By Matt Fleckenstein, Nintex
You’d be lying if you said there wasn’t a single process your organization couldn’t fix.
In 2018, fix doesn’t necessarily mean overhaul. Many companies fear process improvements because they assume the experience is synonymous with a great deal of pain and lost resources. But this is simply no longer the case.
Thanks to digital workflow automation, no process is off limits from an upgrade. Specifically, intelligent process automation (IPA) – automation that benefits from the added intelligence of nascent technologies like artificial intelligence – is revolutionizing how businesses can make improvements and optimize efficiency.
Though much has been made of concerns surrounding change management as well as an organization’s structure, more pressing obstacles could soon be addressed. Research indicates nearly seven out of 10 business processes remain highly manual. With so many processes in need of optimization, embracing digital transformation is often easier said than done. Short on time and resources, IT decision-makers have struggled to close the process automation gap.
As a result, employees have assumed a greater role in technology purchasing decisions. A recent study from IDC reveals non-IT businesses units spent more than twice as much on software in 2017 as IT departments. But considering the lack of familiarity employees may have with potential solutions, packaged applications are often the first choice. While such an option can cut down on time to deployment, reduced flexibility coupled with an overflow of SaaS applications might cause employees to think twice before pulling the trigger on packaged applications.
Businesses in search of a solution that enables employees to automate processes sooner rather than later should look no further than IPA. A step up from traditional “no code” workflow automation, IPA aims to bring a new degree of intelligence to the process. From large-scale organizational practices like automating workplace communication during an emergency to smaller departmental needs like expediting onboarding paperwork (by removing paper altogether), this technology empowers change without the hassle.
What’s more, leading IPA systems have democratized automation capabilities and expanded the business functions ripe for more efficient workflows. Regardless of an employee’s tech expertise, he or she can identify a problem, propose a better outcome and put the gears in motion to make that solution a reality.
With that in mind, let’s go back to the beginning – what processes should your organization fix now?
IPA in action
To help you answer that question and better understand how organizations can apply IPA to any process, consider intelligent contract lifecycle management.
Nearly every company dealing with customers understands the struggles that accompany contracts – they’re time-consuming, involve multiple parties and require sensitive information. But IPA portfolios with the required core capabilities can easily solve for all of these roadblocks. These capabilities include advanced workflows, document generation, mobile apps and forms, robotic process automation, process intelligence and machine intelligence.
Let’s walk through intelligent contract lifecycle management in the insurance world to see how IPA fuels an excellent experience for all parties involved.
Step 1: A prospective policyholder reaches out to an insurance provider and invites an agent to an on-site visit. While there, the agent collects the information required to create a new auto-insurance policy and uploads this data into a digital form via her company’s mobile app.
Step 2: Before the agent even gets back to her office, the company’s CRM system registers the submitted form. The advanced workflow moves the form to the proposal stage and triggers a contract lifecycle management workflow.
Step 3: This automatically generates a sales proposal document, pulling in important data from sources like Salesforce, the CRM and complex price lists to ensure accuracy. Once done, the system elevates the proposal for internal review.
Step 4: But the proposal doesn’t go to just any legal person. Intelligent routing (powered by machine learning and intelligence) considers factors like contract type, day and dollar value and assigns the task to its optimal recipient.
Step 5: To make the legal person’s job even easier, machine learning and natural language processing intervene to intelligently redline changes to the proposal that require further human consideration.
Step 6: Once the contract is complete, natural language processing determines the type of document at play and intelligently archives it in the appropriate location. Contract complete!
Step 7: The learning doesn’t stop there. Process intelligence continuously analyzes the efficacy and efficiency of the entire workflow system to uncover new optimization opportunities.
It’s easy to imagine how the capabilities included here can improve countless other organizational processes. And while fractured processes may differ across businesses and departments, there’s one common weak point that the move to digital solves for: paper.
Instead of centering processes around physical documents, companies can lower their expenses and increase operational efficiency through the digitization enabled by IPA. Better yet, the convenience of accessing documents in one central location leads to a more user-friendly and streamlined experience for employees.
When it comes to broken internal processes, robotic automation can go a long way toward introducing consistency and clarity. Without automation, it may be tough to accomplish certain tasks quickly and efficiently. If an employee doesn’t know who to contact about an organization’s health insurance plan, precious time may be wasted trying to track down the appropriate stakeholder.
For more complicated processes – such as bi-annual performance reviews – automation can help create a workflow that pulls in specific parties only when necessary. Managers or co-workers that were previously involved in every step of the process will be able to offer their insights more efficiently than ever before. Never-ending email chains as well as lengthy meetings could soon give way to an automated process that ensures documentation is in front of the appropriate party every step of the way.
The democratization of the IT department
Solving process issues requires an IPA solution that empowers employees to speak up and take ownership over automating operations they consider subpar. In addition to clearing up confusion surrounding broken processes, such technology can benefit your organization by reducing many of the costs that accompany employee turnover. All too often, inefficient processes cause employees to take the next step in their career elsewhere. In fact, two-thirds of employees say their company’s broken processes prevent them from maximizing their potential.
Leverage the power of IPA to effectively position your company as a dream destination instead of a stepping stone for potential employees. Successfully eliminating a reputation for high attrition could help introduce big savings for your business. According to one report, the cost of hiring a replacement is 33 percent of a worker’s annual salary.
While some organizations may view employee turnover as an inevitable part of doing business, the story doesn’t end there. Sure, millennials may switch jobs more frequently than previous generations. But that willingness to leave is only one part of the equation. Turnover is often accelerated by broken processes that leave employees without enough room for growth. Enabling employees to combat and ultimately solve process flaws is an important part of convincing them to stick around.
As it currently stands, however, the average employee suffers from a bystander mentality. Rather than seeing a problem and feeling eager to fix it, most employees would simply prefer to find a new job at a company where that problem doesn’t exist. This is largely because employees lack the technologies to feel accountable to their roles and responsibilities.
It’s not just a gut feeling. Recent research finds that 62 percent of employees observe broken IT processes at their organizations, and over half of IT employees say these issues are a significant motivator behind them looking for new jobs. These statistics raise even greater alarm considering that, in the very near future, businesses will create a demand for nearly 850 million information workers.
Today’s organizations are at a crossroads: On the one hand, there’s a clear need for new IT employees. On the other, companies’ current technology offerings and processes are not attracting that workforce. If anything, they’re actively pushing those people away through their process-based inefficiencies.
To deter attrition and actually inspire all employees to feel committed to technology improvements, consider IPA. In many respects, your organization is only as strong and as agile as your IT department. Fortunately, no-code IPA solutions invite every employee to the IT table and empower automation at all levels of business.
And while many IT professionals hear automation and assume it means their role is being automated, that’s an unfounded fear. In practice, IPA doesn’t render IT talent obsolete; instead, it empowers them to handle higher-level tasks by automating rote manual functions. Remember the insurance example above – the human agent isn’t eliminated, she’s simply freed up to take on more interesting and high-priority needs, and to do her job with greater intelligence and enjoyment.
So, third time’s the charm – what processes should your organization already be fixing?
Matt Fleckenstein is CMO of Nintex
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Workflow.