Survival of the fastest: Why speed is imperative for modern businesses

Why speed is imperative for modern businesses UiPath Live 2024 highlights

The old adage “time is money” has taken on a new urgency. In a world moving at a blinding, AI-fueled digital speed, your company needs to pick up the pace—or risk losing the race altogether.

That’s exactly why we chose ‘speed’ as the subject of our most recent quarterly webcast, UiPath Live: The Need for Speed. Joined by a panel of experts, Mary Tetlow, Chief Brand Officer at UiPath and Geoff Anderson, Senior Director of Product Marketing, took a quick dive into everything from why our brains hate to wait to the ways that industry leaders use automation and AI to avoid speed traps.

It was an eye-opening show, well worth watching. (Who knew we were such dopamine-cravers?) But if you want to know the big to-do’s and takeaways right away (and of course you do!) here they are:

1. If you’re too slow, your customers won’t wait

Patience is a virtue in short supply in the digital age—an era of elevated customer expectations around service delivery and response times. Customers want real-time solutions and instant gratification. And they’ll do a lot, even pay more, to get it. In fact, our guest, neuroscientist Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia of market research firm Ipsos, cited research saying that two-thirds of consumers value speed as much as price.

This impatience extends to a myriad of products and situations. Consider online experiences, where instantaneous load speeds have become the norm. Today, if a webpage or software product takes more than a fraction of a second to load, users think it’s too slow.

Technology has conditioned us to instant gratification, impacting the reward system in the brain, and that has reset our expectations. Now, anything below what we expect in terms of speed is disappointing.

Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia, neuroscientist and Global Lead of Neuroscience, Ipsos

And if you think this craving for speed is all in our heads, you’re absolutely right. Dr. Garcia-Garcia explained that it’s fueled by dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure. The anticipation of a purchase triggers this hormone. That’s followed by another dopamine jolt when the item is delivered. That period in between—the wait—is not a happy, peaceful time for our brains. Waiting makes us worried; uncertainty feels unsettled. We much prefer the dopamine-fueled gratification we feel when the wait is over.

There’s one more piece of not-so-good news. The speed bar is constantly rising, because our brains are wired for adaptation. So, that first same-day delivery might be a thrill, but the next time it happens, it simply meets our new baseline.

Think this just applies to GenXers and newer consumers? Think again. Garcia-Garcia said all consumers, young and old, now live in the new high-speed zone.

For company leaders and strategists, the bottom line is this: speed can give you a real competitive advantage—and slow customer service and experience can lead to a big downturn in results.

Another of our stellar guests, Amardeep Modi, VP at technology consultancy Everest Group, summed it up this way:

Slowly but steadily, enterprises are realizing it’s a life and death struggle. In order to survive, they need to adapt to changing consumer behavior.

Amardeep Modi, Vice President of Business Process Services, Everest Group

2. You need speed on the inside, too 

Speed is not only for external-facing functions, but also crucial for internal processes. Building speed and flexibility into operations can help organizations race past competitors and adapt faster to external challenges and uncertainties. (The pandemic demonstrated this concept in action: companies that quickly pivoted to adapt to new supply chain, consumer demand, and work-from-home realities thrived, while those that couldn’t adjust to the new normal fell behind.) 

While operational speed is important everywhere, Everest’s Amardeep Modi pointed to three big leverage points to maximize “return on speed”—supply chain management, regulatory compliance, and customer-facing processes. Here’s why he thinks these are the areas to prioritize—and how automation and AI can help.

Supply chains have calmed down since their wild pandemic-induced gyrations, but they’ll never, ever be smooth sailing. Companies must be ready to identify and adapt to everything from rapid consumer demand shifts to geopolitical disruptions, natural and man-made disasters, and production issues in their far-flung supplier network.  

The ability to respond quickly to fluctuations in demand enables enterprises to maximize their sales, optimize their inventory, and maximize their profitability.

Amardeep Modi, Vice President of Business Process Services, Everest Group

So, it’s imperative that companies can not only continually monitor and model their supply chain, but also act on alerts and insights without delay or friction. Modi says that cutting-edge companies are using a combination of AI and automation to build this rapid-fire flexibility into their supply chain management systems. They leverage automation to feed both historical and real-time data into AI models—and then use it again to execute the models’ recommendations and turn them into real-time actions.

Regulatory compliance is another area where speed can reduce risk and potential hits to reputation and the bottom line. Modi says that bringing speed to regulatory compliance acts as a protective shield, safeguarding businesses from potential pitfalls while also enhancing corporate credibility.

