According to a recent survey by Gartner, nearly 60% of organizations are pursuing, on average, four or more concurrent hyper-automation initiatives. Automation promises to improve quality, speed, and costs. However, in order to achieve these benefits, executives and IT leaders need to create an action plan that avoids common mistakes.
If automation is not executed well, it can negatively impact data usage, processes, employee morale, and customer satisfaction. Leaders should always treat automation as a principle to be embraced, rather than a project that needs to be done. They should also be aware of the most common mistakes that can lead to automation failures.
How can IT leaders avoid automation mistakes?
- Build a toolbox of technologies
- When a company has successfully implemented a specific process automation tool, it’s natural for colleagues to want to adopt it more widely. However, this should not be done by driving automation from a single technology perspective. Instead, the business outcome should be the focus, and then the correct set of tools should be aligned.
- IT leaders must use different types of technologies that provide a more comprehensive set of capabilities for aligning to a flexible range of business outcomes and redesign approaches.
- Establish a center of excellence
- Most business users believe that they don’t require IT in the adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and low-code/no-code applications. However, business users may, for example, lack knowledge of how customer and data records work. This can cause mishandling of information. In addition, these applications are integrated with other systems requiring regular upgrades. If the IT team isn’t involved, changes during upgrades don’t pass through, leading the processes to fail.
- IT leaders need to establish and fund an automation center of excellence. This center should include individuals with a variety of skills and knowledge, such as analytical and process mapping skills, technical skills, business knowledge, and IT governance experience.
- Automation is not always the solution
- Using automation for business and IT processes may be the best long-term option, but leaders cannot use it to cover up gaps in a poorly designed process. Automation should not be used to make up for failures in systems or defer system replacement. Using automation in that way just makes the old systems last longer and makes them seem more efficient than they are.
- IT leaders need to think about the benefits and drawbacks of automation when making decisions about system replacement, added functionality, and integration strategy.
- Engage all stakeholders
- Automation will have a broad impact on the company. Therefore, IT leaders should engage stakeholders from across the organization for decision-making and sign-off. Leaders can assign the responsibility of stakeholder management to a specific team member within the automation center of excellence.
- Devote enough time to testing
- Automation technologies can only work correctly if the algorithms and rules are perfect. The technologies may seem easy to use, but they can quickly wreck business data and fail to deliver the desired outcome if they are programmed incorrectly.
- IT leaders need to ensure that the testing examines the process end to end and not only the automation functions and programming. Thorough testing and auditing of data integrity are required when running your selection of automation tools.
- Halt overly complicated processes
- Sometimes when an organization automates a process, it can get stuck. This usually happens when the process is not well-documented or understood, if the workflow is not consistent, or if there are too many variants in the decision-making process. If this happens, don’t waste time and effort trying to fix it. Instead, stop the process as quickly as possible.
- IT leaders must develop a set of rules or guidelines to stop processes and tasks that are not ready for automation. For example, take decisions based on the number of process steps, number of integrations required, or clarity of the existing process.
- Automation is not task replication
- Using automation tools to do the same things that are done manually can be a mistake. Automation tools can help improve processes, which leads to a better customer and employee experience. If you don’t redesign your processes when you automate them, you might not get the results you want.
- Before deploying new process automation tools, IT leaders should fully evaluate and apply a process reengineering methodology, like Six Sigma or design thinking, to make sure the automation can deliver outcomes in the best possible way.
- Monitor in post-production
- Like any other system, an automation project will require a lot of work from IT staff, after it is implemented. For example, after a rollout of RPA, you need to continuously assess and monitor the robots to make sure they are working correctly. This prevents huge data cleanup tasks later on.
- IT leaders need to ensure that there are postproduction procedures to enable operations managers to continuously monitor and audit the automation tools.
- Focus on the correct metrics to measure success
- Making sure that technology applications and tools are working as they are is typical. But this doesn’t mean that the project is successful. The key to success is measuring the impact on processes and the enterprise as a whole.
- IT leaders should focus on key performance indicators to measure how successful their automation deployment is. These KPIs should specifically quantify the business outcome you are trying to achieve.
- Do not ignore the culture and employee impact
- Automation is very important, but it’s also important to think about the effects on employees. If jobs are eliminated or changed because of automation, it can be hard for people to adjust.
- IT leaders must be prepared for how employees may react when they introduce automation into the company. Make sure that automation teams are prepared to communicate how they will be implementing the changes and involve change management and HR as needed.
As per Gartner, 40% of organizations have four or more concurrent hyper-automation initiatives underway, with some organizations executing 15 projects simultaneously.
Mistakes that can lead to failure lie in how you approach things, how you implement things and the impact your actions have. To make sure you succeed, focus on automation projects that have clear and quantifiable business outcomes, and for which you already have the resources within your organization.
Image and source credits: Gartner