The journey towards automation success begins not with the technology itself, but with the careful selection of the processes it seeks to enhance. Choosing the right process to automate is a critical decision that can spell the difference between transformative success and costly missteps.

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Poor Process, Poor Automation

The maxim “Poor Process, Poor Automation” resonates as a fundamental truth, encapsulating a principle critical to the success of any automation endeavour. This phrase underscores the inherent relationship between the quality of a process and the efficacy of its automation. Put simply, attempting to automate a flawed or inefficient process is akin to building a house on shaky foundations—it will collapse.

Poor processes have a myriad of deficiencies: they are manual, error-prone tasks; lack of standardization and consistency; exhibit inefficiencies or redundancies; or suffer from a lack of clarity and transparency. These processes not only impede operational efficiency but also pose significant challenges when it comes to automation.

Moreover, poor processes present formidable obstacles to realizing the full potential of automation technologies. Complex, convoluted processes are inherently more challenging to automate, requiring greater resources, time, and expertise to implement successfully. Even if automation is achieved, the benefits are likely to be marginal at best, failing to deliver the transformative impact envisioned.

Attempting to automate such processes without addressing their underlying flaws is a recipe for disappointment. Automation, while powerful, is not a panacea for all organizational woes. Instead, it amplifies the existing strengths and weaknesses of a process. In the context of a poor process, automation serves only to magnify its shortcomings, compounding inefficiencies, increasing the likelihood of errors, and exacerbating operational bottlenecks.

To avoid the pitfalls of poor process, poor automation, organizations must adopt a proactive and holistic approach to process optimization and automation. This begins with a rigorous assessment of existing processes to identify areas ripe for improvement.

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Why Automation Projects Fail?

Automation projects hold the promise of revolutionizing operations, driving efficiency, and unlocking new levels of productivity. However, despite the allure of these benefits, many automation initiatives end in failure. Understanding the reasons behind these failures is crucial for organizations looking to embark on successful automation journeys.

#1. Wrong types of projects selected

Automation fails when we choose the wrong type of projects due to factors like complexity, data limitations, human dependency, regulatory constraints, low ROI potential, and resistance to change.

Processes unsuitable for automation due to their complexity or reliance on unstructured data may lead to inaccurate results. Additionally, tasks heavily reliant on human interaction or subject to strict regulations may not be effectively automated. Low ROI potential and resistance to change further exacerbate failures, highlighting the importance of thorough assessments to ensure alignment with strategic objectives and stakeholder readiness.

#2. Wrong vendor (automation provider)

Automation can fail when organizations choose the wrong vendor or automation provider. This failure can stem from factors such as inadequate expertise, mismatched capabilities, or lack of support.

Selecting a vendor without the necessary skills or experience to meet project requirements can lead to implementation challenges and subpar outcomes. Additionally, a misalignment between the vendor’s offerings and the organization’s needs may result in solutions that fail to address key pain points or deliver desired results. Insufficient support and guidance from the vendor throughout the project lifecycle can further exacerbate issues, highlighting the importance of thorough vendor evaluation and alignment with project goals.

#3. Wrong process to automate

Automating the wrong processes or attempting to automate overly complex tasks without proper analysis and feasibility assessment can result in failure. It is essential to prioritize processes that are well-defined, repetitive, and rule-based, as these are typically better suited for automation. Starting with smaller, more manageable tasks can also help mitigate risks and build momentum.

#4. Wrong expectation

Setting unrealistic expectations or overestimating the capabilities of automation technologies can lead to disappointment and disillusionment. It is important to educate stakeholders about the limitations and potential challenges of cognitive automation while highlighting its benefits and long-term potential. Managing expectations from the outset can help foster a more realistic and positive outlook.

#5. Lack of motivation from users

Resistance to change or lack of buy-in from end-users can hinder adoption and undermine the success of cognitive automation projects. Employees may fear job displacement or feel threatened by automation, leading to resistance and reluctance to embrace new technologies. Engaging users early in the process, addressing concerns, and demonstrating the value of automation can help garner support and motivation.

#6. Weak project management

Poor project management practices, such as inadequate planning, lack of clear goals, or ineffective resource allocation, can impede progress and contribute to project failure. Strong project leadership, comprehensive planning, regular monitoring, and proactive risk management are essential for guiding cognitive automation projects to success.

#7. Poor communication

Ineffective communication between stakeholders, project teams, and vendors can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and conflicts that jeopardize project outcomes. Clear and transparent communication is crucial for aligning expectations, addressing concerns, and fostering collaboration throughout the project lifecycle.

#8. Lack of support from management

Without strong support and commitment from top management, implementing automation projects may face struggles to secure the necessary resources, sponsorship, and organizational buy-in.

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What is a “Process to Automate”?

A “process to automate” refers to a specific set of activities, tasks, or workflows within an organization that are suitable candidates for automation. These processes typically involve repetitive, rule-based, or time-consuming tasks that can be performed more efficiently and accurately with the assistance of technology. Meanwhile, a “process” itself embodies a structured sequence of actions or tasks orchestrated to achieve a specific objective efficiently and consistently. 

