The term “island” usually provokes a positive connotation: Sunshine, sand, fun—sounds good, right? Not when it comes to automation. Islands of automation is a phrase used to describe when an automation system is not integrated with other systems, or even other departments, with which it interacts. Rapid growth, along with a disorganized approach to IT infrastructure or a complete lack of automation strategy can lead to islands of automation. Problems are exacerbated when internal departments lack coordination.
Islands of automation can cause a slew of problems including
- Automating “the wrong thing”
- Focusing on a portion of a process rather than the high value big picture
- Data consistency issues
- Compliance errors
- Higher R&D and operational costs
- Increased batch cycle times
- Lower profits
In this article, we’ll cover situations where the likelihood of islands of automation forming is high, how to eradicate them, and the importance of building bridges between people and technology for automation success.
When Islands of Automation Happen
The following are scenarios in which automation islands can occur:
- Cloud and On-premises Applications
More organizations are using cloud-based applications, but how will they work with existing legacy on-premises applications? Clearly, an undefined answer leads to confusion. With different technology frameworks, business users face a multitude of issues.
- Connecting CRM and ERP Systems
A sufficient connection should exist between CRM and ERP systems. However, a disconnect can occur due to varying versions and different upgrade processes as these pose integration challenges. A lack of integration leads to data problems and disparity in customer profiles, contact data, order details, history, pricing, invoicing, etc.
Silos evolve when orders are placed on one system and shipments are processed on another. Manual entry mistakes can cause delays, lost shipments, and unsatisfied customers.
- Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS)
Supervisors, managers, and administrators all use HRMS to analyze different types of data. Failure to integrate data poses problems when trying to analyze data relating to resources, payroll, skill management, training, hiring, planning, etc.
The process of simplifying order taking and fulfillment is key for efficient eCommerce operations. For this reason, companies use different web-based and eCommerce systems. When there’s a lack of integration, manual data entry leads to a loss of efficiency.
- Customer Data Onboarding
Ad-hoc processes cause immense challenges for enterprises. Undermining a data onboarding process can be disastrous to an organization. Operational incompetence can lead to violations, penalties, and a decreased sense of customer satisfaction.
- Duplicate Information
A key feature of islands of information is that data within multiple applications and databases is the same, becoming virtually impossible to keep current. Applications don’t readily provide an effortless way to leverage knowledge inside. Mistakes then prove costly for organizations.
- Procure-to-Pay Processes
Procure-to-pay processes have numerous steps often in disparate systems. In RPA lingo, we call this “Swivel Chair”. For growing businesses, unconnected systems for requisitions, purchase orders, purchase approvals and reviews are time consuming and offer multiple challenges. Multiple processes also lead to a lack of transparency, increasing the likelihood of errors and delays.
- Order-to-Cash Process
The Order-to-Cash process involves fulfilling customer orders for goods or services. The process includes provisioning, delivery, invoicing, and payment. Lack of integration between internal applications and customers results in service delays, unfulfilled customers, and inconsistent revenue reporting.
- Reporting and Dashboards
There is a heavy burden on the IT staff to collect data from a multitude of locations and generate reports. At its best, the lack of integration between systems causes delays, straining IT resources. At its worst, islands often cause the absence of reporting and dashboards.
Removing Islands of Automation
When companies eradicate islands of automation, they realize advantages that can help move their businesses forward. With integrated systems, they can increase productivity by avoiding manual entry, thus minimizing errors, while also helping to avoid information duplication. Another crucial factor to consider is time. Integration also allows companies to better redirect employee efforts. Instead of focusing on multiple applications for entering information, employees can hone their skills and efficiency on one application. Businesses can further excel because they can more readily attain complete and accurate reports that help to assist with decision making.
To realize these types of progression, there are a few ways businesses can solve islands of automation problems including integrating information between applications, using B2B integration solutions, and having collective data for analysis and reporting.
Businesses need to recognize where their problems exist and work towards making technology work for them in order to effectively implement automation and optimization. Identifying areas where data quality is lacking, and analysis is deficient are some of the first steps towards automation success.
Build Bridges for Automation Success
One of the most common gaps in an automation initiative is between IT and its corresponding business unit(s). In my earlier article “Building Bridges for Business Success,” I examined and provided examples of this gap.
Automation developed in a silo, either by the business or IT without partnership, will have a higher cost of ownership, reduced adoption rates, and lower realized benefits. Successful, scaled automation programs all have one thing in common: They have multiple teams from across the organization working together toward a common goal. Design, development, delivery, and post-delivery support/enhancement is a team sport.
Remember that connecting groups starts with people at a personal level. For two teams to work together, there must be a critical mass willing and trusting of their counterparts on the other team. People matter. We all have feelings and ideas. Given the opportunity, a team with a true leader that can build bridges is more likely to succeed in building and scaling an automation program.
Apexon guides businesses on their automation journey, identifying short- and long-term opportunities where automation will make the most impact. To learn more, check out Apexon’s Intelligent Automation services or get in touch using the form below.