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December 1, 2023
How Lessons from the Pitch Apply to Intelligent Automation Initiatives

Call it soccer — or football it is the most watched sport in the world.

Referred to by many as “the beautiful game” for its capacity to unite communities and uplift spirits en masse, the sport has become something of a universal language. Players, fans, and bystanders alike are likely to have been touched by football in some form throughout their lives, regardless of what nation they call home.

This international passion for football has resulted in some unexpected intersections of culture and commerce. The sensational 2020 television program Ted Lasso, starring Jason Sudeikis, portrayed an American football coach (that is to say, a coach of American football) who had been hired to lead an English Premier League team following his journey in adjusting to an unfamiliar sport in an unfamiliar place. Although Ted Lasso’s endearing quips and southern drawl might have been a mere comedic caricature, the trope of Westerners meddling in European football is no longer just fiction.

American actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds bought English football club Wrexham AFC in November of 2020 for £2m, funding the club’s return to the English Football League for the first time since their relegation over a decade prior. More recently, in May of 2023, professional American athletes J.J. and Kealia Watt (of the National Football League and National Women’s Soccer League, respectively) became minority owners of Burnley Football Club in England.

Now, in September of 2023, American intelligent automation company ABBYY has become an official partner of Arsenal Women’s Football Club in London, elevating the trend of Western investment from wealthy individuals to notable technology enterprises.

As enthusiasm for football continues to grow worldwide, these intersections become inevitable, but they’re much more than household celebrity names or mere sponsorship deals. On the surface, using advanced AI within automation solutions might seem like a concept far removed from the sport of football – but this technology has much more in common with what occurs on the pitch than you might think.

Strategy and intent – moving with a purpose

Football is all about control – on both an individual and team scale. Unlike American football, moving the ball down the pitch toward your opponent’s goal doesn’t always improve your circumstances. Without a proper strategy in mind or teammates in place to support the advance, the ball could quickly be taken by a defender or fall into the hands of the goalkeeper, turning the tide of the game against you in an instant.

Similarly, implementing automation without a clear objective or understanding of your organization’s current processes will not always yield desirable results. Without proper visibility, you could unintentionally make a bottleneck more visible to the customer, dampening their experience without any gains in efficiency. This isn’t uncommon – 70% of automation attempts fail due to unclear goals.

Understanding your scoring strategy from end to end is crucial to maintaining control over your processes, which requires deep familiarity with your team dynamics and individual traits. Process intelligence, or the practice of driving process improvement through use of advanced data analytics, enables this visibility by combining process mining and task mining into a unified, AI-enhanced platform. While task mining examines individuals’ workflows like clicks and keystrokes, process mining scrutinizes the more extensive holistic process. Much like understanding individual football players’ mechanical skills such as footwork, positioning, and ball control, as well as how each player interacts with one another, is critical to devising an informed strategy, combining insights from task and process mining yields the most contextually accurate model of how a process or workflow can be improved.

Advanced capabilities of process intelligence, such as process simulation and monitoring, further enhance understanding by allowing decision-makers to test optimized processes before diving headfirst into implementation or be alerted of a possible adverse outcome before it occurs. You wouldn’t sign a player to your team for a multi-million-dollar deal without any knowledge of their skill or personality, so why would you do the same with investing in automation without any knowledge of the potential outcome? And if clashing personalities forecast trouble for your team, wouldn’t you like to know before it has a negative effect on the other players? Process simulation and monitoring are like assistant coaches, advising your most significant decisions every step of the way.

Proving it on the pitch

Football fans’ expectations for their respective clubs can reach astronomical heights in the off-season, often fueled by the acquisition of up-and-coming talent or simply because their historic, well-funded legacy club is long overdue for a run at the championship. While these promises of success can be exciting, there is a reason the games are actually played to determine the winner – not every team will perform as well as we expect them to.

