The Process Automation Edge

Organizations are facing serious disruption today. Between workers transitioning to remote work and company and consumer budgets becoming more constrained as a result of the economic impacts, there has never been more uncertainty in the workplace.

But there is also a great deal of opportunity afoot. New business models and new markets are emerging that redefine the path toward success. Organizations that take advantage of the confluence of dramatic business disruption matched with developing innovations in technology will be the ones that will find an advantage. The question is: what tools and techniques do you need to be ready?

Gaining a Competitive Edge  

One area that cannot be overlooked is process automation. Today, every employee counts. Imagine freeing up workers from the need to perform manual and repeatable tasks. Now, you instead refocus their efforts on more meaningful activities that provide more value to the organization and improve performance overall. Process automation allows you to do just that and gain an edge.

Making the Case for Process Automation

Process automation may sound futuristic and mysterious, but the truth is that robotic process automation technologies are already at work fueling important changes in the way business is conducted every day.

By automating complex and repetitive business processes, organizations dramatically streamline workflows, contain costs, and increase service quality. By “taking the robot out of the human,” employees are free to perform in more valuable people-like activities: to bring about better service, make better decisions, and design better ways of working that are more profitable and profound for the organization.

How can you know which processes to choose? Consider is the idea of case management as an overarching example of the advantages and possibilities. Indeed, many different “cases” drive organizational performance. These could be a customer request or a call center inquiry, for example. New account onboarding, processing a claim, paying an invoice; these are also cases of standard and routine processes that have a direct influence on organizational performance and customer experience. What cases make your organization run … and how could they benefit from process automation?

Best Practices

As organizations work to adopt a virtual, work-from-home model, process automation surfaces as a powerful way to outperform competitors. Where do you begin? Consider these best practices.

Build a Foundation for Automation – Before automating a process it is important to clearly understand how it works. Do this by understanding the people that perform the process. What do they need to maximize their performance? Be clear on the specific steps of the process and how each step must perform in order for the process to be considered “optimal.” Finally, evaluate what technology is used currently, any dependencies or constraints, and how automation will either conflict with or complement existing systems.

Find and Fill Gaps in Process Performance – With a strong foundation in how the process works you are more able to find and fill gaps in performance. This is done through the use of process measures and performance metrics. Examine things like cycle times, error rates, re-work, allocation of staff and resources, and process visibility. Of course, these all add up to costs … and cost savings … which translate directly to the bottom line.

Focus Your Efforts Where it Counts Most – Automation that crosses departmental boundaries and information silos provides the best opportunity for improvement. According to a recent AIIM Industry Watch Report on Process Automation, 37% of organizations surveyed said that their automation efforts are focused on cross-department processes. For 55%, process automation is tied to key performance indicators like improving value and customer experience – key attributes for competitive advantage in the new normal of business today.

Use Process Automation Templates – The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. More and more developers and solution providers are making available pre-built templates for process automation. These templates are designed for core processes that most organizations have like accounts payable, contract management, and claims and complaints. Already-built automation includes best practices and methodologies already at work today so that you can be up and running quickly. And the fully modifiable features can be tweaked and replicated to meet your specific process needs.

Moving Forward

There has never been a better time to digitally transform your workflow with process automation. As organizations from all industries rethink their business models, staffing, and markets, process automation surfaces as a distinct performance advantage. Look for providers and partners with the right combination of expertise, capability and vision in order to make the most of your efforts.

Kevin Craine is the managing director of Craine Communications Group. He is writer, podcaster and technology analyst, as well as the author of the book Designing a Document Strategy and a respected authority on document management and process improvement. He was named the No. 1 ECM Influencer to follow on Twitter.