Why Process Automation Initiatives Fail (And How Yours Can Succeed)
Suresh Sambandam is the CEO of Kissflow, the first unified digital workplace platform for organizations to manage all of their work.
Owing to the rapid external changes in the corporate world because of the pandemic, businesses have been pushed into the remote work model whether they liked it or not. But thanks to the advantages of the remote work model, many organizations have eventually embraced it. However, establishing a remote work setup with existing traditional technologies will not bring out its fullest potential. In other words, these aren’t sustainable in the long term. This is where process automation comes into the picture, building a more reliable remote working infrastructure that accommodates organizations’ new realities.
But automation doesn’t always do what it’s meant to. Sometimes, it fails. According to the results of a study by Ernst & Young, 30% to 50% of robotic process automation projects fail globally. That’s a really high figure! Some organizations have great reasons for adopting automation, but the outcome isn’t quite what they expected. The initiatives don’t provide measurable results.
When automation software is implemented strategically, it helps companies overcome the business challenges they’re facing and also future-proofs their operations. That said, it’s important to understand why automation fails so you can avoid making the same mistakes. So, why do so many automation initiatives fail?
There’s No Clear End Goal
If you automate business processes without a clear goal in mind, you’ll waste a lot of time, money and resources. Start your automation journey by identifying your organization’s SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and timely — goals. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the workflows that need to be automated, you’ll automate the wrong ones and run into obstacles that will extend the project’s implementation indefinitely or abruptly end it. Everyone involved in the automation project will get frustrated.
The main purpose of automation is to save time and effort, reduce costs and optimize performance. Focus on goals that contribute to an efficient business outcome. Also, have an overarching vision and a coherent strategy. If you automate simply because other companies are doing it, you may need radical interventions later on.
A Task-Based Approach Is Used Instead Of A People-First Approach
One of the biggest reasons automation fails is because it’s designed around a task or a process instead of the people it will help. This seems ironic, given the widespread belief that automation is out to replace humans. Workflow automation is meant to streamline business operations and make the lives of your employees better, not worse. If you focus on how the system will benefit your team, the results will be much greater.
There’s No Training Or Change Management
Process automation can’t be successful without proper implementation of change management. Let’s face it — change management is reactive in many organizations. New technologies give rise to new challenges, and organizations react by trying to strike a balance between the advantages of new technologies and changes that employees may perceive as uncomfortable or a threat. Although automation positively impacts business operations, business users struggle with change management issues, which are often not addressed effectively by organizations.
There are four essential approaches by which organizations can implement change management to effectively deploy the technology and enable digital transformation: educate employees, align departments, get executive buy-in and demonstrate the benefits. When everyone knows the benefits automation will bring, they’ll be more likely to embrace it.
The Wrong Processes Are Being Automated
Not all business processes should be automated. Additionally, not all steps in a process are suited for automation. When a company chooses to automate ill-suited ones, the results can be disappointing. Processes that are too simple, too infrequent, too changeable and too qualitative (require human or qualitative analysis) shouldn’t be automated.
Managers must analyze workflows to identify potential candidates for automation. These usually have routine and repetitive steps, high volume workflows, adequate systems support and don’t need a lot of human intervention.
In the beginning, define the benefits expected from automating the target process. When you’re explicit about the benefits, you can identify potential disappointments early on. And when you do, you can review the selected process or the expected benefits.
There’s No Understanding Of The Interdependency Of Processes
Very few business workflows exist in isolation. They are usually interconnected and may involve different people, teams, sources, regulators and stakeholders. It can be difficult for one person to fully understand all the connection points. Due to these complex connections, when changes are made in one process, another process may break. For example, a product development team may use the product compliance information from an old system without knowing that the risk and compliance team now uses a new automated system.
This may result in a lack of compliance with regulatory requirements, putting the company at risk. All this could have been avoided if the automation team understood the interconnection between the product development department and the risk and compliance department.
Here’s The Right Way
Before automating, map out the processes that complement the target workflow and identify where the inputs come from and the outputs go. Track the links between the target workflow and other processes, people and teams. This must be done at the initial stage of the automation.
The right process automation enhances an organization’s business efficiency. This goes way beyond reduced costs and higher profits. The organization’s resources are better utilized, customers are served better and employees’ morale is lifted with their work contributing to exceptional market performance.
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