HINDERING PROCUREMENT TEAMS FROM ACHIEVING BUSINESS OBJECTIVES

BUSINESS

Lack of system integrations and actionable insights are stopping organisations from accurately measuring performance

 

Ivalua, a leading provider of global spend management cloud solutions, has announced the latest findings of a worldwide study of supply chain, procurement and finance business leaders on Effective Procurement Performance Measurement. The study revealed the challenges procurement teams face when it comes to achieving business objectives and the wide and growing gap in performance between advanced and less mature teams.

 

The research, conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Ivalua, found that procurement teams are increasingly being measured by non-cost KPIs such as revenue opportunities being created, payment performance (e.g. on time payments) and spend visibility. However, a lack of data integration between systems (44%), lack of relevant insights (40%) and insights not being made available at the right point in the process (39%) are preventing organisations from accurately measuring progress against business objectives. This is because organisations continue to face challenges when it comes to harnessing technology in procurement, with existing systems not being fit for purpose (36%), poor data quality reducing trust in information (36%) and staff having inaccurate expectations of what technology can do (34%).

 

The research went on to reveal that more digitally “advanced” procurement departments are far exceeding “beginner” procurement departments that are less digitally mature in the range of KPIs they track, how frequently they measure success and the levels of planned technology investments. Key findings include:

  • 97% of advanced procurement departments say procurement strategy is well aligned with overall business strategy versus only 14% of beginners.
  • 51% of advanced procurement departments measure performance weekly or biweekly, versus only 26% of beginners.
  • Only 16% of beginners proactively monitor suppliers’ contracts for expiration and risk, versus 94% of advanced – this is critical for helping organisations manage today’s global supply chain challenges, such as the Coranavirus outbreak.

 

“In order for procurement teams to achieve their growing list of objectives and become strategic enablers for their organisations it’s clear they need to overcome a number of technology challenges” said David Khuat-Duy, Corporate CEO of Ivalua. “As we can see from more digitally advanced procurement departments, technology adoption has helped them to align with business objectives, actively measure performance and add value in areas such as risk management. Their investments and approach to leveraging technology is building a competitive advantage.”

 

According to the study, the amount organisations are spending on procurement technology has been rising and expected to accelerate. In the past 12 months, 46% of organisations increased spending by 5-10%. In the next 12 months, 39% plan to increase spending by 5-10%, while a further 43% plan to increasing spending by 10% or more. Procurement leaders are also looking to fully digitise procurement processes (40%), becoming the preferred customers of strategic suppliers (40%), implementing new software for sourcing/procurement (38%) and improving reporting and insights (38%) to help achieve objectives.

 

“It’s encouraging to see organisations investing more in technology, which will help procurement become a key strategic enabler that goes beyond cost reduction to build a competitive advantage,” added Khuat-Duy. “Increasing adoption of technology will allow procurement teams to gain complete visibility into all suppliers and spend. This will open up further opportunities for procurement to help identify revenue opportunities, track risk and improve sustainability, helping to contribute towards wider procurement and business objectives.”

 

Download the full study here.

 

*The February 2020 study was conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Ivalua and is based on a survey of 409 finance, procurement and supply chains decision makers throughout North America and Europe, as well as several in depth interviews.

 

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