Well-planned automation initiatives with a clear business case and expected outcomes can transform and advance how various functional teams work. But if your company isn’t getting the ROI that you were hoping for – or worse, if it’s causing frustration – it could be due to any number of problems. In this blog, we take a look at three common challenges that many organizations face when trying to implement business process automation (BPA) which prevent the successful implementation of those initiatives.
Strategic automation initiatives undertaken with clear expected outcomes can transform companies and better realize the efforts of various functional teams. But if your company isn’t getting the return on investment (ROI) you were hoping for – or worse, if it’s causing frustration – it could be due to any number of problems. In this blog, we look at three common challenges that many organizations face when trying to implement business process automation (BPA) which prevent the successful implementation of those initiatives.
Challenge 1: Looking at automation as a fix-it approach
Everyone wants to automate their systems, but they don’t realize that automation isn’t just about fixing problems. It’s about making your organization more efficient and productive, which will help you be more competitive in the long term.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example: Let’s say you’re running a daily report in Excel that pulls together data from across your business and puts it into one place for review by your leadership team on Monday mornings. This process takes 12 hours every week for two people (and probably costs around $300). You decide to automate this process using macros because it saves time doing repetitive work and frees up those two employees for other tasks. The macro solves the problem you were having with creating these reports manually, but does nothing to address any underlying issues with getting better visibility into what is happening within the business or how everyone is spending their time each day.
The problem with automation as a fix-it approach:
Automation is not a replacement for cultural change. It’s a tool, not a solution. As such, it can only be as effective as the people who use it.
Automation is not a way to avoid problems or fix them; rather, it’s a way to create efficiency and empower teams to focus on other things that are more important than manual tasks.
What you can do about it:
Here are some things you can do to help with this challenge:
Use an automation strategy. Effective automation requires a plan that’s tailored to your organization. A good strategy should include a clear definition of who will use the automation and why; what you’re automating and how; when it will be put into production; and how often it will be updated.
Use a platform for building your automation strategy. This can help ensure that everyone involved in developing your workforce has access to the tools they need, without having to go through multiple hoops just to get started with their tasks on any given project.
Focus on the business problem you are trying to solve before starting work on anything else. The goal here is simple: if something isn’t going right in your company, then resolving whatever issue caused those problems should always come before anything else. To do this effectively means having conversations about what problems exist right now so everyone knows where they stand when making decisions about future investments (or lack thereof).
Challenge 2: One-off platforms and projects are not an automation strategy
Let’s be honest: automation is a long game. It takes time to set up an automation strategy, and then even more time for that strategy to pay off. You may be tempted to take shortcuts by implementing individual automation projects as one-offs—but this can lead you down the wrong path in your overall plan for success.
While some companies may have several pieces of automation running in their organization, these initiatives are often siloed off, disconnected from one another with no overarching strategy or plan in place. Without a strategy or roadmap behind your automation initiatives, you may experience problems with implementation while also missing out on potential opportunities for increased efficiency or cost savings across multiple departments. A comprehensive strategy will help ensure that every piece of automation works together towards achieving your business goals.
Instead of thinking about individual automation projects, think about how they fit within an overarching strategy that includes other technologies such as AI/cognitive computing (which we’ll get into later). And don’t forget about the importance of cultural change.
The problem with one-off automation projects:
One-off enterprise automation projects may not be very beneficial in the long run because they may not be fully integrated into the overall workflow and processes of the organization. This can lead to difficulty in maintaining and updating the automation, as well as potential issues with data consistency and accuracy. Additionally, one-off projects may not be scalable and may not provide a significant return on investment. It is often more beneficial to have a comprehensive automation strategy that incorporates multiple automation projects and is aligned with the organization’s processes and overall goals and objectives.
What you can do about it:
You must realize that automation projects are in fact a form of project management. A good project manager will help you plan out each step, from identifying business problems to developing an implementation strategy. You’ll need to define success criteria for each project and then measure it as you go along. For this, think about how business process automation fits within the broader context of your IT and business strategies. Ask yourself: What problems are you trying to solve? How do these projects fit into an overall plan for success? Defining the answers to these questions will help you consolidate your digitalization and automation projects to build more connected, enterprise-wide systems and solutions that drive and govern core business processes and work as a single intelligent piece of machinery.
Automation is a long-term play. Plan for a multi-year journey, not just one or two projects that happen over the next 6 or 12 months. Make sure you have the right talent in place to support this effort; otherwise, it will fail.
Challenge 3: Automation does not create value for teams and individual team members
Automation is a means to an end, not an end in itself. You don’t need to automate everything that can be automated. Automation has to be integrated into the business processes and workflows. It also has to be integrated into the individual and team workflows. And it has to be integrated into your company culture too!
The problem with an unbalanced ROI from automation:
The ROI of automation projects is often not balanced between the business and the individual.
The ROI of automation is often not balanced between the business and the individual. As a result, it’s very common for an organization to have one or more people who are over-automated (meaning they spend too much time on repetitive tasks) while others spend too little time on repetitive tasks. This can create tension in your organization because it feels unfair for some people but not others.
You may have heard about this problem with an unbalanced ROI from automation before—and if so, you might find that some solutions sound familiar. For example: “We need to hire more engineers! They could do all this work themselves instead of paying us to do it manually…” Of course, there are other ways to solve this problem than hiring new employees (or outsourcing everything), such as using software that automates processes more effectively than manual methods did before; however, those solutions may not address all challenges related specifically.
What you can do about it:
It’s important to remember that people are the ones who ultimately need to use this technology – which means they will be affected by it both positively and negatively. If employees don’t feel empowered by automation or don’t understand its purpose within their role, then they won’t use it efficiently or effectively. To ensure successful adoption and usage rates, it is critical to focus on education, training and support during all stages of your project – from planning through implementation to maintenance.
Consider proof-of-concepts (POC) before a complete move to automation
It’s important to have a clear understanding of what problem you’re trying to solve, and how automation will help you solve it. If you don’t understand the business case, then there’s no way that you’ll know what value your investment will create for the organization. Often, BPA projects start with small pilots or proof-of-concepts (POCs), which are meant to prove out use cases before moving into production deployments. However, because these POCs are usually very small and have limited scope, they may not provide enough insight into how BPA could be applied across different departments within an organization—or even across different industries.
So, make sure that when you’re thinking about implementing an automation solution like BPA, you know what problem(s) need solving; you have access to data from other parts of your company who might also benefit from automation; and if possible, consider some proof-of-concept projects first before going all in on full-scale automation deployment.
When you think about the challenges of automation, it’s easy to focus on the technical aspects. But there are also cultural challenges that organizations need to address in order for AI and BPA projects to live up to their potential.
Automating processes in your organization can create significant cost savings while improving efficiency across multiple departments or teams. However, make sure to consider the above culture challenges as well that can become barriers to success. By addressing each challenge with careful thought and planning, you can make sure that your automated processes are beneficial for everyone involved – leading to successful projects across the board!
VBeyond Digital can help your organization with the strategic road mapping for long-term automation and digital transformation projects along with their implementation and post-deployment support. Speak to our experts to learn how best to approach automation for your organization.