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Most people are familiar with the idea of automation, whether you’ve seen something about it online, heard about it in the news, or read an article on automation on an industry website. You may even have a sense of the power of automation to business—or that implementing automation will be a necessary part of remaining competitive in the future.

But when it comes down to it, you might still struggle to define what automation really is and how it works. That’s a problem—especially if you allow a lack of understanding to hold your automation journey back before it ever begins.

According to a Canon Business Services (CBS) survey, 75% of the organisations surveyed report being ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to utilise business process automation in the future. If you fail to at least explore automation’s potential for your company, you risk falling behind competitors that are pursuing the practice more proactively.

So how do you actually get started on your automation journey? Let’s take a closer look at the factors that hold businesses back, as well as how you can push past these barriers to enjoy the full scope of automation benefits to business.

What holds businesses back from automation?

A lack of knowledge

If you don’t understand the full breadth of what automation can do, you won’t be able to recognise the problems it could solve for your business. As an example, many organisations are dealing with today’s difficult labour market conditions. But have you considered that automation could take over a sufficient number of processes that you no longer even need the open roles you’ve struggled to fill?

That said, a lack of knowledge isn’t limited to organisations as a whole. It’s also a potential weakness of individual departments. If IT isn’t familiar with all of accounting’s workflows, for example, it may not be able to recognise the day-to-day processes that would benefit from automation.

Perceived cost

Further, leaders may find it difficult to build a business case for automation if they don’t truly understand what automation is or how it’s implemented. In some cases, this lack of knowledge may lead to the misconception that adopting automation is more expensive than it actually can be.

In other instances, perceived cost barriers occur when companies forget to calculate the potential ROI of automation. Some organisations view investing in automation in the same way they think about spending money on something like an ERP system—as a one-time cost with benefits largely derived from efficiency gains.

But this line of thinking misses the fact that automation can provide very real returns, very quickly. In fact, in the proposal stage of a project, it’s possible to calculate not just the anticipated ROI of an automation implementation, but even the estimated time-to-value. This gives companies a clear line of sight into both their costs and the potential benefit of integrating automation.

Perceived difficulty and internal pushback

Because automation is seen as being difficult to implement, organisations may struggle to gain sufficient internal alignment to move forward with an automation journey—let alone get buy-in for the required investment.

Outside of leadership—who may struggle to understand the value of automation—pushback can come from a number of sources. IT departments, for example, have built their whole systems around keeping robots out and may be understandably reticent to welcome them in.

Resistance to change can be similarly troubling. Organisations that lack a forward-looking mindset may be less inclined to pursue automation—the thinking that ‘this is how we’ve always done business’ can quickly kill progress. In these circumstances, individual champions may not push hard for automation if they fear being blamed for an implementation that falls short of expectations.

The breadth of automation opportunities

Amidst all of this confusion, it’s worth defining what automation really is. For the purposes of this article, we’re referring to RPA, or ‘robotic process automation’. RPA is one of the key technologies used for implementing ‘business process automation’, or BPA.

Amidst all of this confusion, it’s worth defining what automation really is. For the purposes of this article, we’re referring to RPA, or ‘robotic process automation’. RPA is one of the key technologies used for implementing ‘business process automation’, or BPA.

Starting your Automation Journey

But if you’re still wondering is RPA right for my organisation?, a scenario might help.

“Imagine a world in which all of your reporting is done for you when you walk in the door in the morning”, describes Matt Sampias, Queensland Sales and Accounts at CBS. “Most people have some type of pain point that can be automated, whether that’s reporting, or a ticketing queue, or something else. Imagine that going away—just like that—because it’s been completely automated”.

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Aligning on a first automation workload

While the journey to business process automation may feel daunting, the most important step is simply getting started. Rather than wait for one ‘perfect’ moment or occasion, getting started right away helps build the organisational momentum that establishes an appetite for a longer-term automation strategy.

That’s why, for most customers that are new to automation, we typically recommend beginning by automating 1-2 workloads. It’s almost always better to start small and build on your successes than to fail because you took on more than you could handle.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing your first workload:

Roughly 80% of CBS customers start with a finance workload for their first RPA implementation.

Whether finance is the right place for you to start or not, take the time to identify the repeatable processes you have on your plate that could be automated.

Alternatively, look for processes that sit above or below existing solutions. For instance, if you’re already using CBS’s eInvoicing solution, financial activities occurring just outside the program’s scope may represent good automation opportunities.

Generally speaking, remember that your initial workload should be tied to a problem with a sufficiently large scope to produce a positive ROI that justifies your investment in RPA.

Also, keep in mind that—once your initial workload is up and running—it’s not uncommon for the robot you’ve implemented to still have available capacity to support additional projects. Ultimately, having the scope to expand out to other processes without having to invest in another robot increases your overall automation ROI.

Automation Toolkit

Detangle the automation journey with a guide to start your automation strategy in this free-to-use tool and personalised report.

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Building the business case for automation

If, after reading the tips above, you’re still struggling to align on a first automation workload—or to build a business case for automation at your firm—our Automation Accelerator Workshop can help. Each Workshop participant receives:

A free consultation with our leading team of business and technical specialists

An initial exploration and assessment of your systems and processes

A road map to a working automation solution tailored to your needs

“Think of it as an opportunity to maximise the value of your potential investment,” explains Sampias. “If you’re seriously considering RPA, a Workshop ensures you’re not missing out on potential ROI or value. You’ll build a business case for it that can help overcome resistance within the organisation.”

To register your interest in an Automation Accelerator Workshop, complete the form here. You can also review our RPA blueprint or reach out to our expert team for help with your most pressing automation questions.

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