According to IDC, because of the wide implementation of IoT, there is expected to be 163 zettabytes of data produced annually by 2025. That’s a tenfold increase from today’s number, which is already a double from just a few years ago. Many companies struggle to keep up with their current data volumes and recognize wrangling and utilizing this data is not going to be easy. The customer’s rising demand for real-time information will further increase demand on already stressed systems.
Automation strategy is one technology that should be able to help, but it requires the correct combination of people, process, and technology, all guided by the right strategy. The strategy is at the core of every automation project. Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to it, there are several critical elements that one needs to keep in mind when creating it.According to an online report, there are six pillars to a strong automation strategy. These include:
- Process Excellence: efficient business processes that undergo regular improvement.
- Automation Governance: monitoring, managing, and re-architecting systems under automation.
- Data Governance: data management and usage principles, including administration, rights, and security of data resources.
- Automation Applications Governance: using the right tools for the right job.
- Technical Skills: hiring, training, and supporting the employees needed for automation success.
- Sustainable Deployment: maintenance of automated applications and the documentation necessary to keep applications operating efficiently.
Which Automation Strategy is Best?
The success of any automation project hinges on identifying the best automation business process, i.e., does the company go with process automation strategy, process mining, RPA, hyperautomation, or something else? Identifying a strong use case is the first and most important step of the automation journey, but mapping out all workflows beforehand is also imperative. Things to consider include the complexity of the automation, is this the removal of a physical robot or just introducing software automation? One of the biggest questions of all is, how will this affect staff?
‘Process Automation’ performs a procedure or a series of procedures that carry out a function, individually, or as part of a workflow. The benefits of process automation include an increase in productivity, a reduction in operating costs, increases in employee collaboration, a decrease in errors, and the optimization of some task executions.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) takes process automation one step further, involving automation software rather than physical robots. Gartner defines RPA as “a productivity tool that allows a user to configure one or more scripts (which some vendors refer to as ‘bots’) to activate specific keystrokes in an automated fashion. The result is that the bots can be used to mimic or emulate selected tasks (transaction steps) within an overall business or IT process. These may include manipulating data, passing data to and from different applications, triggering responses, or executing transactions.”
RPA tools interface with a computer system and aim to replace humans in an “outside-in’’ way rather than in the classical “inside-out” approach. The reduction of repetitive and mindless employee tasks is the goal, freeing workers up to handle the more complicated, higher-level tasks that are usually more profitable for the company.
Beyond process automation and RPA is Hyperautomation, which Gartner sees as the number one technology trend for 2020. Gartner claims it “deals with the application of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to increasingly automate processes and augment humans. Hyperautomation extends across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the sophistication of the automation (i.e., discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor, reassess.)”
Hyperautomation includes the automation of tools necessary for certain processes as well as the processes themselves, including the discovery, analysis, design, measurement, monitoring, assessment, and reassessment work needed by this technology. Hyperautomation often utilizes a digital replica of a living or non-living physical entity which allows organizations to visualize the interaction of their processes, functions, and KPIs.
This ‘digital twin’, as some call it, delivers real-time information about an organization, producing substantial business intelligence, and provide visibility on how an organization creates value. Hyperautomation constantly takes in new information and data, constantly improving its processes and predictions. Put simply, hyperautomation deals with the application of advanced technologies to increasingly automate business processes as well as augment humans.
The Definition of Success
Enthusiasm for automation won’t get organizations to the goal line, says Mary Pratt in her CIO.com article 7 keys to an effective IT strong automation strategy. “Organizations aiming to get the most out of their automation programs need to take deep dives into the processes they hope to automate, understand how the workflows and where the workflow itself can be transformed,” says Pratt.
CIOs need to create a vision of what’s possible before any automation begins. Delivering results is obviously the goal here and automation can certainly improve efficiency by reducing manual IT work but it’s important to get a full understanding of the targeted process before any automation work begins. Re-imagine the workflow first, then automate, says Pratt.
While implementing an strong automation strategy at Optima Healthcare Solutions, CIO Jason James took a page out of the old CIO playbook by racking up early wins and promoting their benefits within the organization, which had a morale-boosting impact on all teams, says Pratt. Pointing to how quickly automation deployed company software, James gained support from the deployment staff, who realized automation was reducing their long work schedules, says Pratt. James now parlays the success of that project to win over other skeptics within Optima.
Worker education is also imperative. Automation can increase the fear of being laid-off, but history has shown that it doesn’t always lead to job losses. Oftentimes, it creates additional work, often higher-value work. Anyone potentially affected by automation needs to be made aware of any retooled workflows and their roles should be adjusted accordingly. Above all else, these workers need to grasp how automation and other bots might affect their overall job.
When faced with employees who fear their jobs might be automated away, these employees should be reminded that automation often creates as many jobs as it takes away. Often what is being automated away is a job or parts of a job that humans shouldn’t be doing anyway. Employers could also use automation as a chance to raise the HR bar. “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man,” said the science fiction writer Elbert Hubbard. Sometimes machines shouldn’t be feared as even with AI powering them, they will always fall short in the creative fields where humans thrive.