Co-authored by Thomas Helfrich
When we think about the growing array of automation technologies in the market today, we often think about robotic process automation (RPA) as the low-hanging fruit. The opportunities are fairly evident – like a shiny, red apple on a tree. They are easy to identify and fairly simple to pick. Companies that are using RPA technology today are realizing major return on their investment – faster and more accurate processing that results in greater productivity.
On the same tree are a number of bigger, juicier green apples hanging just as low as the smaller red ones. These are cognitive. These opportunities are somewhat more difficult to identify and take a slightly different tool to harvest.
What many on the automation journey are realizing is that identifying and picking opportunities for intelligent process automation is only a fraction of the equation. It’s what you do with the apples after you pick them that matters. How do you build a factory to process the apples? How do you train the workforce? How do you measure the outputs? How will you pick other low hanging fruit? How do you continuously keep the tree healthy and strong?
The reality is that, to take full advantage of automation – and to keep those juicy apples from rotting in a pile beneath the tree – a number of carefully planned best practices, methods and governance processes need to be in place. This takes a degree of elegance, serious preparation and thoughtful orchestration of people, process and technology.
Once the mechanisms are in place to fully support the automation journey – the upstream and downstream processes they need to get those shiny apples from the tree, through processing, into production and onto the table to eat – not only will a company be better able to reap the benefits of automation and data, but it also will be able to pick other, more tasty fruit that will allow it to embark on other, more interesting initiatives.
Here are the Top 5 lessons to take into consideration when preparing to harvest the fruit of your automation investment:
1. Survey the scene. Assess your environment to identify the real opportunities and filter out the bad ones. This is a critical step to prioritizing your investment and quantifying the potential impact to the organization and a customer’s experience. Since an assessment is the root of the business case and implementation roadmap, it is critical to leverage a consistent set of assessment best practices.
2. Use the right tool for the job. It’s one thing to discover new automation opportunities and another to discern what tools you need to make them happen. Getting a handle on the tools and technologies available in the market today can be daunting in and of itself. Add to that the process of aligning the tools for a strategic harvest for future opportunities, and you’ll quickly find making these decisions requires an unbiased expert in the automation field.
3. Prepare for harvest. Prepare workers and the organization so they are ready to process the apples you’ve decided to pick. You don’t want rotting fruit or unhappy workers! This means preparing and empowering your resources properly and professionally with hands-on training that is relevant and meaningful to achieving the maximum ROI.
4. Focus on quality. Build in controls, metrics and governance to ensure the quality of your automations and the business outcomes. Build in the compliance and auditability that will satisfy any associated rules, laws, regulations or third parties. Combining these elements will enable the digital workforce to be effective and sustainable over the long haul.
5. Scale up. Build an automation factory and center of excellence (CoE) that allows you to efficiently harvest and process new kinds of apples when the time is right. Don’t let the CoE develop tunnel vision and think RPA is the only tool. Develop the CoE with a pragmatic approach to deliver today and to anticipate the needs of tomorrow.
ISG helps companies detect new types of ripe, low-hanging fruit for the picking and create an organization that is ready to make the most of them. Contact ISG to discuss.About the author
Mark Davison is an experienced consultant and former CIO with more than 30 years of experience in process automation, information technology, sourcing, supply chain management, transformation and acquisition integration. His consulting experience includes work for well known firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte, and AlixPartners. His industry experience includes acquisition integration, supply chain and IT roles in the banking, manufacturing and distribution industries. He has held CIO positions for nationwide distribution, retail, media/publishing and textile firms. He holds an MBA from Emory University and BA from Cornell University.