How businesses can take advantage of intelligent process automation
Of all the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most far-reaching has been a reworking of core business processes.
Faced with a workforce suddenly required to work from home, disrupted supply chains, and shifts in customer demands, businesses were forced to quickly rework many processes that had been in place for years.
Many of these existing processes were often overly manual, inefficient, and time-consuming to execute. For example, some were overly reliant on all staff being in a single, central location, and broke when people shifted to remote work arrangements.
Others, such as customer support, ran into problems due to the volume of people using them. Meanwhile, some were already known to be inefficient but had functional workarounds that were simply pushed beyond breaking point.
In some cases, processes had been run by offshore providers that could not get online during the pandemic. This meant processes could not be executed as normal, leaving organisations and their customers in the dark.
The rise of intelligent automation
All these situations highlight the often brittle interdependencies in how internal processes are designed and run. For this reason, attention is now turning to how intelligent automation can help.
Intelligent automation is an umbrella term that covers a range of new growth opportunities and capabilities, from business analysis and data analytics through to process automation, application integration, and business process optimisation.
Many large organisations have already begun to follow this path. Increasingly, though, intelligent automation is also being put to work by much smaller and mid-market organisations.
This shift is made possible by the emergence of newer, more cost-effective deployment and hosting models and the capability of specialists in the space with tailored, intelligent automation models for smaller-scale use.
Beginning the journey
Embracing intelligent automation requires an organisation to follow a series of steps. The first involves the review and documentation of all existing business processes.
During this phase, it's crucial to map out both the technical aspects and areas of human interaction. For small and mid-market businesses that have grown organically, this may be eye-opening, so be ready to think differently and rethink how you may be doing things.
The next step is to start the journey. Here, it doesn't all have to be done in a single step. Experience shows that some of the best intelligent automation projects address simple but time-wasting processes.
For example, the best use of staff time will not be cutting and pasting numbers between Excel tables, yet some still wind up doing it. By automating that, those staff are freed to focus on higher-value strategic and creative tasks, leaving software robots (‘bots')to handle the mundane and repetitive work.
Intelligent automation can also be applied to a small portion of a more complex process that is inefficient. For example, a typical new employee onboarding process involves many different roles within an organisation, from HR and IT to finance, to name a few, and the use of several distinct systems that may not be integrated.
Automation can help streamline this onboarding process by assessing the employee profile and sending the relevant information and pre-filled documents to the relevant systems. A bot can then ensure that the future employee is sent the relevant documents and that these documents are completed on time.
An achievable goal
While intelligent automation might sound attractive, many businesses may be put off by a perception of associated complexity. However, working with an experienced partner can allow a business to gain the benefits without being bogged down with the deployment of the technology.
It should be noted that an automation project very rarely starts and ends with robots. It begins with humans and involves many systems and integration challenges. A partner that can offer a broad range of capabilities, not just automation, is crucial.
The right partner will develop a cost-effective operating model such as hosting and managing the software robots in a multi-tenanted environment.
Taking the time to scope out your particular requirements and then working with a chosen partner to put in place the required technology is the best approach. In this way, the increased productivity and cost-effectiveness of intelligent automation can become an integral part of your business operations sooner rather than later.