CEO Vision: The road to Hyperautomation

Image courtesy of Kofax

Robotic process automation (RPA) – a type of software technology for automating tasks – can get even smarter with artificial intelligence (AI). When combined, the result is intelligent automation (IA), which aims to streamline and make digital workflows more efficient. 

Kofax – a process automation software company based in Irvine, California – is an organisation that utilises this technology for document intelligence, process orchestration, and connecting disparate systems (e.g. legacy or enterprise apps).

Frontier Enterprise recently got in touch with Reynolds C. Bish, CEO of Kofax, to talk about automation, its impact on Asian businesses, the future of RPA, and more.

Bish was named CEO of Kofax in 2007. There, he was responsible for establishing a new vision for the organisation, and driving substantial strategic change throughout the business. Before Kofax, he was CEO of Captiva Software, a provider of input management software and services; as well as Unibase Systems, a firm that provided software on open platforms.

What are some of the processes and internal setups that organisations need to have in place before they can utilise Kofax’s automation solutions?

Before looking to drive automation, organisations need to first align with their strategic priorities and understand what opportunities will allow them to achieve their one-, three- and five-year targets. Often, we see strategic goals to improve margins, responsiveness, and the customer experience while reducing costs and driving greater efficiency. Understanding what core workflows are aligned to the corporate strategy is key to starting the automation journey.

Organisations need to understand their resource constraints and pick a vendor delivering low-code automation capabilities, enabling citizen developers to build powerful applications swiftly and efficiently without relying solely on IT development staff. Organisations can often realise a quicker ROI on their investment by driving collaboration between citizen developers and professional developers to drive automation agility. 

Processes and systems change often, and organisations can’t wait months or years for IT to prioritise a requirement or invest in expensive resources to drive out non-value-added manual processes. Competition moves too fast for companies to continue to endure antiquated manual processes.

Last, we need to recognise that a point solution has severe limitations. For instance, implementing a standalone RPA, eSignature, or PDF generator can transform the workflow of a single process, but it only takes the automation effort so far. The result inevitably falls short of achieving the company’s strategic goals, leading to frustration for the employees and company executives involved.

Following these guiding principles reduces the need to integrate multiple disparate solutions together and leads to excellent customer and employee experiences.

You’ve been with Kofax for over a decade now. What have been the highlights of your time there, and what are the most significant changes in automation you’ve seen over the years?

For me, one of the key highlights has been the growth of the company. Today, we now have over 2,000 employees in more than 30 countries. Fundamental to this was establishing and maintaining open, honest and transparent communications with all our employees and I think because of that, a participative culture is accepted and widely shared throughout the organisation.

Another highlight has been moving the company’s product capabilities well beyond our legacy roots in “capture” to enable IA. We’ve accomplished this through internal product development, and the acquisition and integration of complementary products to accelerate our time-to-market. It’s also required evolving the company culture to enable our sales organisation to market these products and solutions.

We take pride in evolving our business to remain competitive in the modern era. This has become more challenging due to the rapid convergence of technologies in automation to drive end-to-end digital workflow transformation. IA requires multiple capabilities, including cognitive capture, AI, RPA, and an ecosystem of partners.

How do you think automation has impacted Asian businesses, especially since the beginning of the pandemic?

COVID-19 has created a surge in digital transformation initiatives and will significantly alter the Asian workforce. Asian organisations need to plan for a future that will be vastly different from the pre-pandemic environment. Government lockdowns and other measures have forced companies to automate business processes to support their now highly distributed workforces while maintaining productivity. Enterprises are pivoting to a model that is more agile and resilient as remote workers will inevitably continue even as we eventually move beyond the pandemic.

The pandemic has also forced businesses with sophisticated supply chains to digitally transform their processes to address those challenges. Traditional ways of conducting business – such as signatures, approvals and other physical means – have also needed to transform to digital processes such as electronic signatures.

These transformations are likely to proceed unevenly across sectors and manifest in unexpected ways, eventually impacting every function throughout all organisations.

Kofax has been offering RPA products since 2013. Where do you see RPA being deployed that may not be so obvious today?

RPA is a key component of our IA platform strategy. Unlike industrial automation that reduces manual labour and eliminates jobs globally, RPA complements a knowledge worker’s capabilities, freeing them from repetitive tasks and allowing them to focus on higher value work in virtually all functional areas and businesses.

The next stage in the evolution of RPA is what Gartner coined as “Hyperautomation”. Forecasts say Hyperautomation will be almost a $10 billion USD market in 2022. Hyperautomation is an expansion beyond RPA to create a more comprehensive solution – automating an organisation’s more complex business processes rather than simple, repetitive desktop tasks.

Automation and RPA are here to stay, and will inevitably evolve. From an R&D perspective, what are some of the most exciting developments underway in Kofax’s R&D labs at the moment?

To digitally transform, organisations need to fully automate their end-to-end business processes. To achieve this objective, cognitive capture, RPA, process orchestration, analytics, mobile, and other capabilities are required. We’ve addressed these needs through internal product development as well as the acquisitions of other companies with complementary software, solutions, and technologies. So, our most exciting developments underway in R&D are centered around further enhancing and optimising the performance of our IA platform while adding low-code functionality across the entire platform to extend our support of citizen developers.

How has Kofax’s business changed as companies moved from paper to paperless systems?

In moving the company’s product capabilities well beyond our legacy roots in “capture” to digitise paper documents, to enabling IA, we’ve had to significantly enhance our “capture” – or ingestion – capabilities. As the volume of paper used in transacting business has declined, other sources of content flowing into organisations have grown exponentially. These have included faxes, emails – with or without attachments, files or content submitted via internet portals, electronic data interchange and XML data streams, photographs, and many other sources of information flowing into organisations daily. This, coupled with the need to then automate the downstream business processes necessary to understand and act upon that information, led to the development of our IA platform.