It is almost impossible today to talk about digital transformation without acknowledging the central role of enterprise automation. The opportunities to adopt enterprise automation for transformational impact are many. Organizations have adopted enterprise automation to streamline inefficient business processes, improve the productivity of the employees, reduce errors, and to cut operational costs.
In fact, the recent pandemic has increased the demand for automation. There is constant pressure on organizations to accelerate innovation to meet the ever-changing demands of customers to stay a step ahead of the competition.
Automation helps organizations to scale at speed, innovate, and enable the human workforce to focus on tasks that need a greater appreciation of nuance and more cognitive intelligence.
However, adopting enterprise automation is not a cakewalk, especially when it requires careful planning before implementing it org-wide. There are some challenges that organizations face during implementation. Let’s look at some of them.
Discussions about enterprise automation are littered with references to terms such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), DevSecOps, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), and Business Process Automation (BPA). Each is a specific technology-driven discipline with its benefits and limitations. For example, RPA creates software robots to eliminates manual processes by automating them. It reduces errors and saves the time of employees. However, it is rules-based and can only process as instructed. Some decisions would still require decision-making and cognitive intervention. In cases where this need is greater, AI might be more useful. That said, implementing AI might not be economically feasible for the organizations. These are some common choices that organizations face while picking the right process, function, or sector for technology-driven automation. The management will have to evaluate the pros and cons of all the automation options available carefully and pick what is right for their specific current needs as well as build a roadmap to the future.
It is tempting to automate a wide-ranging array of processes to boost efficiency and growth. But given the cost constraints, limited availability of tech resources, and time limitations organizations have to pick a very specific set of processes for an automation test run. The challenge comes when the management has to choose the candidate process to automate. They cannot begin with mission-critical processes right away, but they cannot also choose the least impactful process for the pilot. The process picked should not be mission-critical but at the same time, be important enough to demonstrate a significant business change. Additionally, the multiplicity of ambitious tech leadership in most large companies means that multiple departments want to climb aboard the automation bandwagon to try the shiny new tech. Automation success often comes down to the ability of the top management to identify a process for automation and build a consensus from all the department heads before automating it.
Many industries, such as healthcare and finance, are heavily regulated. They have to comply with onerous standards of data protection and reporting. However, new technologies can be susceptible to security threats as they evolve. For example, cloud-based databases store the personal information of customers and details about the business. Any breach of these systems would leak sensitive data and cause a major disaster. Fines, loss of customer trust, and a major loss of time and resources to set things right would result. Misaligned automation systems that are over-engineered for security could lead to unnecessary constraints in daily operations but inadequate security is an unacceptable risk. Hence, organizations must choose automation technologies that bake security into their DNA and that are aligned with the ever-changing regulatory policies and rules.
It's not easy to build enterprise automation solutions. Finding the tech talent required to leverage the available tools and technologies to create functional and scalable solutions is the first challenge for organizations to overcome.
Another key challenge that organizations face is the complexity of some automation tools. Employees may not be able to use the tools right and may not use them enough. Things complicate further when technology changes rapidly and the employees are unable to keep pace with it. Also, employees can feel threatened when organizations decide to adopt enterprise automation. They fear losing their jobs. These factors lead to resistance in adopting automation. The onus is on the organizational leadership to assure the employees of the role of automation and offer them continuous training so they can adapt to the changes seamlessly.
Many organizations commit the cardinal error of not having a governance plan in place while on the path to automation. Good governance would involve setting up a framework, identifying the key stakeholders who would take responsibility for the transition, and asking them critical questions about tools, roadmap, and future plans of using automation across the organization. It includes defining roles, reporting mechanisms, and training strategies. Perhaps, most crucially it involves outlining the parameters by which to evaluate the automation strategy to decide success or failure. Without proper governance, organizations expose themselves to the risk of unending cycles of unplanned and unfocused activity with no clear goal.
Organizations must begin with defining the need for automation, evaluating the existing capabilities across the organization, determining the budget available for executing a transition of this level, and planning the roadmap for execution, and post-implementation tasks. Investing in enterprise automation technologies without a strategy or the right implementation partner is a recipe for disaster. Of course, strategizing and implementation at this level cannot happen without a trusted partner who understands the business and who has the expertise and capability to lead a complex initiative of this scale.