In the final blog of our enterprise automation series, we walk through how to optimize your automation program on an organization, operations and enablement level.
If you have an automation program that is still growing, you know automation is a powerful way to improve your organization’s efficiency and effectiveness. But the journey doesn’t end there.
The most successful automation programs pursue excellence through continual optimization and improvements. If this is your first time reviewing the enterprise automation maturity journey, we recommend you check out the other blog posts in this series: Automate Your Business, Opportunistic Enterprise Automation, How to Operationalize Your Automation Program, and Adding Scale to Your Automation Program.
When optimizing your organization’s automation program, you should already have a solid foundation of strategies, technology frameworks and governance. The optimization stage is all about taking your program further to make the entire program more robust.
Taking the long view is the best approach. Optimization aims to improve the automation program – and the entire organization – over time. Think of it as landscaping. It is not enough to cut the lawn once and call it good. Neither is it sufficient to simply cut back on one manual process and decide that your automation days are over.
Backyards and organizations are both living systems. Both become unruly without continual upkeep. Both benefit from routine monitoring, trimming and tending to reach optimal health and vitality.
Driving Vision, Strategy and Alignment Through Culture and Organization
The organization needs to have a culture conducive to the automation strategy. Your culture should embrace change, continuous learning and improvement. Employees should feel empowered to speak up when they see something the business can improve or automate and voice their opinions on how or why to do so.
Your organization needs to ingrain strategy for automation across the entire enterprise to better achieve your goals. You should tailor your automation strategy toward the needs of the organization, and you should also consider your organization’s future state. At the process level, don’t only focus on how work gets done today, but look at how your teams will work in the future with automation technologies like machine learning or artificial intelligence at their disposal.
It is not only your automation strategy you should embed throughout company culture. At this stage, don’t silo the automations themselves but holistically embed them in day-to-day operations across departments. The vision of enterprise automation maturity is to connect your teams to more efficient, meaningful work by eliminating manual tasks and closing the gaps between people, processes and technology.
Education and Training Automation Talent
Dedicated automation roles will lead to new development and career paths team members may want to take. Use a learning management system (LMS) to author the paths that make sense for your organization. With an LMS, you can build out clear steps individuals should take to achieve their own growth as employees and foster higher quality automations throughout the organization.
Team members should be able to use an LMS to discover the next steps toward the path they wish to take. Whether that career path is as an analyst, developer or even in self-service training, enable them the opportunity to start growth and learning before the next major project begins.
Having these paths and steps inside an existing LMS ensures widespread adoption across the organization. This adoption creates a sustained talent pipeline while fostering employee satisfaction. A sustained talent pipeline places value on the future of education and training, which is critical to your company’s long-term health. Sustaining talent gives companies more control over their workforce, the skillsets they need and the best ways to train them. This sustainment will allow companies like yours to stay competitive in a global market.
An LMS is something the organization should tackle as a whole and not simply as an automation endeavor. We suggest coupling or building on top of any existing LMS investment instead of creating one solely for the purposes highlighted above.
Automation Program Intake and Prioritization
If you have gotten this far, your organization already has a self-service intake for automation project ideas. Integrating scoring and prioritization into these intake forms helps create a more efficient center of excellence (CoE) or steering committee meetings. When you provide the fields and require them before employees submit their ideas for review, you ensure consistency, ownership and understanding from the users submitting the idea.
Steering committees and CoEs should focus on providing value related to the organization’s business strategy. This step could involve dedicating resources to identifying training programs or helping prioritize and deliver automations. At this point, the steering committee should be less concerned with prioritizing new projects for development but instead focused on determining which business areas need additional enhancements. Remember, the goal here is to optimize the current automation program, not to embark on a new one.
Automation Program Delivery and Support
Companies often silo delivery and support programs with individual support teams that may be a part of the larger technology support team. Taking your automation program to the next step involves handing the keys over to new drivers. If you have ever enjoyed seeing your kid practice driving on a riding mower, tractor or ATV, then you know the value of empowering teammates to take the wheel. A thriving company similarly encourages emerging talent to contribute to its automation program.