A process within the context of automation typically begins with the identification of inputs, encompassing the data, information, or resources required to initiate and propel the sequence of actions forward. These inputs serve as the fuel that drives the automation engine, providing the necessary raw materials for the subsequent tasks to operate upon. Whether sourced from databases, user inputs, sensors, or other systems, these inputs lay the foundation upon which the automation process unfolds.

Tasks within automation involve various activities, such as data manipulation or decision-making, forming the core of the process. The execution of an automated process relies on underlying logic, including rules and algorithms, to manage tasks and decisions. Once completed, the process produces outputs, such as reports or updates, indicating its successful execution.

Aspects to Evaluate in Selecting Process to Automate

Here are some specific aspects to consider when selecting process to automate:

1. Financial Aspect

When considering which processes to automate, financial aspects play a critical role in determining the feasibility and potential benefits of automation initiatives.

Organizations should first evaluate the upfront costs of automation, including software licenses, customization, hardware, and training. Understanding these expenses helps in budgeting and determining if automation is affordable. Automation can lead to significant cost savings by reducing labor and improving productivity. Moreover, considering the long-term financial implications is important. While initial costs may be high, automation often results in ongoing savings and efficiency gains. By prioritizing processes based on their potential financial impact and conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis, organizations can ensure that automation aligns with their financial goals and contributes to long-term success.

From financial point of view, this chart will be helpful for you to make the process selection and prioritization:

What is Cost-Benefit Analysis?

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a systematic approach used to evaluate the financial implications of a decision or investment. It involves comparing the costs of an action or project with its expected benefits to determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a crucial tool in selecting the right process to automate. On the cost side, organizations consider expenses such as software licenses, development, hardware, implementation, and training. These costs are compared to the anticipated benefits, which may include labour cost savings, productivity gains, error reduction, and improved operational efficiency.

By conducting a CBA, organizations can determine if the benefits of automating a particular process outweigh the costs. This analysis helps in prioritizing automation initiatives based on their potential return on investment (ROI) and financial impact. Processes with high ROI and significant cost savings potential are typically prioritized for automation. While those with lower ROI may be deferred or reconsidered. CBA ensures that resources are allocated efficiently and that automation efforts contribute to the organization’s overall financial objectives and competitiveness.

2. Resources Aspect

When selecting the right process to automate, resource aspects play a critical role in ensuring successful implementation and sustainable operation.

Human Resources

This includes evaluating the skill sets of existing staff members and determining if additional training or hiring is necessary to implement and maintain automated processes effectively. Adequate human resources are essential for designing, developing, testing, and maintaining automation solutions, as well as providing ongoing support and troubleshooting when issues arise.

Time and Effort

Automating a process involves various stages, including planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and ongoing maintenance. Organizations need to allocate sufficient time and resources to each stage to ensure a successful outcome. This may involve reallocating existing resources or hiring external consultants or contractors to assist with specific tasks. Effective project management is essential to ensure that automation projects stay on schedule and within budget.

Scalability and Flexibility of Infrastructure

This includes assessing the compatibility of automation tools and technologies with existing systems and applications, as well as the capacity of hardware and software resources to handle increased automation workloads. Investing in the necessary infrastructure upgrades or enhancements may be required to support automation efforts effectively.

Long-term Resource Implication

While automation can lead to efficiency gains and cost savings over time, it also requires ongoing resources for maintenance, updates, and optimization. Organizations need to plan for the continued investment of time, money, and human resources to ensure that automated processes remain effective and aligned with evolving business needs and objectives.

From resource point of view, this chart will be helpful for you to make the process selection and prioritization:

3. Operational Aspects

Operational aspects are crucial in choosing processes for automation.

Organizations assess process complexity, favouring those that are repetitive and rule-based. Stable processes, requiring minimal changes over time, are preferred for automation to ensure smooth implementation and maintenance. Compatibility with existing systems is also essential, requiring seamless integration for efficient operation.

Organizations consider scalability, opting for automation solutions that can adapt to future growth and changes in demand. By prioritizing these operational aspects, organizations can identify suitable processes for automation, ensuring efficiency and long-term success.

Complete Guide in Selecting the Right Process to Automate

To get started with Cognitive Automation, you will start with evaluating which processes improvement will give the best value. Organizations must understand the objectives of your business in the short-term and long-term strategy. All process improvement shall be driven or guided by business directions.

For example, a bank needs to speed up their loan approvals processing. Why? It is because the recent survey of customers indicated that faster loan approvals equated to more business. Maybe the bank has found out that they have lost around 20% of prospective customers because these customers have taken up other competitors’ loan packages – which were approved a lot faster compared to theirs.

What do this tell us? This scenario is an example on how to select the right process to automate. From above scenario, the bank should look for a solution that allow them to speed up their loan approvals processing, in order to remain competitive and stay relevant in the market. To do this, we can simply recommend automating their loan processing.

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Thus, why do you automate? This is an underlying question to start designing and implementing your automation projects, or even before selecting the right process to automate.

