Business Automation can have multiple meanings, here we are referring to the automation of business processes. It can sometimes be referred to as process automation, workflow automation or robotic process automation, it can also be considered an alternative term to integration, as a primary use case of integration is to automate business processes across multiple applications.
Business Automation can be considered the heart of digital transformation. The objective is to take processes, or activities, that the business performs frequently and automate them digitally. For, when a new employee joins an organisation, several activities need to happen as part of that process :-
- New email account created
- New laptop
- Mobile device issued
- Access to applications
- ID card for building access
These activities could be largely manual, and the aim of Business Automation would be to automate them as much as possible to reduce costly and time consuming human activities.
Benefits of Business Automation
Free up human time to focus on value creation activities
Reduce the probability of error in repetitive tasks
Increase the rate at which tasks can be performed
Deliver a superior experience to service consumers with instant on demand services
How to achieve Business Automation
Business Automation is achieved first by understanding your existing processes from the perspective of Value. High value processes are not simply the processes that will save the most money by reducing operational costs (although that can be a significant factor). Value should be explored from several perspectives including :-
- Strategic Alignment
- Competitive Edge
- Employee Satisfaction
This is necessary in order to measure the success of implementing business automation and being able to prioritise transition activities.
The actual implementation of Business Automation as a capability should be a strategic, centralised initiative, typically led by Enterprise Architecture. A departmental view can lead to the implementation of multiple workflow automation tools and duplicate effort which will ultimately create unnecessary cost across the organisation. Needs often arise locally, but a holistic view should be taken to establish and implement the capability enterprise-wide.
As with any capability, the people, process and technology should be considered in order to build a sustainable service. Areas to address include :-
- What roles and responsibilities are required to maintain the service?
- How is the service governed, are business users allowed to create\change the workflows, or are there approval processes?
- Should all proposed processes be redesigned before implementation?
- Are all applications/data available to the service?
Ultimately it must be decided what the best technology is to deliver the required use cases. Chakray has extensive experience in technology selection, with a firm understanding of the Business Automation market, so please get in touch if you need help in this area. As a rule though, it comes down to addressing functional and non-functional requirements for the technology, and how it best fits in with your existing technical architecture.
In this space it is recommended by Chakray to revisit the highest value processes and derive functional requirements from the steps and technologies involved in those. Alternatively it is worth considering common use cases such as the Joiners, Mover and Leavers, Quote to Cash and Source to Pay processes, and how valuable they are within your organisation.
Common mistakes in Business Automation
The most common pitfall when considering business automation is a siloed view or approach to the problem. A decision around automation taken in isolation can lead to simply moving cost from one department to another.
Business continuity is often overlooked when considering process automation. Whilst technology can be highly available, it is rarely 100% available. Failing to address business continuity can result in serious cost and reputational issues, it is always a good idea to have a backup process to failover to.
Automation requires a balance of business and IT investment and ownership. This balance can be difficult to strike, but it must be considered. Too much business influence can lead to lack of consideration to non-functional requirements such as scalability, availability and performance, yet an IT-centric approach can inhibit the value and return of investment without the right business engagement.
Opportunities to streamline processes are often missed when looking to automate processes. The focus is typically on “automating what we do now” as opposed to “why are we doing it this way?” or “how can we improve this process before automating it?”. This can mean missing an opportunity to make even more efficiencies with automation.
How can Chakray help?
Chakray has extensive experience in automation and moreover, understands the role of automation in an overall integration strategy and where it best fits in a hybrid integration platform or approach. Whether you are early in the journey of attempting to establish a business automation capability, or are simply looking for help creating workflows or recipes, Chakray is here to help.
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