Guidelines for the best outcomes while pursuing automation in a digital transformation journey

The need for digital transformation was well recognised and a “buy-in” from all stakeholders was secured long before the pandemic hit the world. Then COVID-19 struck and the urgency to implement digital transformation initiatives went up manifold. Technologies like automation, artificial intelligence and robotics which would enable businesses to better manage their operations gained traction and importance.

Automation is key for digital transformation as it enables simplification, speeding up and streamlining of business processes with minimal effort, thus delivering more business value. Tasks that would take several hours of manual effort can now be done by machines in seconds.

It is said that up to 45% of business processes can be automated using already existing technology, thus driving up productivity. 97% of IT managers think that automation is important for digital transformation. The automation market is set to reach $ 4 billion by 2025, while as per the World Economic Forum, automation will create 58 million jobs by the end of 2022.

Digital transformation and automation work in tandem with each other. While digital transformation brings in new business opportunities, automation ensures business processes function faster and are more efficient. Gartner believes that by 2024, businesses will be able to have 30% lower operational costs through hyper-automation and redesigned operational processes. Automation is also leading to improved job satisfaction with a Salesforce survey saying that 89% of employees using automation tools are more satisfied with their job than before.

Some of the other significant benefits of automation are:

  1. Speed, Accuracy and Productivity: Automation helps link data and processes across multiple business functions, thus reducing transaction errors and saving time and money by improving processing speed and hence, productivity.
  2. Enhanced customer service: By enabling quick access to information and taking over manual tasks, automation frees up employee time enabling them to engage with customers. Automation also analyses customer complaints and issues, helping improve response times and personalise the customer experience. All this contributes to increased customer satisfaction.
  3. Better compliance and improved security: The need to adhere to compliances increases work complexity and impedes flexibility. Automating data intense compliance tasks and digitising processes to detect violations enables employees to focus on proactively resolving identified issues.
  4. Lower costs/ expenditure:  Automation reduces wastage, lowers costs and saves time by minimising inventory and production throughput times, reducing operational expenses, and optimising budgets and expenditures. Since automation also enables remote functioning, managing businesses across locations is easier and less expensive.
  5. Accelerated growth: Finally, all the above help companies scale up their operations with much fewer resources, thus, improving productivity, driving innovation and enabling growth.

It is, however, important to understand that digital transformation is a mammoth task and so is the automation of business processes. A well-thought-out plan needs to be put into place with a detailed analysis of implications for all stakeholders and business processes.

Here are a few best practices that organisations should follow during the process of automation for digital transformation:

Determine the purpose: Only if you understand the purpose of automation in your digital transformation journey will you be able to make the right beginning. Business needs and goals need to be outlined and once the goal is established, the tools, methodology, process, etc., can be designed around it. For e.g., is the goal to improve online experience for the customer? You know you need to implement AI technologies.

Getting it right: Current processes need to be reviewed, pain points evaluated and then a roadmap needs to be created. Not every job would need to be automated. For e.g., tasks that definitely need a human touch should not be automated.

Finding the right technology ensures guaranteed success in terms of outcome. Adequate testing needs to be ensured. The tools also need to be assessed to ensure they deliver the efficiency and benefits that were outlined in the roadmap through KPIs and success criteria.

Realistic timelines need to be set keeping in mind changes that might occur during the course of the transformation process. These changes could be acquisitions/ mergers, unforeseen risks or even technology platform changes to name a few.

Consideration for the employees: The first concern of any employee when they hear of automation is for their own job - will it change in any way or will they be laid off? Communication and transparency, therefore, are key before undertaking any automation exercise. They need to understand the benefits, reskilling or upskilling requirements and be informed of any role changes in advance.

Moreover, all employees are already heavy users of technology in their personal lives. They see the convenience and the user-friendliness of the tools that they use daily and would like work-related technology to mirror the same. Hence, technology that is daunting or requires too much training is bound to put them off.

Seamless integration between different functions: Companies need to identify and prioritise critical integrations between functions in order to ensure that systems seamlessly interact with each other. Communication of data between different functions and systems is an important part of the automation process. For example, it is possible that processes in the sales department interact with processes in marketing, finance and supply chain. It is crucial to ensure that these processes and systems talk to each other for a seamless automation experience.

Constant review of strategy and evolution is very important: For automation to succeed in the digital transformation process, you need to implement agile* methodology. Technologies are constantly changing, digital ecosystems are constantly evolving, hence there is a need to continuously evolve and adapt with them.

Automation an inevitability

While automation itself is not equal to digital transformation, it is a critical part of the exercise. It is extremely important to get the process of automation right. Businesses that optimally utilise automation to cut costs, improve productivity and maximise the potential of their employees will be the winners in this age of technology. Moreover, one needs to constantly evolve their strategy for both automation and digital transformation in order to keep up with the technological developments and changing consumer expectations, thus ensuring companies get their value for money, improve their bottom line and keep consumers happy.

* For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and exceed on organizational expectations with a robust digital mindset backed by innovation. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond, and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.

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