Automation solutions are gaining attraction in a wide variety of industries. Many companies rely on automation tools (such as process automation) to relieve employees of time-consuming tasks. The disadvantages force to scale such solutions. The appropriate tools have the potential to solve challenges in process automation, reduce costs and increase efficiency in the departments from finance and accounting to marketing and customer service. However, this approach often leads to the formation of silos: a team uses an automation tool to automate their own processes, without considering how this solution could help other departments in the company.
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Take automation to the next level
When companies choose an automation solution, the challenge is not how to implement the tool, but how to scale it.
An example of this is Robotic Process Automation (RPA): According to various studies, 90 percent of organizations take an integrated approach to automation. The biggest obstacle for them is the lack of a clear entrepreneurial vision – and also specialists who could drive automation projects forward. As long as they do not master these challenges, it will be difficult for them to scale automation solutions effectively and effectively. The good news is that these pitfalls can be overcome – if companies know where to start. It is advisable to proceed in the following steps and evaluate method suitable for a particular company.
- Establish a competence center: In order to find synergies and, for example, to establish a successful automation process in other areas of the company, it is helpful to set up a center of excellence (CoE). It consists of a group of employees who deal intensively with topics related to automation. They monitor automation processes and compliance with the respective standards throughout the company, initiate training courses, coordinate providers and introduce best practices. This automation task force can be structured flexibly. Three different models are possible, which differ in terms of the distribution of responsibilities:
- Centralized operating model: A team leads and controls all aspects of automation.
- Decentralized operating model: Responsibilities for the operation of the automation program are divided between different business units.
- Hybrid operating model: A single, centralized team executes some aspects of the automation program, while others are replicated in other business areas.
There is no general answer to the question of which model is suitable for a company. It is advisable to start with the model that seems appropriate – and adjust it if necessary. For example, if a company is just starting to automate, the centralized approach may be best. For scaling, however, it is advisable to distribute responsibilities across the company.
Critically check the software
Many companies currently use software such as RPA to optimize their processes, but limit it to just a few business processes. This procedure is correct as the first step so as not to get bogged down. However, it means that numerous other processes still require a lot of manual effort. The challenge is that many RPA tools are unable to solve more complex, so-called cognitive tasks. Therefore, it is necessary to switch to the next generation of RPA solutions. These tools include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning functions to automate a wide variety of complex tasks. Software robots are thus becoming the new, digital colleagues of real employees.
Convince the employees with examples of success
Robots that are supposed to support the employees as digital colleagues – this idea meets with reservations from one or the other. Employees ask themselves whether they will soon be replaced by the software. This worry can quickly be removed. People instinctively fear change. Well-functioning examples can help here. These clearly show the value of automation and address people’s emotions. One example is the introduction of ATMs, which many bank employees feared would become redundant. But the opposite was the case, because they could now focus much more on customer service. When companies show their employees how automation improves the customer and employee experience, they can be convinced of other automation processes in the company – especially if the company wants to use the solution in other areas.
To do this, however, the company must create an awareness of how automation enables better data accuracy, cost savings and shorter processing times. No employee will be happy to spend time copying data from A to B to C over and over again. Exactly such tasks are time-consuming and also very prone to errors because the concentration can decrease. This time can be filled with other tasks in a much more meaningful way, for example by concentrating employees on customer advice.
Optimize the other business areas
Normally, companies start their automation program by testing individual projects in one area and then gradually expanding them as part of scaling. However, many find it difficult to find additional processes that can be automated using RPA, for example. In order to identify these, the automation task force should exchange ideas with the business and IT management and clarify the following points:
- Which areas of the company fall short of expectations? In areas that do not see any innovations or productivity increases, there are often workflows that can be considered for automation.
- Where are there bottlenecks due to inflexible applications or information silos? Are areas consistently delivering poorer results than others, possibly due to a lack of exchange of information between the areas and departments? Systems migrated twice, for example, can cause bottlenecks in processing.
- Which processes cannot be scaled without additional staff? As companies grow, so does the number of processes. If organizations have to hire more and more personnel to maintain these processes, this is a clear indication that process optimization is necessary.
If the companies want to act in a more customer-oriented manner, it is necessary to use the automation software in as many areas as possible so that it relieves employees as much as possible. The great success of automation occurs when companies bring people, technology and processes into harmony. This increases the efficiency and success of the entire organization.