Customer Experience and Streamlined Operations are at the heart of every progressive business. Competition is increasing, as is a customer’s expectation of their digital experience. Their judgement of your service capability is based on the efficiency with which they can interact, the knowledge and insights they can derive and the relevance and personalisation they experience.
So to deliver on all these customer expectations, and keep process efficiency in check, we see automation as playing a central role. And while its role is central, its execution almost always is not. So in this blog we’re going to attempt to demystify some of the elements of automation.
What’s Happening in Automation?
Process automation is seeing unprecedented growth in the enterprise software market. API-led connectivity has cemented itself as the key way in which data, systems and people connect to deliver sophisticated customer experience. Intelligent Automation, through Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is capturing headlines, but is fundamentally reliant on strongly developed data, integration and process foundations. The darling of the automation space according to Gartner, is the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market which grew 63.1% in 2018, compared to the overall market of 13.3% and 14.6% for infrastructure and middleware spend.
RPA is getting such traction due, I suspect, to its relative simplicity in nearly all facets. With a lower cost of entry and faster implementation timeframes, good RPA software is delivering faster ROIs, fuelling further investment. As a non-invasive technology there are less internal hurdles to consider. Its impact is much more tangible through its emulation of human activity. And far from driving fears about job security, staff are embracing ‘bots’ that take on their boring, repetitive tasks and enable them to add value in more meaningful ways.
As always though, the mantra of ‘the right tool for the right job’ holds true.
Elements of an Automation Ecosystem
IDC has elegantly summarised the elements of an Automation Ecosystem below as a Digital Transformation (DX) Platform:
Whilst we’d argue the simplistic compartmentalisation within the platform (there are many use cases where experience APIs deliver external engagement, for example) there is a role for each tool in the toolkit based on scale, process complexity, reuse, transaction volume, system agility and level of strategic business innovation.
This is where having a selection criteria ‘which technology approach for when’ becomes important. Some high level considerations are captured in the table below.
Aside from technology, the other significant component of the Automation Ecosystem is people. When businesses start to investigate automation, very often their first criteria is cost / headcount reduction. However, early adopter case studies are showing that organisations who leverage automation to reduce manual and repetitive tasks then redeploy employees to higher value or more meaningful tasks are seeing far greater business benefits such as improved customer experience, revenue growth and risk mitigation. Read Australian Unity RPA Case Study.
Tips for Successful Automation Adoption
As mentioned above, process automation is seeing unprecedented growth and businesses who don’t embrace it will likely find themselves falling short of their customers’ expectations around digital experience and service delivery.
We’ve spent a lot of time in recent months working with clients through their transformation, and listening to a broad range of organisations who are undertaking the journey. The top tips below have consistently featured in advice for getting started on your automation program:
1. Just Start. Don’t wait until you’ve reengineered your processes to start automating. Apply an Agile mindset, make incremental changes to demonstrate value quickly to get stakeholder buy-in and confidence. Analysis paralysis is to be avoided.
2. Be Ready to Automate a Subset of a Process. You don’t have to implement a solution to automate a whole process. We have seen a lot of cases where automating a subset of a process has provided significant ROI.
3. Align to Business Outcomes. Understand what the business priorities are and choose the right automation approach to support those priorities.
4. Change Management. Include all stakeholders in every stage of the automation process and help employees transition their skills where required. For example, managers who previously relied on people to perform processes will become process owners responsible for areas such as design, development and analytics.
5. Humanise Automation. Automation doesn’t have to be a behind the scenes tool. Bringing it to the front for example giving bots a persona or nickname can help users welcome automation technology rather than resist it.
6. Find Digital Champions. You can’t scale automation across your organisation with a handful of people. There are use cases in every department in your organisation, find the people who are eager to make changes with technology.
7. Continue to Measure Value. Don’t stall after automating the low hanging fruit. Find new and interesting ways to improve business benefits with ‘Automation First’ mindset.