Process Automation is steering enterprises towards a more agile digital era. About 85% of the organizations with an annual turnover of $1 billion or more are currently adopting or have already implemented RPA. In the last few years, enterprise-wide automation efforts have picked up considerable momentum as observed from the growth of shared services function, which witnessed substantial growth, with over 80% using RPA in 2019, compared to just 13% in 2015 (source: Gartner). Within such organizations, the Automation CoE team is set up to ensure scalable adoption within the organization.
However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations, which had begun their automation journey are now in a quandary. Business leaders are now posed with tough questions like:
- How would the existing business model be impacted?
- What will be the impact on the operating model?
- What will be the degree of impact on sales in the coming quarters?
- How does one continue to serve existing customers without disrupting service quality?
Automation CoE can play a key role in addressing these questions!
While making strategic decisions, the Automation COE team can evaluate how automation can be one of the strong enablers in transforming the way an organization functions in this current scenario. Automation saves time on manual repetitive rule-based processes, by helping businesses prioritize mission-critical processes, achieving scalability for volume spikes and ensuring restricted access for performing operations on sensitive data. Before we understand these aspects better, let us first look at the macroeconomic scenarios that most of the organizations are dealing with today:
- Reduced Customer Demand directly impacting sales
- Potential Disruption in workforce and reduction in productivity
- Anticipated Risk to business continuity
For organizations that have already invested in automation initiatives, addressing these concerns is of paramount importance. Given the conditions and challenges associated with remote connectivity, the Automation COE team can revisit their approach on automation strategy for relevance in the current environment and ensure better operational effectiveness in the following areas:
- Business Alignment
- Alignment of Automation COE objectives with the new business model
Change in business models impacts existing policies or leads to the creation of new policies, which in turn affects existing processes or leads to enablement of new processes. While re-designing such processes, proceed with an ‘automation first’ mindset to ensure robustness and scalability. E.g. Sales processes will undergo an overhaul as Digital sales channels become the norm across industries. Using the right set of automation tools can enable the sales team to focus more on focused interactions while reducing the efforts on administrative tasks.
- Prioritization of processes, which are,
- Critical for business continuity or
- Necessitate high transaction volumes to be fulfilled or
- Require performing operations on sensitive data
Business Continuity is now one of the top concerns for any organization. On one end of the spectrum, we have low volume and low-frequency processes which are time-sensitive and if not executed as per schedule, can have a severe business impact, while on the other end, certain functions in specific industries are experiencing a surge in transaction volumes, which couldn’t be managed efficiently with the existing workforce. E.g. In the Healthcare industry, where the rule-based transactional nature of patient check-in process, serves as a good candidate for automation.
Another area that has gained importance for automation is performing operations on sensitive data. With appropriate security architecture deployed to ensure controls and segregation of duties, bots can be deployed to perform these activities, thus, eliminating manual intervention.
- Accelerated adoption with pay-as-you-go model
Automation vendors offer service-usage based models which can help in minimizing upfront capital investment required to set up infrastructure and license procurement for automation. Ability to scale up and down based on business needs and option to release unused capacity during low traffic periods are added benefits. Adopting this approach and re-aligning the focus of technology investments from CapEx to OpEx can enable firms to kickstart their automation journey with a low investment ask and with an accelerated deployment time.
- Operational Alignment
- Focus on employee morale and productivity while driving Change Management
As automation becomes more prevalent, it is only natural for employees to contemplate the impact it may bring on their day-to-day activities. To ensure that employees participating in Automation initiatives are motivated enough for providing inputs during various stages of implementation, it is worth running a light-weight introductory session about basics of RPA, applicable use cases and business benefits. Further, educating them about their specific roles will eventually help them participate in delivering higher value-added activities.
- Agile-Scrum methodology for operational delivery
Executing automation at ground level requires Business Analyst and Solution Architects to work closely with various stakeholders such as Process Leads, Process Analysts, Application Owners, and Compliance teams throughout different stages. The structure of the Scrum methodology ensures that all the stakeholders are aligned at constant intervals through the scrum ceremonies. Developers start each sprint with a clear goal related to prioritized processes and track progress through daily Scrum calls. Scrum Master facilitates the removal of blockers by working closely with all other stakeholders. Sprint demos ensure that the customers are also continuously engaged on the initiative and the delivery team continues to evolve through regular Sprint Retrospective meetings.
While these pointers can keep automation initiatives on track and enable firms to navigate successfully out of the current situation, one can realize that automation’s benefits are not only realized in traditional metric terms of “human hours saved” but also other parameters like –
- Potential cost saved on the business-critical processes, which in adverse conditions can lead to revenue loss or impact an organization’s market reputation
- Revenue generated through the additional volume of transactions executed
- Quantum of business value generated from the additional value-added activities that employees can focus on
- Quantifiable benefit in terms of costs savings or incremental revenue for new automated process set-up as a result of the change in business models
Automation is a key enabler for business agility, and organizations across industries will see a paradigm shift in culture as they seek to adopt an automation-first mindset!
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