For an example, if you want to increase revenue, you can automate the process that require data-analytics and critical thinking. This can be automating the process of product and market research, marketing campaigns, and sales forecasting. If you want to have better service, you can automate the process of customer service-related tasks such as handling inquiries, product personalization, email processing.

If you want to reduce costs, you can start look into which processes you can cut off with automation: those that are recurring, repetitive, and time-consuming that you can actually automate. These can include documents processing, data processing like entry or integration, and many more – typically these are processes that keep your employees to overwork. Eliminate these processes to be done manually can help reduce cost, for an example – your employees will not need to overwork thus you do not have to pay for overtime labor costs.

How to Select the Right Process to Automate?

We can leverage techniques such as process mapping, value stream analysis, and root cause analysis to gain insights into the underlying causes of process inefficiencies and develop targeted strategies for improvement.

#1. Process Mapping

Process mapping is a visual representation of a workflow or process, illustrating the sequence of steps, activities, and interactions involved in achieving a specific goal or outcome. It provides a clear and structured overview of how work is performed, allowing stakeholders to understand the process, identify inefficiencies, and streamline operations.

Process maps typically use symbols and diagrams to depict each step in the process, along with relevant inputs, outputs, decision points, and dependencies. By mapping out processes, organizations can visualize complex workflows, identify bottlenecks, and optimize processes for improved efficiency and effectiveness. Process mapping serves as a valuable tool for process improvement, organizational alignment, and communication among team members.

Example of process mapping:

Selecting right process to automate

#2. Value Stream Analysis

Value Stream Analysis (VSA) is an integral part of selecting the right process to automate as it helps organizations identify areas of improvement and inefficiency within their workflows. By analyzing the entire value stream, VSA enables organizations to pinpoint opportunities for automation that will yield the greatest benefits. VSA allows businesses to identify value-adding steps within a process and distinguish them from non-value-added activities, such as waiting times or redundant tasks.

Through this analysis, organizations can prioritize processes for automation that will result in significant efficiency gains, reduced lead times, and improved overall performance. By leveraging VSA in the process of selecting processes to automate, organizations can ensure that automation efforts are targeted towards areas where they will have the most substantial impact on productivity and quality.

#3. Root Cause Analysis

This analysis helps organizations identify underlying issues and inefficiencies that automation can address. By systematically investigating the root causes of problems or bottlenecks within a process, RCA enables organizations to understand why certain issues occur and what actions can be taken to prevent them from recurring.

Through RCA, organizations can uncover factors such as manual errors, system limitations, or workflow complexities that hinder process efficiency and effectiveness. By identifying these root causes, organizations can prioritize processes for automation that will directly address the underlying issues and deliver the greatest improvement in performance. By leveraging RCA in the process of selecting processes to automate, organizations can ensure that automation efforts are targeted towards areas where they will have the most significant impact on resolving underlying issues and driving process improvement.

Factors to Evaluate when Selecting the Process to Automate

When evaluating a process for automation, it’s essential to ask the right questions to assess its suitability and potential benefits. Here are some questions to consider:

1. What is the objective of the process?

Understand the purpose and goals of the process to determine if automation aligns with the desired outcomes.

2. How complex is the process?

Assess the complexity of the process to determine if it is suitable for automation. Processes that are repetitive, rule-based, and involve minimal variation are often ideal candidates for automation.

3. What is the volume of transactions or activities?

Evaluate the volume of work involved in the process to determine if automation can lead to significant efficiency gains and cost savings.

4. What are the pain points or inefficiencies in the process?

Identify any bottlenecks, errors, or inefficiencies in the current process that automation could help address.

5. What are the potential benefits of automation?

Consider the potential benefits of automating the process, such as cost savings, improved accuracy, faster turnaround times, and enhanced productivity.

6. What are the risks associated with automation?

Identify and assess potential risks, such as technical challenges, compliance issues, or resistance from employees, and develop mitigation strategies to address them.

7. Is the process well-defined and documented?

Ensure that the process is well-documented and standardized before automating to avoid automating inefficiencies or errors.

8. How integrated is the process with other systems or workflows?

Evaluate the integration complexity of the process with existing systems and technologies to ensure seamless automation implementation.

9. What are the resource requirements for automation?

Assess the availability and expertise of human resources required to support automation initiatives and ensure that the organization has the necessary skills and capacity.

10. What is the expected return on investment (ROI) of automation?

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to estimate the potential ROI of automating the process and determine if it justifies the investment.

What You Have to Do After Selecting the Right Process to Automate?

After selecting the process to automate, conduct a thorough analysis to identify areas for improvement. Develop a detailed automation plan in collaboration with stakeholders, outlining tasks, timelines, and resources. Design and test the automation solution before deployment, ensuring compatibility and effectiveness. Monitor performance post-deployment, gather user feedback, and provide training and support. Continuously evaluate the solution’s effectiveness using KPIs and iterate as needed for continuous improvement. This approach ensures successful automation, delivering tangible benefits to the organization.

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Written by: Kezia Nadira