As part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series—a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories—Karli Kalpala, the Head of the Business Service & Design unit at Digital Workforce, shares insights on how companies can improve how they identify and capitalize on the value of automation technologies.
Businesses’ relationship with automation is in a strange place right now. The past two years have seen a boost in companies acquiring automation solutions as part of attempts to accelerate their digital transformation projects. Based on our conversations, about 80 percent of the companies we talk to have started their automation journey. The problem these businesses are finding is that they’ve got these solutions, but they don’t necessarily know what to do with them. They might have automated several processes, but there is a definite sense that they haven’t seen the efficiencies they expected or are stuck wondering what’s next.
Maybe they were oversold. Perhaps the company overbought and was caught up in the theoretical possibilities they believed automation unlocked. The blunt truth is that many people can’t get their automation journey out of first gear. They need skills and expertise to help them unlock the next layer of automation value that will allow them to solve business challenges in as little as a few months.
The Automation Skills Issues
But this demand for skills is complicated. On the one hand, there’s the increasing concern around economic downturn, with a recession in the US widely predicted, which traditionally means layoffs, or at the very least freezing hiring programs. So we’ve got employers potentially holding off from hiring while their staff exit, creating a situation where workforces contract.
To maintain operational effectiveness, worker tasks and processes need to be automated. But to execute that transformation requires teams with the proper knowledge and ability to automate existing processes. It becomes a vicious cycle that, if left unchecked, will harm enterprises’ abilities to keep operating effectively.
Three Steps to Unlocking the Value of Automation
What, then, is the answer? How do businesses unlock that additional value from automation and continue their journey while dealing with a lack of skills or at least a struggle to acquire the needed expertise?
First, it’s worth enterprises understanding what they are trying to achieve with automation. Many focus on automating existing tasks and simple processes, but there are significant opportunities in designing strategies that didn’t exist before and wouldn’t be possible without automation. Companies that figure out how to release the strategic value of automation by being able to configure and re-configure automated business processes at high speed will develop faster than the competition.
Second, enterprises need to expand their understanding of the capabilities of automation. Thanks to the proliferation and mainstream adoption of robotic process automation, many still think of automation in terms of efficiency. They see it as taking repetitive, manual processes and digitizing them, freeing employees to work on other activities.
While that is absolutely a key reason to automate and a great way to start the journey, if that’s all businesses think of when they deploy automation, they’re taking quite a limiting approach. It has directly led to this situation many are in, with people wondering why they’ve got these solutions and tools and how they will manage them all.
Instead, they need to think about intelligent automation, where tools like RPA, application programming interfaces (API), chatbots, optical character recognition (OCR), and advanced artificial intelligence are not seen as separate entities to be deployed in silos but in integrated approaches. In particular, one that can not only tackle highly complex tasks but can do so at scale. This means using cloud-based services to provide the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective route to implementing business automation and monitoring performance across operations.
This all comes together in an industrialized process automation platform that allows companies to launch digitalized and automated solutions for order handling, customer onboarding, claims handling, or industry-specific processes, like loan approvals or patient referral handling. Third, as enterprises start to see intelligent automation as an approach, they need to get a partner on board that can provide the right level of consultancy and guidance.
Let’s be clear: automation isn’t new. What is unknown to many is moving beyond realizing efficiencies. It simply isn’t something many people have experience with. This relates to the skills shortage—enterprises can’t hire the right talent to automate the more complex processes they need to plug the gap created by not having that talent.
An external partner, particularly a vendor-agnostic one, can bring to bear its experience of working with other companies. It will provide the consultancy enterprises need to implement an intelligent approach to automation, reducing the time from idea to execution. In addition, an external partner helps lower the barriers for companies to run and manage processes in real-time.
From Overbought to Unlocked Value: The Next Step in Automation’s Journey
Most enterprises have begun their automation journey. To get value from their investments, they need to move beyond simply making existing tasks and simple processes more efficient and identify new ways to use automation to propel them forward.
Reaching that point requires a better understanding of automation’s potential on a strategic level, adjusting their mindset to see how different technologies can work seamlessly together, and bringing in that external expertise to make it a reality. Only then will they be able to get their automation journey out of first gear and start to make some real, valuable headway toward the next-generation business process capability.
- 3 Ways to Unlock the Value of Automation for Your Company - October 14, 2022