As a company expands and evolves their ecosystem they’re able to automate more and more tasks of greater and greater complexity. This increasingly frees people’s time to work on more creative endeavors, like problem solving and intelligently automating additional workflows.
The headstart that Ant Financial enjoys by having successfully implemented conversational AI and machine learning is stunning. They recently surpassed the number of customers served by today’s largest U.S. banks by more than 10 times—a stat that’s even more impressive when you consider that this success came before their fifth year in business. The prior year, their valuation made them worth roughly half as much as JPMorgan Chase, the world’s most valuable financial services company. (Ant Group’s projected $37bn IPO would have been the largest in the world, had it not been halted by China’s president.)
There are at least a few core differences that set Ant apart from most other financial institutions, and really, most companies. The connecting theme for these core differences is hyper-automation.
For Ant, automation solutions aren’t created randomly or in disconnected ways, they’re part of a vision for an ecosystem of automation technologies working in concert.
In their conception, strategy, and execution, Ant is a digital company to the core, in fact they started calling themselves a “techfin” company rather than using the more commonplace “fintech” label. “As Techfin … we are a tech company,” says CEO Eric Jing, “We are using tech to enable things … we enable customers through our business platforms … we enable different service vendors to create and provide functions to serve customers and merchants … we enable everyone in the ecosystem.”
Their success in hyper-automating is aptly summed up by Harvard Business Review: “… there are no workers in [Ant’s] ‘critical path’ of operating activities. AI runs the show. There is no manager approving loans, no employee providing financial advice, no representative authorizing consumer medical expenses. And without the operating constraints that limit traditional firms, Ant Financial can compete in unprecedented ways and achieve unbridled growth and impact across a variety of industries.”
As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, most companies struggle to keep up with the pace of change. The companies with an edge right now will likely put themselves far out-of-reach to competitors. Getting that edge is not as difficult as it sounds, and, in fact, it can be quite an exciting journey. But it requires a different way of thinking.
Instead of creating solutions that require an omniscient designer or team, focus on building a framework for solving complexity.
When you think of automation as a framework for solving complex problems rather than a direct solution for a particular complex problem, it becomes far less daunting. Variety solves complexity.
Assembling a diverse team and fostering a culture that champions change is the key to success, letting you use speed and iteration to stamp out the fear of failure. Sometimes the best way to learn and make progress is to just start—to adopt a practice of failing forward fast.
Alarm, urgency, and action are all merited, and for those just get- ting started or who are already up to their necks, there are practical ways to achieve hyperautomation.