Scale Scare Stories: Avoiding Intelligent Automation Stagnation

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Scale Scare Stories: Avoiding Intelligent Automation Stagnation

As an organisation in the Intelligent Automation space we engage in all sorts of productivity improving projects with our clients. From reducing the cost of physical payments from $10.00 to just 89 cents in financial services, to reducing the time it takes an agent to handle requests from 25 minutes to just 2 minutes in healthcare.

As with all good news, there is often the other end of the spectrum, with automation scaling scare stories. As organisations attempt to realize the promise of automation, we’ve started to see this worrying symptom emerging in companies that started to use RPA on one process, somewhere between a year to two years ago, and haven’t moved beyond that initial success since – we call this ‘Automation Stagnation’.

This symptom seems to have very similar characteristics in all the organisations that we see it in - and it is a real shame - the cross business opportunities to save money, do things quicker and improve the roles of staff are endless.

So how does this stagnation start? Well, what normally happens is that automation starts in a business in one functional area. Finance operations, HR or IT service delivery is a popular one. The excitement builds, we identify a bunch of low hanging fruit, repetitive and often thankless tasks no-one really wants to do. These tasks often use huge amounts of people with high cost to serve and staff turnover which makes it difficult to scale.

We then build out a couple of these processes, launch them with huge expectation, give ourselves a pat on the back, and sit back now that we know many invoices a month are being processed automatically. The team which once focused on these invoices are now refocused on value added tasks which make money, rather than cost it. And, then it all goes suspiciously quiet…

Firstly, automation can slip down the priority list having seen initial return on investment, and the business stops thinking about new areas to automate. Before you know it the headache of managing bots comes creeping in. And, lastly, we see automation deployed in isolation in one functional area, which usually transpires into bottlenecks and the majority of the business don’t benefit from the potential step change in productivity which automation provides.

The stagnation is not insurmountable, its addressable with three key decisions: -

Firstly, ensure early on that clear Executive sponsorship is in place —ideally board level where a cross business interest is evident. Secondly, define business benefits and potential return on investment time frames with all stakeholders. Both of these points are actually obvious, but you would be surprised how many projects fail because they lack this.

Lastly and most importantly, consider how you want automation to manifest itself in your business.  Its not as simple as it sounds. Just having a couple of people trained and building automations is not enough for continued success. Choose to build an in house team and automation operating model to build out success across your business. Alternatively partner with a services organisation that can deliver either Automation As A Services (AaaS), or outsource the identification, validation and build of automations to them, before handing back processes to core automation owners.

In essence, what many organisations miss it that often the lifecycle management of Intelligent Automation, is as important as choosing the actual enterprise software itself. It would appear some of the most experience people in business have lost their head during this ‘gold rush’ of AI and automation, but leaders need to ensure they deploy the ample rigor and structure they have used for their long found success.