As we kick off our enterprise automation blog series, we introduce what it is and how it can benefit your business through process and RPA.
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning in October. The air is crisp and smells like autumn, evoking childhood memories of jumping into the big pile of leaves your parents raked in the middle of your lush, green lawn.
Unfortunately, you’re the parent now, and last night’s wind blew all the leaves off the Sugar Maple tree onto your yard. You’ve got a full day of work in front of you.
First, you rake. Then, you bag. Rinse and repeat for hours. When that’s finally done, you get out your old push mower and walk back and forth across the lawn for 10 minutes. Next, it’s weed-whacking time – followed by 45 minutes left of lugging your old, heavy trimmer around, cleaning up stray limbs.
There’s a better way: Get the tools you need to improve the process. Buy a 48-inch, zero-turn riding mower, a backpack leaf-blower and a battery-powered trimmer. You’ll still have work to do, but these tools will make it easier and faster.
What is Enterprise Automation?
Just like you need a better way to manage your yard, businesses need a better way to manage tasks.
Almost all businesses have solved the big, common tasks (raking leaves, mowing the lawn) with enterprise resource planning (ERPs), customer relationship management (CRMs), and the like. But the smaller, manual, custom tasks continue to pile up. Many of our clients have dozens of jobs available to help complete these tasks, and they are becoming harder and harder to fill. Regularly accomplishing these tasks on the backs of our people is unsustainable.
Enter enterprise automation, a concept becoming more and more common as companies are no longer settling for hiring people to do manual tasks. Enterprise automation is a methodology of addressing all the automation gaps not already automated within an ERP, CRM, billing and invoicing program or other applications.
Technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and low- or no-code platforms called business process management software (BPMS) can enable enterprise automation. Over the course of this blog series, we’ll dive deeper into exploring the differences between and benefits of RPA, BPM and other enterprise automation solutions. In order to enjoy the benefits of fully enabled enterprise automation, first, you’ll need a plan.
4 Steps to Achieving Enterprise Automation Maturity
To achieve enterprise automation maturity, which is the long-term goal of eliminating manual tasks, you need to:
- Identify processes and pain points with cross-functional workshops that ask the following questions: What do you hate doing? What do you do and think, “there’s got to be a better way?” Where do you spend all your time? What takes too long and shouldn’t?
- Categorize processes into solution groups:
- Process reengineering – We always recommend our clients take a process-first approach to solving a pain point. The solution might be as simple as a process re-design.
- RPA – Easily automate tasks like pulling data off an application, reformatting a spreadsheet, consolidating tabs or sending email reminders.
- BPM – When a process requires human interaction (human-in-the-loop) like approvals, decisions, reviews, external customer interaction, start or stop processing or business rules, BPM can be a better fit than RPA. BPM can also interact directly with process documentation tools, so you can upload and implement a well-documented process flow relatively quickly.
- Data solutions – One of the most common pain points we hear in our workshops is when multiple systems generate daily reports, employees then have to manually consolidate, format and email those to management. Ideally, a data warehouse receives data from all systems in real time with a visualization platform sitting on top, allowing executives and managers to consume data in real time.
- AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) – About 90 percent of today’s data is unstructured. AI/ML tools have gotten very good at consuming this data and can directly interact with RPA/BPM tools.
- Existing Systems/Applications – Sometimes, your current tech stack already has the solution you need. Invite an IT Director to your workshops, and they can help you align the automation needed with the current capabilities of the application. Often, it doesn’t even require a coding change. It’s just awareness and training.
- Create an Automation Center of Excellence (COE) or Tiger Team to prioritize the processes and solutions, align developers and map out a timeline. Many companies have an RPA COE in place that can mature to consider other tools as solutions. We’ll discuss how to build out or mature your automation COE in an upcoming post in this series.
- Build out a business case using inputs during the workshop to quantify hard savings and identify soft savings and business trends, such as the labor force growing less tolerant of tedious tasks that don’t engage the mind. Another consideration is that enterprise automation will be the standard in 10 years, just like Excel or ERP software is the current standard. At some point soon, this will be table stakes.
Some soft or qualitative savings to keep in mind:
- Lead Time: downstream process benefits
- Compliance: cost of non-compliance and penalties
- Data Accuracy: cost of validation and rework
- Employee satisfaction: impact of improved morale
- Risk Mitigation: liability due to human error
- Customer Satisfaction: improved customer experience
- Labor pool availability: reduce the necessity of hiring.
These four steps listed above are dependent on your automation maturity. Keep in mind enterprise automation maturity is not always a linear journey. You may be starting out and exploring new low-code tools to run a POC on, or you might be deep in your fourth year of running an RPA COE. In this series, we’re going to walk you through these stages of maturity:
- Building and maturing your automation COE
- Scaling with process automation tools
- Taking the next step into hyper-automation
- Optimizing Enterprise Automation.
After fully automating your day-to-day work tasks, you can dream up building a robot that will take care of all your yard projects, and then you can sit back and enjoy it all. While you might not have what it takes to build an entire crew of yard care robots, you do have the capabilities to drive enterprise automation. No matter where you may be along the path to maturity, we’ll show you what it takes to close those automation gaps and achieve an optimized organization.