Businesses begin business automation projects to improve their workflow. In the long run, they always aim for tangible gains such as improvement of employee satisfaction by being engaged in more meaningful work compared to before. Other gains would include savings on labour costs, improved accuracy, and standardization of operations, as well as faster workflows. Before any automation project begins, it’s important to map out the current situation and the challenges to expect during the project.
Some Common Challenges in Workflow Automation Projects
Identifying the right processes to automate– Organizations with many manual processes need to figure out which ones to start automating. With limited resources, there has to be a well-thought-out prioritization formula
Integration of legacy systems with modern software– Automation often involves setting up communication between fragmented applications to facilitate exchange of information. The architecture of the old system may make the integration difficult with the team having to innovate new solutions to get around the problem.
Security and Privacy– There may be concerns that automation may leave sensitive business information at risk of unauthorized access. Stakeholders need reassurance that automation of exchange of information will not jeopardize information security.
Finding People with the Right Skills– Automation projects need highly skilled people to be able to anticipate challenges and build solutions. Whether the business is using internal staff or outsourcing to a third-party IT company, it’s important that the right skills are at hand to help with the project.
Change Management Challenges– Businesses must tackle the challenges that arise from the introduction of change. If there is resistance or apprehension, they must identify and allay any fears that employees might have. This can be done through retraining for new roles.
Tips for Making the Automation Transition Smooth
The success of any automation project depends on the amount of work that goes into the preparation. Certain best practices in the preparation often drive up the chances of success immensely.
1. Mapping Out Existing Processes
It is critical that the business outlines its current workflow and shows every process clearly. All internal stakeholders should take part so that they identify any problems associated with the various steps in the workflow. Identifying bottlenecks will help the business prioritize what to automate first. It also helps to anticipate challenges that automation upstream may bring downstream. They can put in solutions in place ahead of time.
During the deliberations, the business should consider the gains that automation is expected to bring. These can be quantified in terms of time and man-hours to justify the process.
2. Proof of Principle Testing
For large scale automation projects that require significant investment in capital, it’s important to carry out concept design studies. Such studies reveal the feasibility of projects to establish whether the project should go on to full automation. The tests reveal any vulnerabilities in the technical design of the project. The studies include checking whether there are suppliers for the required technology and whether the project represents a commercial risk.
3. Working with an Automation Consultant
Automation projects are such that there are numerous variables involved. Working with an experienced automation consultant can help your business get a better grasp of the variables. A consultant is well placed to advise on which processes should be primed for automation. They can also suggest potential vendors of the requisite technology as well as how to about hiring the right talent, if need be. Working with a consultant helps to optimize the availability for the project and ensure there are no unexpected cost overruns.
Adding components can lead to over-complication of workflow without a commensurate improvement of processes. Working with a consultant helps avoid such expensive and inefficient investments in technology.
4. Budgeting for the Project
Automation projects can be long and arduous. A project may take months from conception, design, testing, and implementation. Consultants are therefore important in helping to develop a budget for projects. Projects that stall halfway can result in huge losses and hurt the morale of stakeholders. Before the start of a project, it should be clear what the sources of capital are and their expected return on investment.
5. Automation Data Testing
During the design of the project, you should determine what data you will collect to quantify the results of automation implementation. Once the project launches, the data should be analysed so that the business can determine what other processes should be automated. If the results are not as good as expected, certain tweaks could help improve the results.
6. Working with a Reliable Vendor
When your business decides to work with an automation vendor, it’s important to work with a company that has experience in developing solutions in your industry. Such a company would help you identify chokepoints in your current workflow and suggest processes to prime for automation.
A well-established vendor ought to be able to provide customizable automation software to suit your workflow. Their work includes figuring out how such solutions can integrate smoothly with your existing systems and processes without causing undue disruptions.
Automation of workflow is a continuous process that involves small iterations. Your technology vendor should be able to help with the journey that can take several years and during that time, they ought to provide maintenance services to already implemented solutions. Training of staff is often a part of the support-services they provide.
7. Take in Feedback
There is no point in attempting to automate all your processes at once. It’s too risky for your operations. Instead, implement one or two solutions and take in the feedback from the stakeholders involved. Employees’ feedback on automation should form part of the quantifiable measures of the project’s success.
If your company is seeking a vendor-partner for a workflow automation project, reach out to Transcendent Software. Transcendent Software is an IT services firm assisting businesses to build and implement automation solutions to streamline workflow.