Citizen-driven delivery, or citizen development, is often seen as ideal – and in many ways, it is. Organizations that can incorporate citizen development as one of their top COE priorities enjoy high-functioning, highly involved workforces.
Of course, we are not suggesting you simply hand over all your projects to citizen developers to see end-to-end and without oversight. Here is how we suggest you deploy citizen development initiatives to optimize your automation program.
First, citizen-driven delivery should start with discovery sessions and basic automation design. Citizen developers can build the simple parts of automations, for example, by recording their screens or providing 80 percent of an automation. From there, an architect or senior developer can review the code and either provide inputs or harden the automation to make sure they solve the other 20 percent of the automation. An example of a simple project could be a small quality-of-life improvement, such as an automation that searches an order number you have highlighted when you press a shortcut or hotkey.
Additionally, we can characterize continuous integration and continuous delivery as fairly mature practices in most automation programs. These types of automation goals can help guide your teams to focus on smaller improvements (like the example highlighted above) first. Making these seemingly minor improvements actually drives processes toward larger quality-of-life improvements for the entire organization.
Hyperautomation may seem like a huge endeavor to cover, but chances are you may already be using hyperautomation techniques at this point. Gartner defines hyperautomation as “a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible.”
Hyperautomation is synonymous with enterprise automation because it focuses on the right tool for the right job and combines them efficiently. This could be kicking off a process with a BPM system or having an RPA bot grab reports from an external provider and send them through an intelligent document processing system that uses machine learning to classify and document.
Taking your technology enablement to the next level could look like using automated bots to support bots. Using automations for tasks such as password resets, incident management and notifications of service-level agreement (SLA) violations helps keep maintenance and support timely and efficient. These types of automations are valuable as they help your support and maintenance team focus on significant issues that keep the business running instead of ensuring everyone’s key still works.
Automation Program Governance and Standards
Using all these automations to their fullest extent can get complex. You need to standardize management policies and technology governance, so team members know what tool houses what information.
Your COE should oversee maintaining and documenting governance capabilities, rules, templates and component libraries. Your team should also build playbooks detailing how the environment is built and maintained. Throughout automation efforts there are likely to be instances where you use custom code. Documenting and templating this code should be the next approach to managing your standards.
Building version control into automation efforts can be difficult when there may be multiple versions of different automations depending on certain features that may or may not exist in older versions. The playbooks and documentation mentioned above can help the support team understand what items to watch out for or expected outcomes of making changes to your environments.
Reporting on Automation Performance
Optimizing your automation program reporting efforts may not be that difficult as you probably have already visited several of these items earlier to improve your quality of life and support organizational efforts.
The optimization stage is about driving towards continuous improvement and helping optimize your automation efforts by identifying areas where more automation could be beneficial or where an automation still needs improvement. You can’t rely on instinct alone but must measure your existing automations and areas to optimize using a consistent methodology.
When you are looking to measure the effectiveness of your automation efforts, you will want to use a combination of metrics. For example, in addition to measuring how much money you saved with each step in your program, it is also important for you to look at other factors, such as quality control and employee engagement.
Using process discovery tools can also allow you to uncover the hidden opportunities analysts or individuals may not easily find. Funneling reporting metrics from these process discovery tools can help you identify areas where you can still make key improvements. Stay on the lookout for continual opportunities to improve with automation, and you will be well on your way to becoming a fully optimized organization.
Automation requires a goal and operational frameworks for success. Without automation goals and operational frameworks to map your journey, your automation program will get stuck, spinning its wheels without making any meaningful progress.
The term enterprise automation has many meanings and interpretations. It is up to you to determine your organization’s unique needs and, from there, to achieve the automation maturity that is optimal for you.
No one is saying you must have everything automated for people to consider you as an enterprise in scope, but some level of execution on varying degrees of automation is typically necessary to achieve genuine value from your investment. Start smaller in scope and build out from there to connect the value of increased automation across departments.
By capitalizing on your current automation frameworks, analyzing and adapting to needs and navigating through challenges, you should see significant growth in the effectiveness and efficiency of your operation. Sometimes an outside perspective can offer just the right experience to help you shift your automation efforts into high gear.