When companies identify problems or experience new challenges, one of the first steps many take to attempt to fix them is to identify and implement new automation software.
To an extent, this impulse is understandable. It’s compelling to think that solving larger business problems is as simple as putting the right technology into place and turning it on. But unfortunately, when many organisations attempt to do this type of business process automation (BPA) by themselves using software alone, they risk outsourcing a function, but insourcing new problems.
If you’re looking to grow and scale with business process automation software as a silver bullet, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, if you understand how software can support your problems as part of a larger business process optimisation initiative, finding the right solutions to implement becomes easier and less risky.
To see why BPA software solutions fall short so often, you must first understand how they operate.
Traditionally, BPA tools utilise different technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), business rules engines, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and optical character recognition to solve a problem (or a related set of problems).
As an example, take the use of BPA software to facilitate AI-driven routing of inbound customer communication via mail, email or electronic format to the right department. This type of solution might:
• Receive documents through multiple channels, such as paper, email, xml file, and pdf.
• Use capture software and AI to determine the right person or department within the organisation to handle the request
• Automate the routing of such requests to minimise delays and errors, compared with manual processing
On the surface, this type of technology seems useful. But without closer inspection, implementing it may sustain or magnify existing process inefficiencies. For instance, if you have inefficiencies in the number of people or departments handling customer mail, getting messages to them faster or with fewer errors won’t change the underlying dynamic.
As Bill Gates reportedly said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.
Even if you have optimised your existing business processes and workflows, other issues can arise that threaten to derail the ultimate outcomes of a BPA software implementation. For instance:
• If the person or department that’s been tasked with implementing the BPA software isn’t actually hands-on with the processes to which BPA technology is being applied, they can miss important nuances that lead to the wrong solution being implemented.
• Out-of-the-box BPA software often requires users to conform to defined workflows—which may or may not be suited to your organisation, your team, or your workloads.
• In any case, BPA software will require ongoing maintenance to ensure the solution continues to be optimised for the business need it serves. In some cases, the ongoing costs of supporting and maintaining BPA software can be far greater than performing BPA with the right partner.
• Especially within enterprise organisations, BPA software can be implemented in a piecemeal fashion, resulting in a patchwork of tools that can’t communicate or integrate with one another—limiting their overall effectiveness.
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Ensuring a successful BPA implementation—while avoiding these and other issues—comes down to several factors. First, before even exploring BPA software, organisations should make an effort to identify the root causes of existing inefficiencies and remediate any that can be addressed without technology.
Depending on each organisation’s needs and structure, this might be done by:
• Surveying employees to identify areas of inefficiency
• Documenting existing workflows with an eye towards highlighting tasks that are repetitive and manual in nature
• Inventorying existing technology to understand how it is being used to support business processes (and where gaps still exist)
From these types of insights, organisations can use our guide to BPO to begin developing overarching BPA strategies that align with their business goals. Taking the time to perform this type of assessment is also vital to understanding the business case for BPA within the company, as using BPA to boost ROI can help enable executive-level endorsement.
At each step of this process, companies benefit from working with the right external partner. Not only can a partner provide you with a valuable external perspective that’ll help you identify opportunities for efficiency you may be too close to see, they can apply their experience from other implementations with top-tier customers to your projects.
As a result, the right partner is well equipped to suggest the best approach to BPA implementation at your organisation—whether that involves custom development, out-of-the-box software, or some combination of the two.
To see how the right BPA implementation partner can help you save time over trying to figure things out on your own—as well as reduce the potential for making costly mistakes—reach out to Canon Business Services’ team of business process experts for more information.