Harness Automation to Improve Workflows

The disruption of COVID-19 has exponentially accelerated the demand to automate workflows. Many organizations are recognizing this general trend, exploring ways to leverage automation to optimize key business processes so that they can be prepared to thrive as the economy improves.

But efficiently implementing a significant digital transformation involves obvious challenges. Organizations already on the automation journey have been forced to take tremendous leaps almost overnight, stretching their capacity for speed and lightning-quick adoption. Even those most committed to automation find themselves falling behind in this environment. And different industries will adopt automation at different rates, meaning that already-fragile partnerships and supply chains could become even more disjointed.

Smart businesses know they can’t tackle these challenges alone, which makes collaborating with digital transformation experts and leveraging industry best practices critical factors. Many organizations are finding that the right managed services partner helps them scale their automation program, overcome barriers in the supply chain, and elevate capacity across the business to minimize the turbulence of a disruptive year.

Even before the global pandemic, automation was on the rise. Industry experts say that  50% of all current jobs could be automated to some degree, and pre-pandemic research indicated that 1 million knowledge-based jobs would be replaced by automation by the end of 2020.[i] Historical data suggests that economic trauma, like that experienced during the pandemic, has always created a vacuum waiting to be filled by automation — during the previous three recessions, 88% of all jobs lost were routine and repeated tasks.[ii]

The core value of automation is in liberating your resources to deliver greater outcomes at lower costs. A managed services partner can help you do so by incorporating the three pillars of a holistic approach — people, process and technology — as well as combining analytics, into your transformation efforts. An experienced provider has proven, cohesive strategies that can help you build resilience, drive innovation, and automate at scale and speed.

Many companies are working with managed services providers to harness automation for improving key business processes that include:

Source-to-pay processes. The best managed services partners understand that successful digital transformation of a source-to-pay process must address people, process and technology. Their strategy includes proven source-to-pay automation tools, lean and Six Sigma-based process analysis and redesign, and a roadmap for your digital transformation journey. With the right partner, you can focus on better customer service, better accuracy, and your other core business competencies.

For example, a global information solutions company with more than 10,000 employees engaged us to overhaul its invoice imaging process and dramatically improve its invoice cycle time. These initial benefits were so dramatic that the firm expanded its partnership, eventually leveraging managed services to create an invoicing center of excellence; extract more granular data insights and automate integration with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system; and streamline processes across the source-to-pay spectrum.

Warehouse and distribution services. These services were massively affected by the 2020 pandemic. Rapid changes in consumer behavior led to enormous spikes in e-commerce, driving up demand at precisely the time when manufacturing facilities, warehouses and supply chains were at their most vulnerable.

Automating your warehouse and distribution services begins with deciding which tasks and processes to automate for maximum results and ROI and then designing those processes to create buy-in from your teams. Having a good managed services provider that uses a holistic approach to automating warehouse and distribution services is key in this environment.

A holistic approach ensures that your services have the benefit of a highly trained staff, proven processes and best-in-class technology. You can leverage your managed services partner to make up for shortfalls in talent due to safety concerns, automate reporting across the supply chain to quickly analyze gaps, optimize inventory management and supply procurement through real-time analysis and business intelligence, and overhaul processes to create greater efficiency.

Claims processing. The insurance industry provides yet another example of automation’s great potential — and how the need to capitalize on that potential is only accelerated by the events of 2020. As the industry and its partners in healthcare and finance increasingly digitize, insurance companies have begun to recognize an opportunity to revolutionize the claims process. Digitization and automation can deliver actionable customer data to create new products and services; faster identification of fraudulent behavior; more responsive, anticipatory customer service; and new, streamlined workflows to cut costs.

But given the necessary speed at which insurers must act, it’s almost impossible to overhaul claims services alone. One major North American insurer saw on opportunity to revitalize its entire business process outsourcing program by tapping us to create a comprehensive solution. The latter spans a wide range of services, includes providing claims processing and underwriting support, mail and print management, and more. Improving the efficiency of business process workflows has yielded such results as trimming a claims process from 17 to five days. The company’s projected cost savings are expected to exceed millions of dollars annually due to workforce centralization and optimization approaches.

As these examples demonstrate, the right approach to leveraging your managed services provider can accelerate your automation journey. When planning your organization’s digital transformation, look for a managed services partner that offers a holistic approach to transformation, proven track record of success, and in-depth knowledge that spans major industries.

[i] Florian Hoppe, Michael Heric, Drew Woodhouse and Mark Soppe; “Accelerating Automation amid a Pandemic;” webinar; Bain & Company; May 27, 2020.

[ii] Ibid.

is a certified enterprise content management practitioner (ecmp) and director of corporate communications for Canon Business Process Services, a leader in managed services and technology.