Each year, impressive research statistics promise business executives the next big thing in technology that will transform the marketplace. While there is seemingly never a shortage of new fandangled tech to consider, it’s important to keep the hype in check.
For business leaders and executives responsible for making improvements to their organizations, the buzz around trending tech can be distracting and overwhelming, with splashy proclamations of fast-tracked digital transformation. But no matter how powerful, how fast, or how impactful the technology may be, no individual piece of software is a silver bullet.
Process automation is no different. Intelligent automation technologies (process intelligence, BPM, RPA, AI) work best when they are leveraged as drivers of an overarching digital transformation plan that is focused on business outcomes, and not just functional improvements. Here are a few more factors that are critical to success.
Process is King (keep it that way!)
When it comes to business process automation and intelligent automation specifically, it’s important to understand two things before you get started:
- No technology can improve a poor process
- You cannot rely solely on people to document it properly (see more about this here)
If a process is rules-based, it could be well suited for automation. But rules-based or not, if you automate an inherently ineffective process, all you have done is automate inefficiencies. If the process isn’t properly documented, then what you have done is automate an incomplete process that will have unknown implications. In either case, this does very little good, and sometimes, it causes setbacks and creates new problems.
Automating a process indiscriminately does nothing to improve it. Instead, the focus should be on the process itself. Identify gaps and inefficiencies as they exist, and then use automation technology to correct the problems and improve the workflow. This not only ensures the best possible application but also allows for extensive planning and flexibility. As the adage goes, change is the only constant. Effective intelligent automation is an evolutionary process, so you must be able to make adjustments at any time. Working with an agile IA platform that allows for change is an absolute must-have.
Develop a Plan that Strategically Leverages Human Capital
While there will always be the sensational claims, most automation initiatives do not replace human jobs, but rather, they alleviate the burden of work that humans simply aren’t cut out for. By automating high-volume, time-intensive data entry with RPA, for example, you aren’t getting rid of the human who was previously responsible for this task. You’re saving her time and frustration and allowing her to focus instead on more direct customer service activities.
This is just one small example of how the human workforce is positively impacted. Another might include an improved workflow, where automation allows for simplified task completion — allowing her to stay in a single program instead of having to log in to multiple systems and windows. This improves the employees mood, time management, and overall job satisfaction.
Business process automation allows for a hybrid workforce comprising human employees and digital workers. Synchronizing efforts between these groups and the systems they both use is another crucial piece of the puzzle. Bot and service orchestration puts a sharp focus on how work happens and prioritizes the flow of information. This ensures that bots deliver efficient productivity, that systems are used in the most effective ways possible, and that human capital is leveraged properly so that people can do their best work as happy employees.
Transformation as a Focused Team Effort
While tech like RPA is often the ground-level entry into automation, it’s but one tool in a category of extremely useful resources. Coupling process mining and business analytics for Process Intelligence will not only highlight inefficiencies in the workflow, but it will also identify which parts will gain the most value from automation, providing a roadmap of sorts for implementation.
With your first process automation initiatives running, you’ll quickly realize returns for some of the newfound operating efficiencies. These returns can be parlayed into more automation. This compounds the effects, establishes clear and consistent returns, and creates an opportunity to build a governance structure.
Eventually, you can incorporate AI and cognitive automation, techniques that mimic human learning to help humans make decisions, complete tasks, and reach other goals. Now, you’re automating the automation, operations are running smoother than ever, customers and employees are both happy, and your ROI skyrockets. And while that’s a lovely story, let’s not lose sight of the fact that no single technology made that possible; rather, it was the combination of technologies that made it work.
An Emphasis on Business Outcomes
As you begin to understand how process automation technologies work as a dynamic, remember that intelligent automation is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not about improving individual business functions (although that will certainly be one benefit as your digital transformation strategy matures). It’s about using the technology transformatively across the entire business with the objective to drive value and better business outcomes.
Any technology has the power to reframe a business process by improving efficiencies and reducing operating costs. But it’s only when the technologies are considered as part of an overall strategy that they become transformative.
If you’re ready to get started with your digital transformation journey, we’re here to help. Get in touch today.