“Companies need to be careful because a lack of visibility and strategic oversight increases the chances that critical business processes could break unnoticed, causing harm to revenue and reputation.” – Says Jakob Freund, CEO and Co-Founder at Camunda
ET Bureau: What is the significance of process automation in an organization’s digital transformation journey?
Jakob Freund: Process automation has emerged as a linchpin for digital transformation. Nine in 10 IT decision-makers say process automation is essential to digital transformation, according to a recent survey performed by my company Camunda and Vanson Bourne.
Due to growing pressures to deliver service more efficiently, organizations were already increasing their process automation investment. Meanwhile, the rise of remote work and rapid changes in how business gets done has even further emphasized the need for process automation.
For example, many manual processes in the office needed to be automated when remote work became widespread. If implemented correctly and strategically, process automation delivers transformative business value — enabling companies to deliver new service levels and expand business opportunities.
But enterprise process automation needs are increasingly challenged by a wide range of new technologies, infrastructures, and use cases. Companies need to be careful because a lack of visibility and strategic oversight increases the chances that critical business processes could break unnoticed, causing harm to revenue and reputation.
ET Bureau: In the wake of the pandemic, IT decision-makers in modern enterprises plan to increase investment in RPA. How will this help in businesses’ growth?
Jakob Freund: While RPA is part of the process automation landscape and offers short term benefits, it is not without its challenges. Companies that use RPA reported that RPA helped deliver automation quickly, but most (91%) cited challenges such as managing security, maintenance, lack of control, compliance, and only solving the short-term problem instead of the underlying issue: legacy applications that do not expose a proper API.
I’ve worked with Deutsche Telekom, and while they have saved over $100 million by implementing RPA, they consider RPA technical debt because of bot fragility and the high levels of labor required. In the longer term, companies need to overcome the UI-based automation that RPA provides altogether. The strategy for this is to retire selected RPA bots gradually and replace them with (micro-) services that are accessible via API.
ET Bureau: How can process automation deliver transformative business value while evading the increasing technical challenges?
Jakob Freund: Process automation is a business driver for growth and efficiency in near equal measure. Our survey found half of a company’s process automation initiatives are focused on driving business growth, actively contributing to the success of the organization by improving customer experiences and the offerings of the business.
Meanwhile, the other half of the process automation initiatives include business optimization (27%) and other business efficiency factors, including fire fighting (17%). But, processes are increasingly complex and have many different steps, components, and end-points across various technologies.
On average, a single process typically includes five different types of components: for example, packaged enterprise applications or customer portals. The new reality of process automation raises the danger of incomplete or broken business processes, lack of insight into inefficiencies and bottlenecks, added cost, and potentially loss of customers or new growth opportunities.
Many organizations are still relying on manual or inconsistent reporting to decide how to optimize or improve already automated processes and to identify patterns and bottlenecks, and this is dangerous.
For organizations investing heavily in the roll-out of process automation, setting up Centers of Excellence (CoE) — providing leadership, best practices, support, and training for process automation across an organization — can be vital in implementing successful projects.
ET Bureau: Lately, companies see IT control and compliance issues. What, according to you, are the considerations regarding RPA deployments?
Jakob Freund: Without effective governance and control practices, RPA bots can become overloaded with complex workflow and decision logic, such as nested if-then routines. Such bots are difficult to maintain. They can’t be readily reused in different contexts, which leads to redundant implementations that only add to the overall complexity of the deployment.
Any RPA implementation should be supported by a bot registry that serves as the foundation for governance. Such a registry makes it possible to locate, reuse or update a bot.
ET Bureau: How grave is the organizational threat with process automation setup while managing security in the long run?
Jakob Freund: Securing process automation implementations involves managing access, authorizations, and user management across the platform, from the workflow engine to web apps, custom code, and APIs. Access rights need to be defined and managed throughout the application. These practices are essential and part of overall practices that maintain application security in the long term.
Jakob Freund is co-founder and chief executive officer at Camunda. Jakob is driving Camunda’s mission to help organizations automate their core business processes. Jakob co-authored “Real-Life BPMN,” a popular book about workflow modeling and automation, now in its fifth edition.