In the compliance arena, the need for ongoing monitoring, reporting, and flexibility to incorporate new rules is intensifying. Today, not only must enterprises contend with a raft of existing reporting and regulatory requirements around the world, but they must also incorporate a tsunami of emerging rules and requirements. “We’re seeing a lot of regulations being formed, especially around data privacy and protection,” Modi noted.

Being able to promptly comply with new laws is crucial. That can range from adjusting data privacy protocols and human resources policies to incorporating fresh environmental guidelines. Move too slowly and you could see heavy fines, legal predicaments, and a tarnished reputation.

How can you build a speedier, more responsive regulatory function? AI-powered automation, such as document understanding, intelligent document processing (IDP), and communications mining can be powerful enablers.

And then there are customer-facing processes (there’s that dopamine effect again). Modi says that in this arena, it’s critical to meet consumers’ need for speed, because if you’re slow, “customers will switch to a competitor as soon as they get a better alternative.”

Customer experience (CX) leaders are rapidly implementing many new initiatives that shave off wait times and reduce interaction friction. These include everything from more intelligent and intuitive chatbots, wider and better-performing self-serve options, real-time customer information for customer service reps, and much more. And they’re all built on a foundation of AI and automation.

The bottom line for speed, according to Modi, actually IS the bottom line. Operational efficiency can lead to a far more favorable cost structure and higher margins. Ensuring compliance reduces risks while helping companies avoid fines and reputational damage. Streamlining customer service not only reduces costs and turnover in the customer service function, but also helps retain and attract customers, fueling top-line growth. These days, more than ever, time is money.

3. You can speed up faster with automation and AI

Our files are rife with success stories in which UiPath customers have streamlined processes and innovated faster with automation and AI. One of those great use cases is Johnson Controls, which has implemented hundreds of robots over several years to bring a lot more speed into everything from everyday tasks to big end-to-end processes. So, we were happy to welcome Eswaran Krishnamurti (EK), Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Building Solutions for North American and Global Field Operations, Johnson Controls to tell his story.

Johnson Controls (JCI) is a multinational organization that sells building solutions like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and security equipment. (If you’re reading this in an office building, there’s a good chance that JCI is managing it). The company receives 200,000 monthly invoices across 60 to 70 enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Until recently, processing those invoices was manual, painful, error-prone…and way too slow.

But all that’s changed with UiPath automation and AI—specifically, with UiPath Document Understanding™, available via the UiPath Business Automation Platform™. As EK explains it: “[In the past,] we had to take the PDF [invoice], and manually type it in our systems. That was a major, major challenge that we had in the organization. Now, as soon as an [invoice email] comes in, we use Document Understanding to process the invoice and understand which ERP it needs to go to.”

Triaging incoming invoices is just the start of a beginning-to-end process transformation. This new-and-improved workflow has given employees time back and ensures accurate and timely payments to vendors.

Automation can help bolster the top line, too. EK explained how Johnson Controls is doing exactly that—turning AI insights into real revenue with the use of UiPath Robots.

We can get insights from AI, but you either need a human or a bot to act on it. More and more, we’re leveraging bots to take those insights and act on them faster.

Eswaran Krishnamurti (EK), Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Building Solutions for North American and Global Field Operations, Johnson Controls 

4. UiPath is building in speed, too 

Rounding out our fast-paced show, Sebastian Schroetel, Senior Vice President, Product Management at UiPath, discussed the things we’re rapidly adding into the UiPath Platform to help UiPath customers do more and do it faster.

The thing he’s most excited about right now?  UiPath Autopilot™ experiences for developers and testers.

According to Schroetel, Autopilot is a complete game-changer in boosting the speed and ease of getting development and testing work done. Thanks to the power of generative AI and natural language processing (NLP), developers working in UiPath Studio can turn to Autopilot to create workflows, generate expressions, define test cases, and help build automations. And for testers, Autopilot will not only auto-generate tests but also use test results to create automations.

Autopilot adds to the theme of delivering fast innovations within the UiPath Platform and will allow users to deliver automations way faster.

Sebastian Schroetel, Senior Vice President, Product Management, UiPath

Autopilot experiences for developers and testers will be generally available in our upcoming June release. But here’s a quick preview of some of what they can do:

So, that’s our fast recap on why companies need to speed up, without delay. But if you’d like to watch the entire UiPath Live: The Need for Speed show, it’s available on demand—with absolutely no waiting.

Laura Teller headshot
Laura Teller

Director, Digital Marketing, UiPath

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