by Jon Knisley, Jun 30, 2020 8:00:00 AM
“What is the calculus of innovation? The calculus of innovation is really quite simple: Knowledge drives innovation, innovation drives productivity, productivity drives economic growth."
—William Brody, Scientist
Every company – no matter what size – knows that in order to remain competitive, you have to embrace change. Massive economic shifts tend to drive change more quickly and significantly, and this has never been more true or urgent. No matter what stage of your digital transformation journey you are in, the current environment is likely accelerating your process optimization initiatives. Additionally, the traditional emphasis on front-office activities need to be reevaluated. Most transformation programs in the last decade have focused on customer experience, but today, indicators suggest the emphasis moving forward will shift toward back-office operational excellence in departments including finance and accounting, HR, and procurement.
From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, much has been written about the potential permanent job loss from the drive for increased automation in the enterprise. Experts predict up to 800 million jobs worldwide could be lost to automation by 2035. Enterprise veterans know, however, that the human element will never go away – it will merely change. While these headlines spark a lot of article views, they fail to address the positive opportunities and changes we will see in the workforce as a result of innovative automation.
Improved Employee Experiences
When done properly, automation should support and complement human activity. It removes the low-value, manual and tedious tasks that consume a majority of our work hours, letting employees focus on higher-value activities. Identifying areas where employees can add value by applying their skills to more strategic work not only increases productivity, but also overall employee happiness. The shift away from manual tasks has been going on since the Industrial Revolution, and HR departments are hyper aware that retaining employees is more cost-effective. A recent study by Employee Benefits News states the average cost of losing an employee is equal to 33% of their annual salary.
Increased Need for a Human-Centric Approach
When first approaching automation projects it’s important to validate the tasks and processes identified to make sure they are good candidates for RPA. Those who have been involved in enterprise workflow programs know the golden rule that there is nothing worse than automating a bad process; it simply magnifies the inefficiency. On the flip side, automating a good process has the advantage of magnifying the efficiency. Without the use of modern discovery techniques to accurately document the current state and identify process variations, it’s very difficult to distinguish a good process from a bad one. Automated discovery tools like FortressIQ surface the insights of tasks and processes at a detailed level previously unattainable with more traditional methods. Once this data is gathered, however, it ultimately needs a human element for success. Whether internal or external, process optimization experts, business analysts, automation SMEs, developers, project managers, and others will play a crucial part in successful planning and execution.
Enabling the Citizen Developer
The future of automation will see a shift from a more traditional top-down “you must automate” approach led by management to a bottom-up “how can I be more efficient” employee-driven trend. Bots will be packaged up with standard office apps and services to increase usage across organizations. Coupled with no-code offerings this will allow anyone – no matter what department or role they have at the company – to easily automate a tedious task or portion of their job without engaging IT. Imagine if sales executives could spend less time updating CRM systems, sales operations could auto-generate pipeline reports, product managers could consolidate and group customer feature requests from various channels, the finance and accounting department could eliminate copying and pasting of PO numbers into multiple systems, and if call center and support employees could auto-fill customer ticket information, among countless other examples to make life easier for employees. Putting the power of this technology into the hands of your workforce allows them to make data-driven decisions more quickly, increasing overall corporate performance.
The future of automation will be a seamless blend of the next-generation workforce and software agents, including bots and assistive technology. Enterprises who determine how to successfully incorporate these capabilities will remain competitive and relevant. It will improve their organizations and accelerate the pace of innovation. For a jump start on your RPA efforts, check out our handy guide, “Should my Enterprise Automate That?” available here.