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Identify Automation Opportunities in 4 Steps

Identify Automation Opportunities in 4 Steps

Organizations are often bogged down by repetitive, mundane tasks, costing them time and money. Automation can be a great digital initiative to improve productivity, cut costs, improve employee satisfaction, and advance a company along its digital transformation journey.

But automation is only effective when applied properly. Choosing the wrong process to automate can lead to lost resources and implementation failure. Taking a step-by-step approach can secure buy-in across the entire organization, identify the best tasks for automation, enable scalability, and ensure a successful automation initiative.

Step 1: Team collaboration

Engaging all layers of an organization during a new digital strategy launch increases buy-in, adoption rates, and the initiative’s overall success. At the top, leaders have a vantage point to identify vulnerabilities in their organization, activities among the competition, and trends in their industry. Middle management can contribute workflow overviews, productivity information, and which tasks are the costliest to company. Employees are experts in their own tasks, so they will be able to articulate which tasks are the most repetitive and error prone. Don’t forget to include the involved Business Unit(s) AND the IT department in the automation journey!

Collaboration across teams will facilitate a holistic approach to your automation strategy.

Step 2: Brainstorming

Technology these days can do some amazing things, but good old-fashioned brainstorming remains an effective business technique. And remember, Face to Face is not dead – it’s preferred wherever possible.  Start this process by gathering representatives from all teams at all levels in person or virtually. To keep the discussion on track, consider posing the following questions to the group:

  • What processes do my staff complete daily?
  • What are our digital workflows?
  • What processes are major revenue contributors?
  • What processes cause staff frustration?
  • What processes are mundane?
  • What tasks are repetitive?
  • What tasks should a staff member never have to do?

During brainstorming, it’s important that everyone feels heard. The goal is to gather as many ideas, questions, and concerns about automation as possible without rationalization—they’ll be plenty of time for that in later steps. The more brainstorming sessions you hold, the better. Don’t forget to document all feedback during this phase.

Step 3: Create a shortlist of automation candidates

Creating a viable short list of automation candidates from your brainstorming sessions is a critical next step. You’ll find that for some ideas, it simply does not make sense to automate due to the degree of human interaction needed for completion. Many processes—including those involving empathy or those that exist in the physical world—can only be completed by a human being. In other cases, it may be determined that automation is not cost-effective based on the volume of the task or even the stability and longevity of key external applications.

So how do you know what tasks make the most sense to justify automation? Good candidates for automation have the following characteristics:

  • Tasks that are high volume, repeatable, and standardized
  • Workflows are digital
  • Tasks prone to manual errors and lack quality
  • Involve a large degree of manual overhead
  • Tasks are monotonous
  • Tasks possess clearly defined business rules
  • Involve systems that utilize the same data
  • A stable/mature system
  • Systems are not complex

Step 4: Determine automation scalability

Scalability is the measure of a system’s ability to increase or decrease in performance and cost in response to changes in application and system processing demands. In relation to automation, the higher the scalability, the better the candidate for the process. In a scalable environment, the function of automation is to reduce the amount of human labor required for maintenance and growth.

To create scalable solutions, it’s important to plan accordingly. Automating a bad process will only yield poor results more quickly. Simply automating a process does not put it on a course for immediate success if underlying issues are not first addressed. Scalability problems are caused by underlying design issues and become harder to resolve once the whole framework is built. Timely attention to the scalability helps sustain the lifetime of your test automation framework.

Lastly, look left and right, up and down! This means consider the upstream and downstream processes to ensure the overall end-to-end process makes sense and does not provide opportunities for higher value wins, perhaps beyond the scope of the original workflow candidate being considered.

Find Your Automation Opportunities

About 74% of IT and engineering leaders credit automation to saving their workforce time previously spent on manual processes. But determining good candidates for automation with scalability potential can be tricky. Organization-wide collaboration and brainstorming is the first step in identifying automation opportunities. Not all ideas turn out to be good tasks for the automation process. In some instances, continuing to perform tasks manually proves to be the most cost-efficient option. Identifying tasks that are high-volume, repeatable, prone to error, mundane for the human workforce, and have the capacity for scalability are some of the best candidates for automation.

As organizations continue to adopt intelligent automation, deciding on what processes to automate can be confusing. Taking a step-by-step approach can help alleviate the confusion, identify the best opportunities to automate, and achieve digital transformation.

In 2021, the global robotic process automation market size was valued at 1.89 billion, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.2% from 2022 to 2030. The time to automate is now. For help identifying opportunities to automate, we can help. Check out Apexon’s Intelligent Automation services to learn more.

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