The Future of Automation: Connecting People & Processes

Workplace automation has improved the job of knowledge workers by reducing repetitive, mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-value work. In the future, AI may be able to mimic human abilities and qualities such as creativity, intuition, and critical thinking. For now, automation complements human work, enabling workers to spend more time on work that lets them shine.

What’s the Future of Automation?

Last year, a study found that almost 50% of companies globally will adopt robotic process automation due to covid-19. Automated machines are expected to replace almost 50% of the global workforce in the coming years. Multiple industries, from banking to manufacturing, are adopting automation to boost productivity, profitability, safety, and quality. In a hyper-competitive ecosystem, automation bolsters connectivity and reliability.

The technologies that will greatly impact workplace automation in the future include workflow automation, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, automated data exchange, and machine learning.

Digital transformation has taken the business world by storm, causing companies to reinvent their services and products. Workflow automation helps optimize and streamline processes. A workflow management tool can help get rid of human errors and inefficiencies, enhance productivity, and ultimately increase profitability.

Very soon, the automation of business processes won’t be limited to larger organizations, it will be a must for businesses of all sizes that want to enjoy continued success. Many articles about automation have sensationalized it as the grim reaper of jobs. But it’s not. It won’t be the jobs that will be automated but the tasks within those jobs–the tasks that make up the processes.

In the future, the success of companies will be determined by their ability to find tasks that can be automated. Very soon, companies will be defined by their level of automation and self-management capability.

2 Real-life Examples of Businesses That Have Enhanced Operations with Automation

Example #1: Microsoft

Microsoft earns more than $100 billion per year in revenue. Revenue processing involves about 18 million emails, 2.5 million transactions, 14 business units, and 257 regions. Around 4,000 business process outsourcing agents (BPOs) in various parts of the world manage transactions and contracts that keep operations moving. The agents have always performed the work manually: validating data, verifying the accuracy, scanning papers, and filling forms. But in 2020, Microsoft Digital created an automated case management platform to make the job easier.

The platform — Customer Obsessed Solution Management and Incident Care, makes use of AI technologies and Microsoft Cognitive Services for enhanced efficiency. It ensures 100% process adherence and reduces the risk of human error. However, BPOs rely on both modern and legacy platforms to work, and Microsoft’s system is only compatible with modern platforms. Microsoft used Cloud RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to automate legacy systems to allow for automated revenue processing and bring compliance, efficiency, and cost savings to legacy platforms.

Example #2: Yahoo

As an enterprise grows, so do its legal demands–because inefficiencies, costs, and dangers related to using manual workflows increase. Workflow automation can result in greater agility and productivity. Back in 2017, Yahoo Legal used legal workflow automation software to enhance its operations. The company needed workflow automation software that could reduce friction, save time, drive corporate compliance, and allow for auditing actions. Yahoo Legal found the perfect solution: legal workflow automation software.

The automation platform helped the company to easily handle mundane and inefficient manual processes. It helped transform Yahoo’s legal operations for the better. It allows workers to launch workflows quickly, reducing the need to involve Yahoo’s lawyers in every process.

Why does Automation Flop?

1.    Lack of a Clear End Goal

Your company must have SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Timely goals. If you automate processes simply because everyone’s doing it, you won’t achieve enduring results. You must have a logical strategy and an overarching vision.

2.    Not Automating the Right Processes

Not every process should be automated. Team leaders must analyze the processes to identify potential candidates for automation. Processes to consider include routine and repetitive ones with steps that don’t involve complex decisions or judgment. Other processes that can be automated are those with adequate systems support and high-volume workflows.

3.    Choosing the Wrong Tool

Getting an automation tool first without a strategy is a recipe for disaster. Success in any automation project depends on choosing the right tool. If possible, test the tool first before you automate multiple processes. If the tool has the right features and gives you the desired results, automation becomes easier and effective.

4.    No Change Management or Training

Retraining, continuing education, and change management are powerful strategies that can help employees learn, grow, and perform better. Additionally, companies can have self-directed workgroups and concepts like Kaizen (continuous improvement) to make the most of worker involvement and iterative refinement.

Retraining is important because workers whose jobs will be entirely replaced by automation will need to learn new technical skills. They will need to develop broad expertise so they can remain valuable to the company.

The Right Approach to Implementing Workflow Automation

Step #1: Identify the processes that can be automated.

Some processes can cost your company time, money, or even risk compliance. Consider automating the workflows that involve a lot of people or have too many complicated steps because that’s where mistakes and inefficiencies crop up.

Step #2: Study Identical Use Cases.

How have organizations similar to yours automated their workflows? Oftentimes, process automation success is repeatable, all you may need to do is tweak a few things. You can also merge different use cases to create a customized automation process for your organization.

Step #3: Consider Different Options.

Consider how easy the solution is to implement and use. Does it allow for the drag-and-drop design of workflows or is there heavy coding involved? It’s easier to train staff to use user-friendly software.

Step #4: Automate the Key Processes First.

Start by automating the processes that involve many stakeholders or steps. Workflow automation can eliminate redundant or complicated steps, doing away with human error and giving employees the freedom to work on far more complex processes.

Step #5: Create an Implementation Plan.

For automation to work, management must think of how the solution will impact each department and the organization as a whole. Have an implementation plan that covers training and how the software will impact current workflows.

Step #6: Set KPIs to Measure ROI.

Define the benefits of workflow automation that matter most to your organization. For example, if the workflow solution saves your company time and resources that were previously spent on manual, mundane processes, the investment will have been profitable.

How Can Companies Leverage Automation to Maximum Potential?

  1. Develop a great automation strategy: Don’t just automate routine tasks, also streamline complex workflows.
  2. Start small and build gradually. The eventual goal of automation is to bridge the entire business infrastructure so there are no more isolated processes.
  3. Think beyond ROI. Checking the ROI is an excellent way to measure success, but it’s important to think outside the box. Explore the far-reaching benefits of automation, such as continual cost containment.

Closing Off

Kissflow Workflow makes it easier for a company to streamline its workflows and increase efficiency. It gives you a competitive advantage over manually-driven competitors; you deliver higher-quality work and services at a lower price point.

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