Chris Weston
Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

Have you noticed that every other film these days seems to be a superhero movie?  Of course you have, unless you’ve been living on the moon. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most popular example of this, which has produced 23 feature films, averaging nearly a billion US dollars in revenue per movie. There were superhero movies before, and they were fun, but they lacked a certain… something.

The thing that changed in the 21st century that was the catalyst for so many of these movies to be made and be successful was the technology that made them realistic, and accessible to audiences that previously would have struggled to suspend their disbelief.

I have a similar feeling about the automation industry.  We have had RPA and scripting tools for many years, and in the right circumstances they were useful, but they were often used inappropriately and regularly promised a lot more than they could realistically deliver.

Why Intelligent Automation now?

In 2021, we may be at a different point with automation as it is coupled with intelligent systems.  We have seen a great deal of investment in Digital Transformation activities in recent years as consumer technology raced ahead of business systems, and companies had to up their game.  This has often been driven by web and mobile technology forcing the pace into back-office systems and the internal processes are still lagging in many cases.

We have also witnessed the enormous remote working experiment forced on the world by the covid crisis. People are performing their work tasks in entirely different environments, connected in various ways – we have had to dramatically rethink Who does the work, Where they do it and How they do it in the past year.  The uncertainty around this is likely to continue long into the future as working patterns change, and we can now make fewer assumptions around these three key factors.

How do we deploy Intelligent Automation?

There are many technology options to deal with these questions – we can use workflow tools, scheduling, automation, chatbots – you name it, there will be a vendor who will have a solution.  But in order to build a strategy for the future use of intelligent automation, it is important to understand your landscape, and to consider what skills you need to manage it. People will increasingly need a blend of technical abilities to develop and manage automation tools combined with social, collaboration, and design skills.  This cannot be a matter of just doing the same things with fewer people – it is a change in the way we approach our business.

Making the most of these tools requires us to understand which processes are most effectively managed by particular technologies, and it also requires us to understand what key information we need to provide to learning models in order for them to make the most effective decisions.

Likewise, we must take the time to navigate the activities that are being carried out in our organisation with potential for embedded intelligence.  For example

Armed with this knowledge and tools at our disposal, then it is highly likely that Intelligent Automation will be a genuine option for organisations of all sizes, deployed with care and forethought to create new and resilient ways of working that are fit for 2021 and beyond.

What does Intelligent Business Execution mean for me and my business?

If this article has raised questions for you but you want to talk about it with peers we can help you with that. Free of charge. The only requirement is that you are a peer to the rest of the community i.e. that you are a Digital Leader (CIO equivalent at a European company).

The IDC European Digital Leadership Community is gathering in the afternoon of the 29th of April to discuss all aspects of:

“The Journey to Intelligent Business Execution”

Topics of the conversation will be:

  • The perfect storm battering business operations
  • Beyond simple task and workflow automation – the role(s) of AI and ML
  • Introducing Intelligent Business Execution
  • European organizations’ plans for investment
  • Perceptions, benefits and challenges

Would you like to have your say? Come and join knowledgeable professionals and IDC subject matter experts for what promises to be a great session? There is no charge, and we meet on different topics every two weeks. If you are a Digital Leader you can sign up at: or email me at

The IDC Digital Leadership Community holds meetings of peers every two weeks. Many participants come regularly because they see it, as one Digital Leader put it, as “a chance to hear how others are solving issues without being put on the spot of having to know all the answers”.

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