The intelligent automation market experiences a similar trend. The constant upcropping of startup vendors trying to capitalize on the hype train of AI can be overwhelming, with each of them boasting unprecedented potential for efficiency gains without ever having experienced the real pressures of operating a modern enterprise. On the other hand, massive tech-giants will leverage their brand recognition and resources to win you over, despite their unfamiliarity and detachment from your specific business needs.

It’s inadvisable to jump the gun and sign the rising star that promises to transform your operations without any game experience, just as it’s unwise to shell out cash to the household name with an illustrious legacy that’s becoming weak in the knees and slow to keep up. When selecting a provider of intelligent automation solutions, you need to prioritize both innovation and experience and most importantly, an understanding of and commitment to your organization’s needs. Haphazardly filling your tech stack with every new tool that promises to yield the best value from AI will create a cacophony of platforms, inhibiting efficiency – take care in selecting your solutions and choose those that have proven their worth in the context of the modern enterprise.

Improving outcomes and predictability through training

Cliché as it may be, there’s no denying the truth behind the mantra, “practice makes perfect.” Dribbling, passing, corner-kicks; even professional players practice the basics daily to stay sharp and dependable on the pitch.

Intelligent document processing (IDP) works similarly, or the application of AI and machine learning to understand, process, and extract insights from business-critical documents like a human. By processing volumes of documents, it hones its accuracy in extracting key information over time. This improves its straight-through processing rate or the rate at which it can process a document with 100% accuracy without any manual intervention. Leveraging IDP allows professionals to spend less time on repetitive, monotonous manual data entry, empowering them to focus on more fulfilling or customer-facing tasks. If you can count on your players to follow through with plays because they’ve done it countless times in practice, the added predictability enables a more effective strategy. Although the occasional misstep might still require some attention, the overall improvement in consistency and accuracy will result in less frustration.

But what if there are more advanced or specific skills you’d like to cultivate within your team, such as bicycle kicks, accurate headers, or intricate passing maneuvers? The answer is simple – you drill those specific skills, giving your team even more versatility in their arsenal.

With IDP, you can augment your platform with pre-trained document skills developed to handle a multitude of specific documents that might be crucial to the full scope of your business. From hyper-specific government forms in Japan that vary per district to US tax forms with seemingly countless variables, IDP can be trained to extract actionable data with staggering accuracy.

Just like Lionel Messi’s mind-boggling footwork or James Ward-Prowse’s formidable free-kick, the training-specific skills of your IDP solution will provide a strong leg-up on your document-centric processes.

Weaving a strong fabric

In any sport, organization, or business, teamwork is everything. Just as Ted Lasso worked tirelessly to fix Richmond’s tumultuous team culture to bring out the best in his players and weave a strong fabric from their strengths, intelligent automation solutions must be used in tandem to drive progress forward at a unified pace.

Adopting a unified suite of automation technology ensures that no facet of your operations will fall behind. It’s impossible to fully benefit from the visibility and insight enabled by process intelligence if you don’t have the technological capability to improve cumbersome document-centric processes. On the other hand, it’s difficult and unadvisable to leverage IDP haphazardly without evaluating where it is most needed.

Although signing Messi might have transformed Inter Miami’s MLS season, they’re still fallible – Messi cannot carry the team solely on his back. It still requires a combination of stellar coaching and teamwork to be a championship-level team.

Weaving a strong “automation fabric” with a robust suite of solutions, well-informed goals, and a strong culture of adoption is key to any successful automation initiative.

Bringing the victory home

Intelligent automation and the sport of football couldn’t be any more different on paper. Still, those with a keen eye for strategy, teamwork, and culture will see the value in applying these to innovation. Implementing intelligent automation doesn’t have to be dauntingly ambiguous. With the right coach at the helm and the right players on the metaphorical pitch, you can assure victory for your organization.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Photo by Tobias Flyckt; Unsplash

The post How Lessons from the Pitch Apply to Intelligent Automation Initiatives appeared first on ReadWrite.


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