From SMBs to high-growth-stage startups and established legacy companies, leaders and employees are increasingly adopting an automation-first mindset. Over the past two years, we’ve seen robotic process automation (RPA) emerge as one technology for making this automation-first mindset a reality. However, introducing automation into an organization is a massive undertaking that can be difficult to effectively implement if you don't execute it correctly.
Even after addressing challenges such as organizational resistance, concerns over job losses and identifying the best automation technology for a business, it can be difficult to establish an automation program that operates at full efficiency. The core of this issue is that many technology decision makers begin implementation by trying to automate existing processes rather than rethinking processes from beginning to end and incorporating automation every step of the way. This means that businesses may be missing out on the potential advantages of automation within their organization.
Here are some key steps to get your organization in the right mindset for automation, based on my experience as the chief customer officer of a robotic process automation software company:
Rethink Work From Beginning To End
Introducing RPA is an opportunity to reimagine what a team is trying to do and redesign processes. By rebuilding your business strategy from the ground up and introducing automation at the root of each task, your teams can reach an optimum level of automation efficiency.
It is also critical to recognize that implementing RPA is not just an IT project, but also a holistic change across the entire organization. To deploy automation at scale, the entire organization should commit to applying best practices at all times. For example, I recommend building a targeted process from the mindset of using automation first and layering in human co-workers as needed. Challenge the status quo as you run into the first resistors for why you need a human "here and here and here and …"
Ask The Right Questions Out Of The Gate
Business leaders often don’t know the right questions to ask when they're moving forward with automation, but these questions can help guide the creation of your RPA strategy. In the early stages, it’s important to think critically about which processes you have in place and which processes will be the best fit for a digital workforce. For example, by asking, “What can’t a digital worker do?” tech leaders can pinpoint tasks that require a human element and leave automation to handle the remaining work.
It is also important for business leaders to consider their goals when they're targeting processes for automation. For example, by asking, “What do I want to accomplish with automation?” leaders can identify pain points where taking on a task typically done by human workers might be the most beneficial. Does your organization want automation to reduce time spent on repetitive tasks? Do you want to increase ROI or reduce the risk of human error? These are all critical questions that you should take into consideration out of the gate. Ask the right questions from the beginning to help ensure a better outcome.
Leaders can also use more design thinking elements to create a more future-oriented process for automation with multiple improvements in process performance. Design thinking is a process in which you create solutions with a focus on the people you're creating them for.
Look For Ways To Blend The Digital And Human Experience
By effectively merging digital and human elements, organizations can create the best possible employee and customer experience. While it’s easy for a company’s thinking model to get stuck in a “late 1990s mindset,” it’s important to make adjustments and consider any new opportunities that new technologies can provide.
To do this for automation, create a culture of automation that permeates from the top down. That way, you'll be are able to send the message that human and digital work can be effectively blended in ways that are beneficial to both the employee and the organization. For example, allow the individual business units where you're deploying digital workers to personalize them by giving them names. Give them "birthdays" and work anniversaries to help promote a connected ecosystem.
It may appear to some that RPA is the business silver bullet that we have all been searching for to solve so many problems. In fact, building intelligent automated solutions makes a great deal of sense, and balancing your workforce between humans and digital workers will likely become more and more commonplace. And yet, there are limitations. Here are a couple to consider:
1. If you can resolve the root cause of the business issue with changes to the core technology platforms and within acceptable time, cost and risk parameters, this (not RPA) should always be your first choice.
2. There are many intelligent automation and artificial intelligence tools on the market today. Depending on the exact nature of the business situation you're addressing, it could make sense to use one of the bespoke specialty tools for that situation. Technology can be taught to do the work, just like humans, and can be reused over and over for other types of work. But, specialty tools are often faster to get working on a specific, narrowly focused job.
A digitized future is one where businesses can grow organically and efficiently by connecting the IT fabric of an entire organization and empowering their workforces to trust and rely on technology. While it can be challenging to rethink work when implementing automation initiatives, by asking the right questions and blending the human and digital experiences, you can increase the chances of success in your organization.