The Benefits and Pitfalls of Automation
by James Allen
February 8, 2018
In my previous blog post I highlighted some of the key differences between transformation and automation. As a reminder, both approaches are necessary. However in this post I will focus on the short- and medium-term benefits that automation can supply when implemented correctly.
Process automation has become a key tool for tactically and strategically streamlining your business. Generally, as enterprises grow and become more complex there is an increase in labor intensive tasks. Because this scenario is so common today, there has never been a greater demand for business automation. While automation can take many shapes and forms, technology is primarily the enabler.
If automation can be applied in a relatively short timeframe, an organization has a good chance of realizing many benefits that can quickly deliver bottom line value. Such benefits include:
Automation techniques such as match and merge, legacy system lookups, auto extraction and business rule routing can help to reduce low complexity, repetitive tasks. This allows employees to focus on higher value tasks.
Human error has always been an inevitable challenge. However, leveraging technology to perform human tasks, especially high volume activities, can significantly reduce the impact of this issue.
Return-on-investment (ROI) is key when implementing technology. It is essential to perform this calculation to confirm that your proposed automation project is financially viable. Additionally, transactional cost models allow organizations to only pay for what they use. This is attractive especially if the organization has seasonal variations or volume spikes.
Manual-based processes can be hard to clarify and track. Thus, accountability becomes difficult to establish. Automation eliminates these issues by putting a chain of custody in place that includes an approval hierarchy. This drives transparency and accountability within an organization, creating a more effective workplace.
To maximize these and other business benefits, it is important to be aware of and avoid pitfalls such as the following.
Not Assessing Business Value
Many projects are undertaken without the support of a true business case to justify the cost and the approach. Lacking the necessary due diligence, there is no way to benchmark the success of an automation project. You may want to implement best-in-class technology; however does it make sense according to your business case? Does it save you money or cost you more? How does it help in your organization’s strategic goals?
Replicating Existing Manual Processes
On a similar theme, taking the necessary time to perform a full analysis and design is critical. Too many automation projects fail as many organizations try to jump straight in with new tools and technology and fundamentally make the mistake of replicating their existing processes. Thus they simply end up having the same process with an expensive technology layer on top, which requires maintenance, upgrades, licenses and on-going support.
Leading with Technology Solutions
Finally, organizations often do not ask “do we have the right tools for the job?” Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is certainly a tool that is disrupting the outsourcing industry and there is no doubt that it can bring impressive savings and productivity increases. However, is it the right tool for your process? Sometimes when “all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This saying comes to mind with so much current industry attention focused on RPA. Again, it is important to understand your business process and identify the key problems that need to be solved. Having an arsenal of tools is better than having one hammer.
Looking ahead, once you understand the potential pitfalls of automation; have carried out your due diligence and obtained an appropriate set of tools/technologies, your organization is in a great position to realize business benefits and thus achieve a higher level of business process performance.
Perhaps your organization is planning an automation project that requires added expertise in order to launch it. Or, you may need to perform due diligence or require access to the latest technologies to get the job done. Canon Business Processes is here to help. We have a proven approach to help identify value that in turn builds business cases and ROI models for our clients. These methods can range from our RPA Process Selection Assessment to full blown Six Sigma Events, all of which support your automation goals.
To learn more, feel free to visit the Business Process Outsourcing page of our website. There you will find valuable information on industry trends and best practices including whitepapers, survey reports, case histories and more.