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    Today, we’ve arrived at a crossroads when it comes to our automation strategies. The benefits are clear: Optimizing business operations improves process efficiency, collaboration across the enterprise, and ultimately, the customer experience.

    The tools are here: Technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive capture, and robotic process automation, are quickly maturing to transform huge volumes of data into actionable knowledge, driving smarter decision making.

    However, understanding the mechanics behind this new intelligence (i.e., how a machine came to a certain decision and why) and the skills required to bring it about will be hard to scale for organizations.

    In a 2018 survey of 590 business leaders, HFS Research reports that the scalability of intelligent automation remains a top inhibitor for operationalizing this change, as well as a lack of clarity on exactly who should be driving the automation agenda. Gartner also predicts that through 2020, “80% of AI projects will remain alchemy.” These technologies produce amazing results, but companies will struggle to duplicate them across different data sets and organizational needs.

    Nevertheless, the growth of the automation market—and specifically the RPA segment—is on target to meet industry projections for the year. Harvey Spencer Associates (HSA) predicts an average annual growth rate of 40% for RPA technologies, with Forrester reporting that the top three RPA software companies are approaching a valuation greater than $10 billion. These numbers are hard to ignore, and as a result, we’ve dedicated a full magazine issue to this technology category for the first time.

    When we look at creating true and lasting digital transformation, however, we need to expand how we view the idea of automation across the organization. “Too often, enterprises are quick to apply duct tape to an already broken process, ending up with a solution that doesn't do anyone much good,” says Richard Medina, Principal Consultant and Co-Founder at Doculabs. AI and RPA can help us to identify, analyze, and understand our content in better ways, but organizations still need to do the heavy lifting in terms of how we use this new knowledge.

    While automation can be a powerful enabler for customer experience and digital transformation, enterprise leaders must have a keen understanding of how business processes, technologies, operations, and customer touchpoints intersect in a broad, enterprise-wide automation strategy. As Deep Analysis Vice President and Principal Analyst Connie Moore advises in our upcoming Summer issue, “Any company launching an effort that spans the front, middle, and back offices must leverage the skills, expertise, approaches, methodologies, and insights of both customer experience and operations excellence practitioners.”

    To this end, we have collected various viewpoints in our special 2019 Automation Issue to help you along your journey, connecting processes, people, and technologies. I hope this issue will show you not only the practical applications of AI and RPA, but how we can extend these investments across the entire business and into the future.

    Allison Lloyd serves as the Editor of DOCUMENT Strategy Media. She delivers thought leadership on strategic and plan-based solutions for managing the entire document, communication, and information process. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonYLloyd.