“What’s likely to stand in the way of a successful automation implementation?”

By Brian Safron

This article is adapted from The quick and practical guide to digital business automation.

First, let’s talk about what automation success looks like.

Successful automation isn’t singular. It doesn’t come from one project or solution, such as robotic process automation (RPA). RPA may get you to a quick win, but it won’t fundamentally change how you do business.

Successful enterprise automation is an iterative exercise that aims to keep pace with the changing needs of your customers and market. In our experience, companies who get the most out of automation tend to exhibit the following behaviors:

  • They understand their business processes, especially where those processes do and don’t meet customer needs — striving to be the easiest to do business with.
  • They recognize the importance of scalability while still being able to offer each customer a personalized experience.
  • They keep the automation system as flexible as possible by building on an extensible platform and keeping reasonable alignment between business and IT.
  • They’ve taken everything that can be made efficient and made it efficient.

Companies that aren’t as successful with automation tend to do one or more of following three things:

  • They try to do it all at once. Trying to address all of your automation goals with one big launch can lead to trouble. By releasing incrementally with continuous improvements, you give yourself room to experiment, innovate and fix what doesn’t work.
  • They think packaged apps are going to solve all of their problems. Packaged apps can meet some of your needs. The misstep happens when you try to forceably fit a packaged app into a part of your business where it’s not a good fit. If there’s something you want to be known for — like having a great enrollment experience — packaged apps will rarely be the right choice.
  • They forget to engage business and IT together in user-centered design. When you’re doing automation, not committing to getting business and IT on the same page can hurt your efforts. The IT team benefits from engaging business subject matter experts in a design-thinking exercise to ensure a user-centered design from the start. And, when meeting with solution vendors, business people benefit from getting IT in the room early as a technical reality check and to help prevent purchase mistakes based on promises that are too good to be true.

Final thoughts: Successful automation, for all but the simplest projects, requires a combination of software capabilities beyond just workflow and process. For example, make sure to consider how you’ll ingest and manage content, or how you’ll make changes to business rules without rolling out a new version of the entire application.

To take automation to the next level, think about how you’ll apply various forms of intelligence (for example, AI, machine learning, analytics, digital decisioning) to your applications. We’re in the early days of intelligent automation. In a few years, it’ll be the norm and we’ll just call it automation. Make sure you’re ready.

For more advice on automating work at scale, download The quick and practical guide to digital business automation.

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