These days, if you’re not automating at least something in your business workflow, you’re likely lagging behind. Still, despite its miracle-worker ability to save both money and time in pretty much every industry, many companies have struggled to experience maximum positive results. It turns out the only downside to automation is that its adoption itself can’t be automated. It needs to be carefully planned, communicated, and strategized to bear fruit. The following are the top five struggles I’ve seen in adopting automated workflows, and how you can avoid them.
Automating for the Sake of Automating
If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: no digital transformation has ever succeeded simply by adopting new technology. Without a clear understanding of that technology’s purpose in your organization, you will fail to see positive results from using it. The same goes for automation. Before adopting new automation technology for every segment of your company’s business, consider where the ROI actually exists—and where you can start small for maximum impact. For instance, McKinsey estimates that 60 percent of data processing could be done automatically. Start by looking at mundane and repetitive processes like payroll and reporting that will save time without complicating your life.
Lack of Strategy Across the Organization
What are your business goals for adopting this automated workflow? Are you looking to save time? Cost? Efficiency? Are you trying to improve turnaround time on customer service calls? Without knowing your goal, you’ll never achieve it—and without ensuring the rest of your company is aligned and capable of fulfilling that goal, you’ll end up with egg on your face as well. For instance, if I purchase a new chatbot program to respond to simple customer inquiries—but I don’t improve the training of my customer service agents who are fielding the more complicated phone calls—I’ll end up with a lot of frustrated customers and employees. All steps of your workflow need to be aligned to reap the benefits automation provides. When done well, automation can show investment returns of up to 800 percent. Strategy will always be key in adopting automated workflows.
Legacy Systems not Compatible with Automation
Just as you need a strategy to make your automation succession, you also need the right systems—not just within the automated workflow, but throughout your enterprise. In essence, before you start automating, you need to think of how the processes you’re automating interact with the rest of your enterprise systems—including whether they are compatible, updated, and fast enough to keep the company’s ball rolling. This includes not just digital systems but mental ones! If you automate your payroll process and your CEO still insists on signing checks by hand, you likely won’t save much time on the payroll process! Similarly, you can have the fasted cloud analytics program in the world, but if your computers are outdated, they likely won’t be fast enough to process the output. Consider your entire system before adopting automated workflows.
Lack of Employee Buy-in
Many employees are worried new technologies will knock them out of a job—and for good reason! As such, they may be less-than-amped about adopting your new automated solution. But research shows that very few jobs—less than 5 percent—are actually candidates for full automation. Help alleviate some of your employees’ fears of automation by letting them know you’re looking to automate processes—not people. Help them understand that automation can remove the “bad” and “boring” parts of their positions so they can focus on larger, more fulfilling things. What’s more: think of what those things can and should be! If your employees aren’t spending their newly free time doing something that advances your business goals, you’re no better off than if you’d never spent time adopting automated workflows at all.
Lack of Training
Have you ever watched someone run a mail merge in Word for the first time? It can be hilarious and frightening all at the same time. And, depending on the person’s results, they may choose to use mail merge all the time—or to never open the function again. The same goes with any new automation technology you bring into your business. Training—confidence-building—both are imperative to getting the most out of adopting automated workflows. At the end of the day, there are still people running your office, and they need to understand the technology for it to run effectively.
In the future, companies like IBM theorize we’ll be running our companies via fully automated Workplace-as-a-Service platforms. Until we get to that point—and perhaps even in preparation for it—do the strategy and legwork to ensure your automation is done most effectively. There is simply no point in adopting automated workflows without it.
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