10 Simple Precautions To Get Results With Business Process Automation

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Business process automation has become increasingly important as businesses and organizations continue to optimize their processes to increase efficiency and productivity. The main idea behind business process automation is that it can be used to save time and remove repetitive tasks, typically by automating them.

This is generally achieved through Information Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Business process automation reduces manual processes thereby minimizing error and making it easier for employees to complete their tasks.

Business process automation is therefore a highly sought-after technology intervention because of the anticipated benefits to the organization.  However, it also comes with risks that must be carefully considered before implementation so that the necessary safeguards can be put in place. In light of this, we have identified ten precautions that will help you get the most benefit from business process automation.

1. Train staff on new technology

One of the risks associated with business process automation is lack of skilled staff to effectively manage the new processes created from the automation. This is why training is important. Regardless of how powerful a new innovation is, the outcome will ultimately be determined by the level of skill with which it is deployed and implemented; hence the need for capacity development. To ignore this is to compromise the entire process thereby reversing whatever gains might have been made. In fact, the organization may inadvertently end up reducing productivity and incurring losses.

2. Optimize your organizational processes before automation

Business process automation is not a quick fix or a magic wand that can be waved to transform a poor process into an excellent one. It is about taking a process that already works well and enhancing it with technology. It is not so much about starting something new as it is about improving and accelerating a process that is already in motion. [Tweet that]

Before you deploy technology to automate any business process, it is important to first optimize the process. Determine the changes that need to be made in the details of the process and overall workflow. Then make these changes before proceeding to implement any form of automation. If this is not done, business process automation may not deliver the expected return on investment. Rather, it will only amplify hidden issues and the consequences may be counterproductive.

3. Ensure compliance

Do due diligence to ensure that the proposed intervention does not violate relevant laws and regulations. This will help you mitigate the risk of getting drawn into legal battles that could drain the organization’s resources.

4. Get expert opinion

Every problem that you solve comes with unintended consequences or disadvantages that can actually create new problems. This is also true for business process automation. It is therefore important to consult subject matter experts and get an independent opinion so that you can have a more comprehensive perspective that is devoid of insider bias. Your perspective of business process innovation may not necessarily represent the most suitable approach for your organization.

5. Plan for periodic inspection and human supervision

One of the common mistakes with business process automation is adopting a hands-off approach. You must recognize the fact that even the most advanced of technology solutions will still require human supervision from time to time. There could be changes in the assumptions and conditions under which the business process automation was implemented. These changes could in turn necessitate an upgrade, fine-tuning or a complete overhaul which will require hands-on implementation. It is therefore important to have a dedicated team or at least a competent hand who will take ownership of the process and consistently monitor performance.

6. Ensure effective communication among key stakeholders

To successfully implement business process automation, you need to secure the support of the people that will use it, approve it, or be otherwise affected by it. It is therefore important to maintain appropriate communication flow among key stakeholders depending on their level of involvement and authority.

7. Be mindful of costs and ROI

Avoid the temptation to implement business process automation simply because it is in vogue or because it is being deployed by your competitors. Measure the expected outcomes and ensure that process automation gives the kind of comparative advantage that will represent a good return on investment. The essence is to increase productivity and reduce or eliminate error at minimal cost within a short period of time as compared to manual processes. Where the use of automated system will not achieve this benefit as envisaged, it should be deferred or redesigned.

8. Get relevant data from end users

Ultimately, automating your business process is only useful to the extent that it meets the needs of your clients and end users. It is therefore important to factor in their interests. One of the ways to do this is to conduct a pre-implementation survey. You can also start by implementing the business process automation on a small scale to see how it will turn out.  If the innovation is not going to deliver an improved experience to the end users, it is not worth implementing.

9.  Be proactive about risk management

When implementing business process automation, it is not enough to simply plan for apparent risks, you must go further to predict latent risks that may not emerge until much later and take proactive steps to prevent them. One of the ways to do this is to build some redundancy into the system by creating alternatives that do not rely on shared resources. For example, if your organization’s laptops have been configured to automatically back up files to the cloud, you could use two separate cloud storage services while not completely doing away with the option of a local backup.

10. Prepare for resistance to change

Plan for the fact that team members, clients and other stakeholders will need some time to adjust to the new development. Some of them might even directly resist the proposed intervention. You can reduce resistance to change by allaying fears and clarifying issues. Clearly redefine new roles and ensure that everyone understands the purpose of automating the business process. All the team members concerned must be aware of new or reviewed responsibilities and expectations in such a way as to prevent lapses that may create confusion or make the business process automation ineffective.

Have you ever attempted to implement business process automation or are you just looking to get started? Share your rationale and expected outcomes with us in the comments.

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