Understanding your automation journey

Ravi Dirckze, technical product manager at HelpSystems, explains the need for businesses to understand their automation journey

Many organisations are seeking to tap into the perceived benefits of automation, such as higher production rates, increased productivity and more efficient use of materials. A report by McKinsey found that two-thirds of organisations were piloting the automation of business processes in one or more business units or functions.

But while automation is an attractive option, businesses need to make the right decisions over their automation strategy and how they use the capability of robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline manual processes and reduce the burden on human employees.

To gain a greater understanding of their automation journey, businesses need insight into four essential areas: the emerging RPA landscape, the existing need for automation, considerations for scaling automation over time and the role intelligence will play in their approach.

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The emerging RPA landscape

RPA is changing the nature of business today. The digital shift to RPA is already firmly embedded across organisations and industries, from banking and finance to healthcare and insurance to human resources and accounts payable.

There are three categories of automation providers. Large enterprise providers offer solutions to tackle processes that have a significant impact across the organisation. Their solutions and services are usually implemented by consultants or well-trained users, the solutions are difficult to scale on their own, require a more consultative approach and typically come with a higher price tag. The benefits of enterprise-wide automation include a wide range of essential RPA features and advanced capabilities like cognitive and AI functionality.

At the other end of the spectrum are RPA vendors offering impressive low-code or no-code automation focusing primarily on individual or personal productivity. These tools offer solid, single user automation that is intuitive and straightforward and can boost efficiency at the individual level. But these solutions tend not to focus on automating process complexity and can lack more sophisticated automation functionality.

In the middle are solutions that offer powerful UI with back-end automation capabilities and more flexibility to scale across people, teams and processes. Providers in this category enable individuals and teams to streamline processes and automate end-to-end workflows across the business.

Current needs for automation

In order to achieve shorter-term automation goals, businesses need to evaluate their existing automation needs and ask a few key questions. Are they seeking to automate mundane tasks to increase personal productivity, such as processing emails, setting up notifications or organising files? Personal productivity automation is employee-driven and used to tackle multiple tasks for productivity gains at the individual level.

Are they seeking to streamline business processes, such as processing a high volume of invoices or moving data from one system to another? Business process automation (BPA) is also employee-driven but it streamlines business processes to deliver efficiencies and productivity gains across users and departments.

Automation might also be an ongoing project, often referred to as an automation Centre of Excellence (CoE), which focuses on intricate, enterprise-wide automation and orchestration. CoE-driven automation is fairly complicated and has a significant influence on automating connected processes.

Each of these use cases requires a unique set of characteristics. By understanding its automation goals and strategies, a business can choose the place to start that best meets its automation needs.

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The cost of scaling automation in the future

It is essential that organisations know the cost of scaling their automation solution. No business wants to be hit by unforeseen price increases as its automation strategy progresses. Unexpected costs diminish ROI as businesses scale, making it difficult to justify the additional spending for expanding their automation initiatives.

With some RPA providers, it may not be cost effective to scale because they expect customers to pay extra for add-ons, employ linear pricing structures or charge for attended versus unattended bots. Some RPA solutions may not have the usability to support scaling. They might require intensive consultation services, high-level programming support or be narrowly focused on individual productivity for single users.

The role of intelligent automation

RPA is well-suited for automating routine tasks and as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics are introduced and refined, automation will become more sophisticated, augmenting human capabilities and enhancing decision making across organisations.

Intelligent automation, or intelligent process automation, integrates intelligence in lockstep with RPA to broaden the range of processes that can be automated. It considers the entire lifecycle of an automated process across tools and functions and with regard to the overall complexity.

Intelligent automation is already happening. According to Deloitte, 47% of organisations have combined RPA and AI as part of their intelligent automation strategy. Augmenting automation with intelligence will also lead to greater cost savings for organisations. Gartner estimates companies that leverage automation and intelligence will reduce operational costs by nearly 30% by 2024.

RPA can transform how work gets done

As more and more organisations rely on automation to increase productivity, reduce costs, eliminate errors and relieve employees, RPA will continue to address these major challenges with a scalable, digital workforce.

Written by Ravi Dirckze, technical product manager at HelpSystems

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