Three Things Businesses Get Wrong About Process Automation

David Karandish

Author: David Karandish, Founder and CEO of Capacity

Teams have had to stretch their capacity to meet rising customer expectations across industries. Nearly all (95%) IT and engineering leaders surveyed by Salesforce say their organizations are prioritizing workflow automation, while 3 out of 4 leaders report automation saves time, providing team members with the bandwidth for more strategic work. Giving teams much-needed time back doesn’t just help the employee experience: That same survey found employee experience is a revenue multiplier, with improved employee experience leading to improved customer experience.

Simply put, process automation uses tools and technology to mimic human actions without human intervention. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) relies on virtual robots to complete automated steps with a high level of precision, and those steps are often done repetitively and at a high volume. Any organization can take advantage of process automation to streamline mundane tasks that consume too much of their teams’ time and make customer service interactions cumbersome or frustrating.

Process automation offers greater efficiency and cost savings. Still, many organizations fall into the same missteps on the path to implementing process automation, making it harder for their teams to reap the benefits of the technology. Here’s a look at three ways businesses get it wrong and what to do instead. 

No. 1: Trying to ‘eat the elephant in one bite’

Perhaps you’ve heard Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu’s adage: The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. When it comes to digital transformation — and process automation, in particular — many companies try to “eat the elephant in one bite,” treating an enormous task as a monolithic change. If there is one key takeaway from every workflow I’ve seen deployed, when you break down the process into smaller steps, everything moves faster. 

Taking it “one bite at a time” allows your organization to accomplish smaller steps to progress in your process automation journey — it also leaves you with a better system that will serve you in the long run. The automation you implement intentionally and incrementally will be agile enough to change as your needs evolve. But how does a company break down the process into manageable tasks? It starts with formalizing an enterprise automation roadmap. 

Analyze and identify the structured systems you already have comprised of digitized data already processed through standardized rules. Isolate the points in those processes where humans come in to transfer data manually from one location to another. The answers to these questions will give you a starting point for your roadmap. From there, meet with management across your organization to determine all the tasks that have automation potential. Focus on tasks that offer opportunities to improve customer and team member experiences by speeding up tedious activities. Once you’ve gotten this far, it’s critical to conduct a risk assessment to identify how your organization will mitigate any potential risks related to process automation. 

No. 2: Thinking of their own processes as unchanging

The most common mistake people face when starting process automation implementation is thinking of their processes as immutable. The reality is that most processes adapt over time and can be adapted to be more easily automated. Therefore, the workflows to automate these processes must be designed knowing that they will evolve. 

When starting with process automation, think about which processes are most well suited to automation. Look for simple, consistent, repeatable tasks that often have high error rates, create bottlenecks, slow down productivity and contribute to low morale among team members. Then, map out the workflow of those tasks before you try to implement an automation process. Try breaking down the workflow into requisite components and consider whether each element fits into automation parameters: 

  • Are they rule-based? Automated processes need to follow specific rules with few exceptions. 
  • Are they company-specific? Are they business processes that many organizations use, or is it unique to the company in question? If many companies use the process, a solution may already exist to integrate with your process automation platform.
  • Do they change very often? While it’s natural to adjust processes initially for automation and periodically to suit business needs, automating processes that change a lot means developers will spend too much time on maintenance.  

A willingness to modify workflows and a deep exploration of each component of those workflows will give your team a chance to rack up “small w” wins as you work to implement and scale automation.

No. 3: Not asking automation vendors the right questions

Finally, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the elements involved in implementing process automation and end up without the answers you need. To ensure you choose the best option for your organization’s process automation timeline and goals, include these questions in your discussion with automation vendors: 

  • How long does it take to implement the solution?
  • What are some recent examples of workflows the vendor has automated?
  • What systems can workflows connect to with the vendor’s technology? 
  • Does the vendor help build the workflow? Does the client? Is it both?

Asking these questions from the beginning will ensure your automation vendor can meet the specific needs of your organization and accommodate the systems you already use for business. By implementing a platform that meets these needs, companies can circumvent the frustration of having to duct-tape multiple solutions together, offering a better overall automation experience that can scale with ease. 

A better experience for teams and customers 

The business process automation market is expected to reach $19.6 billion by 2026. When implemented in a meaningful way, process automation can lower costs, reduce errors, address bottlenecks, streamline time-consuming processes, simplify customer service, increase team member satisfaction and alleviate the burden on team members so they can focus on high-value work. By implementing a platform, companies can circumvent the frustration of having to duct-tape multiple solutions together. The competition for talent shows no signs of slowing, and customer expectations will only continue to grow. Process automation can be a differentiator in both customer and employee experiences — but only if organizations execute process automation successfully. 

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David Karandish is the Founder & CEO of Capacity – an enterprise artificial intelligence SaaS company headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Capacity’s secure, AI-native support automation platform helps teams do their best work. Prior to starting Capacity, David was the CEO of Answers Corp. David lives in St. Louis with his wife, Erin, and four kids. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family and playing ukulele.