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Success Factors In Process Automation

Here are five factors based on practical experience that can boost the chances of success for organizations, ranging from those still thinking about their automation strategy to those that have been on the journey for a while.

From existing on the fringes of awareness and priority, business process automation has evolved to occupy center stage and is today on the to-do list of most C-suite leaders. This evolution has been enabled by several drivers including but not limited to technological advancements, the need to cut costs, and a realization that minimizing repetitive work can lead to a better employee experience and productivity.

Even before the pandemic hit, organizations were working on migrating a growing list of customer journeys to straight-through processing leveraging process automation. The pandemic only accelerated the pace of these transformation efforts.

Although the business value of process automation is relatively well understood, getting started with an automation program and sustaining it can be challenging.

Here are five factors based on practical experience that can boost the chances of success for organizations, ranging from those still thinking about their automation strategy to those that have been on the journey for a while.

1. Right-size the first few use cases: While starting out with large and complex use cases is a good test for an automation strategy, it carries a higher risk of failure and could jeopardize the entire automation program.

On the other hand, completing several small and less complex use cases successfully does not guarantee that the same techniques will work on larger projects. Start with the right blend of size and complexity – a set of small and medium use cases often works well.

2. Keep IT in the loop: Process automation programs are often managed and run by operations teams and/or CoEs (centers of excellence). These teams may assume that they are developing and deploying solutions outside the boundary of core systems and therefore need not involve IT. In many cases, dependencies on core systems are discovered later and IT is looped in at that stage.

However, they often need additional time to understand and address the dependencies, which delays the overall effort. Invite IT as a partner in the early stages of your automation program.

3. Don’t lose sight of data: Although the terms ‘process automation’ and ‘data analytics’ may not have been used in the same context earlier, data insights are driving sophisticated automation programs today. Every business process generates data that holds valuable insights into the operational characteristics, customer behavior, and problem areas within the process. Organizations that capture and leverage this data for enriching their automation efforts steal a march over those that don’t. Data analysts should be an essential part of automation teams and programs. 

4. Leverage the full spectrum of automation tools and techniques: A few years ago, process automation was synonymous with RPA (Robotic Process Automation). A lot has changed since then, with automation solutions today leveraging a wider spectrum of tools and techniques including lightweight workflow platforms, machine learning and AI, and low-code applications. Many vendors have also begun to offer a combination of these tools as a bundled product. Designing solutions using the most appropriate combination of tools is an emerging skill, and organizations would do well to actively identify and mentor talent that possesses such skills.

5. Make culture and mindset shifts a priority: One of the most overlooked factors that impact the success of process automation programs is people. Operations teams rely on the capability and experience levels of SMEs (subject matter experts) to deliver high quality output, often using legacy tools and cumbersome procedures. In many cases, the SMEs even develop innovative point solutions to find a way around limitations and improve efficiencies. Therefore, it is important to partner closely with the process SMEs as enterprise scale automation solutions are developed. Equally important is the need to address any apprehensions they may have on the impact of automation and help shift their mindsets.

These factors can help promote a culture of active advocacy by organizations’ leaderships for process automation as an enabler for people to move into higher value-added roles and enhance their contributions and impact.

Source: Business World

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