Sonika Aggarwal handles the business development work at Skan.AI, a cognitive technology startup
“Companies that failed to incorporate automation in their roadmap experienced a 25% drop in their customer retention,” concluded a survey by Gartner.
Another McKinsey study pointed out that “60% of the enterprises could save over 30% of their time if they automated their processes”.
These two along with many other studies have been driving enterprises towards automation. But the sad truth is nearly half of the automation projects do not achieve their end goal. And the major reason behind the failure of 50% of these projects is trying to automate the wrong process.
But that’s not all. There are many other reasons that lead automation to failure. This write-up sums up the top ten reasons for failed automation.
Incomplete understanding of the processes is a true killer of your automation efforts. Each business process hides beneath its interface several nuances, variations, and layers. These are usually left untouched in any typical process mapping, interview-based discovery or employee shadowing.
Without complete process transparency and insights into the same, all that the enterprises will be left with is failed or suboptimal automation.
For successful automation, they need to shed the old-school way of deploying teams of analysts to draw boxes & arrows for the map. Instead, they need to adopt more advanced and modern approaches to process mapping that are backed by computer vision, deep learning, machine intelligence, and other similar technologies. They need to invest in process discovery and process mining software for successful automation.
Automation just for automation’s sake is not the right way to go! You will only be faced with lost efforts and automation that could not be at par with your unrealistic expectations. Have a clear goal in mind and create a coherent strategy to achieve the same.
What do you want your automation to yield?
Is digital transformation your end goal?
Do you want to automate recurring tasks to save time & manual efforts?
Do you want to standardize the operations?
Do you want to find opportunities and capitalize on opportunity costs?
Or do you simply want to get clarity on your processes?
Whatever your end goal is, be clear about it from the very beginning!
Setting clear and SMART goals is the first step towards the successful implementation of any new initiative and automation is no different. By SMART, here, we mean that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Timely.
It is not just the tools and technologies that make up your process. Humans play a crucial role too. And if you are neglecting the employees working on your processes while analyzing them for automation, your results would not be fruitful.
The majority of the process analysis software and platforms focus on the applications and systems. They collect data and event logs from the processes on the application without taking into consideration that many
processes and decisions are made unknowingly by the employees. In fact, many employees have their own way of doing tasks to save time and effort. This is your enterprise’s tribal knowledge. And you need to unearth this tribal knowledge using process discovery.
If you are only focusing on the tools and the tasks while neglecting the human aspect of your processes, your automation efforts are bound to go down. Without getting a holistic picture of your processes, you will not be able to succeed with automation. And in order to get a holistic picture, incorporating the human element with process discovery is imperative.
Not Knowing Which Process to Automate
Your automation efforts will lead to failure if you put your efforts into automating the wrong or broken process. Just because a certain process can be automated doesn’t mean it needs to be automated.
You might feel that each process is ripe for automation but that is not the case. Many of the processes can be optimized in several ways other than automation. A large chunk of enterprises, in a bid to automate things, overlook the crucial aspect of business process analysis to know which process can be the best candidate for automation. This leaves them with wasted time and resources on the wrong process, along with delays in their digital transformation initiative.
For successful automation, check which process is right for your initiative. Consider different aspects of the process like the repetitive steps, value stream, workflow volume, and steps that need least to no human interference. These could be ideal candidate processes for automation.
Robotic Process Automation is considered the torch-bearer of automation by most of the enterprises. However, the RPA hammer would not work with each process that you have in your enterprise. There are various processes that can be optimized through simpler and more process oriented approaches.
These could be:
The increasing count of bots is no measure for success and neither should the decreasing headcount be!
It is usually considered that automation means a reduction in team size and a takeover by bots for doing almost every task. However, this is the wrong way of viewing automation!
Daniel Dines, founder of one of the leading RPA platforms believes that there should be “a bot for every person!”
Could this be a measure of your automation success? No matter how intelligent bots become, they can never be able to replace humans. If you are also one who measures or compares automation success just with the number of bots created to reduce headcount, you will not go too far with digital transformation.
Headcount reduction should never be the ultimate goal of any automation endeavor. Trying to replace your experienced team with bots could be counter-productive. It could rob you off of the team that has complete system knowledge and can be efficient in controlling and executing any process.
There are a number of tasks that actually require a human touch and should not be automated. In fact, automation should be considered another tool or technology to solve a business problem or make a process more efficient. Considering automation to reduce headcount would never lead to success in the long run.
Value Stream > Major Process > Sub Process > Activities > Tasks
This is a general hierarchy followed in any process model. Where many companies fall short is when they try to automate a task rather than the process itself. Task automation seems like an easier and quicker way. However, as it is not automating your process end-to-end! This means the benefits would be fleeting and even the ROI would only be limited. Your task might be automated but other aspects of the process would still remain manual.
One thing that companies need to keep in mind is- Automation is not the sole north star! Today, many other technologies have come to the fore that can help you solve your intractable process problems. These could be anything from as simple as better hiring practices or reorganizing work priorities to cognitive technology solutions like computer vision, deep learning, natural language processing, and many more.
Your eyes should be on improving your processes! Automation is indeed one of the most effective and successful ways to make your digital transformation stick. Analyze your business processes thoroughly to ensure if automation is the right direction for your transformation. And if it is, know your process well before aiming for it.
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