How to Automate Your Business: Four Steps for Enterprises

4 min read

Make automation a reality in the next 60 to 90 days.

Over the past three years, companies that scaled intelligent automation across their enterprises outperformed their peers in profitability, revenue growth and efficiency. And that performance gap is expected to widen over the next three years. [1]

This probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, you’re reading this blog. It’s also not news to you that automation is difficult — especially in an enterprise.

Learning about automation approaches is definitely important (this automation strategies webinar is a great start), and so is starting in the right place.

To help make sure that you’re set up for success, we’ve put together four steps you can take in the next 60 to 90 days to make automation a reality in your business.

Step 1: Determine your goal

At the end of the day, what are you hoping to achieve with automation? Do you want to provide better customer support? Are you trying to improve business processes so that your workers can focus on higher-quality tasks? Do you want to enable your employees to complete their work in less time so that they can spend more time with their families?

The more specific you can be, the better. For example, CDG Prévoyance didn’t just want to improve their customer experience; they wanted to “provide the best service to our customers in a shorter amount of time and in the most effective channel.” For ENN Group, it was to drive clean energy options that improve the quality of people’s lives.

Working with a specific goal in mind will help you keep your team’s efforts focused. It will also set you up for long-term success.

Step 2: Choose one area of your business

Often, our first instinct is to choose a project that will help everyone. However, when you’re introducing automation into your business, it’s best to start small.

Automation could probably improve every part of your business in some way, so you’ll have a lot of options in front of you. Maybe you’ll find that there’s a department that is completely overwhelmed with time-consuming, manual processes. Maybe there’s a team that needs to make big changes due to recent data privacy regulations. Or maybe there’s an area that has faced recent budget cuts and now has fewer people to help get work done.

Most importantly, you’ll want to look for an area where the people on the team are excited about taking on this new project. You’ll need them to be your partners throughout the process.

For example, the Administrative Office of the Courts in a southeastern state had an overburdened payment claims team. When they started their discovery process, they saw that more than 70,000 claims were on hold — mostly due to simple errors that had to be corrected through manual processes. For Turkcell, it was that their marketing team had limited time to review 7.9 million contracts and confirm that the contract data matched the information in their CRM system.

In both of these companies, they knew the teams needed help and the team members were eager to start automating repetitive tasks.

Step 3: Set yourself up for a quick win

The unfortunate truth is that some people won’t be on board with your automation project until you show that it’s successful. So, plan with that reality in mind.

You will have already set yourself up for success by choosing a single project with an engaged team. It’s also great to consider what you can easily measure – those numbers are going to be important as you prove the value of automation. You may also want to consider low-code technologies that are quick and easy to implement.

For ENN Group, this meant implementing an automated financial assistant that could perform routine tasks like pulling reports or tracking monthly ledgers.

Step 4: Monitor the progress

Automation is an iterative process, and teams tend to see results very quickly. Be sure to track metrics from the start so you can see what’s going well and what you’d like to improve.

For example, ENN Group’s virtual assistant was an immediate hit — it completed between 2,000 and 3,000 tasks every day, which reduced processing time by 60%. At the Administrative Office of the Courts, they reduced their payment processing times from 45-60 days to less than 10 days.

As these results come in, you’ll start to have additional opportunities — either to expand the solutions you’ve implemented or to scope out additional ways that automation could help teams. And these could be found in surprising places. At the Administrative Office of the Courts, having an automated payment system facilitated the first raise for the state’s public defenders in a decade.

Automation tips

Here are a few additional tips that can help make automation a reality for your company.

  • Develop an internal methodology for automation projects. At IBM, we break it into four steps (like the ones above) and call them discover, decide, act and optimize. You can get more details about this approach in the blog “How to Become an Automation Achiever.”
  • Learn how to avoid false starts. Join us for a free webinar about this topic on March 24, 2021.
  • Remember that not everything should be automated. Check out Automate This, Not That to see six basic automation projects and to learn what you should — and shouldn’t — automate in each of them.

When you’re ready to put these steps into action, I recommend that you take the Business Automation Fitness Test and explore the software available to you in the IBM Cloud Pak for Business Automation.

[1] IBM Institute for Business Value – Future of Work Study, 2020

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