Robotic process automation (RPA) hit the mainstream years ago and is still a hot topic of conversation in enterprises all over the world. However, RPA and automation in general are still often considered an afterthought. Consider the following scenarios:
Scenario 1: A leader in your organization asks for a daily report to be created that takes data from several sources. What do you do? You or another person on your team adds the task of creating a report to your daily task list.
Scenario 2: Three people have left your team recently and the work has to be redistributed. What do you do? You figure out what can wait and redistribute the rest to other team members while you hire three people in a tight job market.
Does any of this sound familiar? In each of these cases, an automation-first approach should be considered. In the first scenario, instead of looking for ways to justify automating a task, consider the opposite: why not automate? In the second scenario – the basic premise is a shortage of human labor, which many enterprises are feeling; use digital labor to fill the gap. While this sounds like a simple solution, it will take effort to determine how best to harmoniously use human and digital labor together.
Widening the Scope of Automation
Take a look at the entire scope of work done by a team or business unit and make determinations on all of the work being done. Follow a decision tree like this:
- Automate specific tasks with intelligent automation technologies such as RPA, optical character recognition (OCR), intelligent document processing (IDP), etc.
- Optimize or redesign processes (to potentially automate later)
- Stop doing certain tasks (lack of value)
- Address work via other means whether purchasing additional application add-ons, system upgrades, etc.
Too often, automation is looked at in the context of a specific process or set of steps; this approach is appropriate when addressing a small team or a specific pain point. However, if you look at the work of 50 or even 100 different people within a particular unit or function, consider all the work performed within the unit or function and then determine how the work can be redistributed using both human and digital labor. When you consider automation within this context, the benefits are magnified. If the scope of work to be automated is a specific process done by a small number of individuals, the benefits will be small. Broaden the aperture when reviewing the work done in an entire organization; then determine how digital labor can fill gaps or take on work done by humans so humans can focus on other activities.
Combining Multiple Automation Technologies
You may even find out that someone within the function has already done some automation and it just hasn’t been shared broadly. Consider the activities across a unit or function and apply multiple forms of automation technology; not just RPA but IDP, chatbots, natural language processing (NLP) and others. Combining one or more technologies can exponentially increase the number of automation opportunities in an organization and tangible benefits to the entire environment.
We have to change the mindset from “automation of certain tasks” to “automation EVERYWHERE.” Of course, human labor remains essential, but if enterprises focus on automating what can be automated, they would not be facing a human labor shortage. There is a place for both human and digital labor in every enterprise and every function.
Don’t ask “Why automate?” Ask “Why not automate?”
ISG helps enterprises discover the opportunities for automation in their workflow and understand the automation marketplace. Contact us to find out how we can help.
About the author
Tracy Lipasek is an experienced advisor with more than 25 years of experience in Information Technology, process automation, transformation, leadership and software development. Her experience includes work for EDS and HP. Currently, she is a partner within ISG Automation responsible for global delivery of Intelligent Automation services.