The Challenge: In 2023, the automation of processes across all business departments will no longer be a luxury but a necessity. With macroeconomic factors such as inflation and a global recession lurking around the corner, the IT team at Linde must optimize its IT solutions to brace for impact.
Now that the pandemic is behind us, business requirements are changing, and the time for accelerating the pace of process automation is upon us. While process automation isn’t something new, as IT professionals, we are tasked with implementing process improvements across business departments with a new objective: to further reduce human intervention, and save effort, and resources.
Setting intelligent automation in motion
Post-covid, the overwhelming burden of intensive manual processes, increasing workload, lack of visibility, and delayed vendor payments have taken a toll on my team and me. It has been a trying time, filled with long hours, stress, and uncertainty. However, we refuse to let these challenges defeat us. Instead, we are determined to rise above them with grace and finesse.
To combat these obstacles, we are fiercely focused on adopting automation tools to streamline and strengthen back-end processes. We understand that people across the organization are seeking solutions that will save their precious time and effort, while still procuring accurate results. With this in mind, our objective is not only to enhance process automation but also to promote intelligent automation of business functions that will benefit the organization holistically and as a whole.
By “intelligent process automation”, I refer to an undertaking wherein we use advanced technology to bring in a layer of machine learning, AI, or deep learning to run over our processes. Simply put, we’re working out ways in which we add a cognitive layer of AI codes that will give us that extra edge in delivering accurate and favorable outcomes.
We are driven by a deep-seated desire to make a positive impact and ease the burden of our colleagues. Our hearts are heavy with the weight of their struggles, and we are committed to lightening their load in any way possible. Through hard work, determination, and a fierce sense of purpose, we will prevail.
At Linde, I cater to the IT needs of all departments across South East Asia, and it’s safe to say that we are investing heavily in machine learning and AI tools to automate processes efficiently and skillfully. We are partnering with several process automation companies and are seeking their assistance in getting our operations intelligently automated. Soon, most of Linde’s manual tasks will be eliminated, and resources, including time and human effort, will be directed toward something meaningful.
To meet business expectations and tackle future challenges in a timely and cohesive manner, we have set up an all-encompassing payment automation process. This is how it works: Once the service provider or vendor submits the invoice, the invoice gets recorded, and it is read by a machine OCR. The data is then translated into our ERP system and goes for a four-eye principle verification. If the data is approved by the system, it is automatically integrated into the payment process.
Conventionally, this process would have relied on human intervention at every stage or level. Thanks to a seamless flow of actions, powered by automation technology, we have managed to reduce human intervention while producing accurate results simultaneously.
Optimizing GST Verification
On the same lines as payment automation, my Linde team and I automated the GST verification process. This solution aids in the reconciliation of all vendor invoices with the GSTR 2A report sourced from the Government Portal. In case of any discrepancies, AI will identify them, and a rectification process can be initiated. This helps us avoid the massive ordeal of churning MS Excel files to obtain fool-proof results.
Over the last six months, we have started tracking our KPIs to measure our success rates with AI-based systems. According to our analysis, we have realized that the accuracy level of manual operations stands at about 85% with human intervention. Once we make a few upgrades and modifications to our AI-based systems, we can expect an accuracy level of 95%, and this is definitely something to look forward to in the near future.
Tackling challenges the IT way
On this note, I would like to share some insights on a few additional challenges we are trying to overcome at the IT end of the business.
Introducing and managing change smartly
The first one on my list is change management, and I understand the emotional impact it can have on our stakeholders. Change can be unsettling and cause anxiety, which is why we will approach it with care and empathy. I believe change management is an intensive task at hand, and it requires us to be mindful of the emotional needs of our stakeholders. Not all business functions can be automated and for good reason. Hence, it’s important for us as IT heads and business leaders to make sound decisions about the transition phase. In the coming months, we intend to focus on pre-launch and post-launch activities to make sure our stakeholders are on board with the new process and feel supported throughout the transition.
Creating a data pool for one and all
This brings me to my second priority for 2023: Establishing a compact and accessible data pool. I understand the importance of data in making informed decisions, and I also understand the frustration that comes with not having access to the right data at the right time. Therefore, my IT team and I want to build a data pool or data lake wherein we accumulate data and run a predictive or normal analytics tool to derive reports and gain better visibility of the information we have collected. By doing so, we can make data-driven decisions and help our stakeholders feel more confident in the choices we make.
Upholding IT security
Our third and most important goal is to strengthen the IT security infrastructure. Process automation and wide exposure to data position the organization in a vulnerable space, and I understand the fear and uncertainty this can cause. As far as IT security is concerned, our input will be constant and consistent. We will work tirelessly to ensure that our stakeholders feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their data is protected.
Overall, our stakeholders, vendors, and employees have a lot to gain from the payment automation process. By incorporating automated dashboards and chatbots into the process, we have managed to enhance the user experience significantly. I understand that change can be daunting, and that's why we will continue to communicate with our stakeholders and provide support wherever necessary. At the end of the day, businesses rely on efficient IT solutions to deliver the best possible outcomes, and this drives us to work harder with each passing day.