It can be easy to think that Intelligent Automation is the holy grail of all business solutions. It saves time, it saves money, and it releases stress from members of staff. Right? Well, it isn’t always the best solution for the task at hand. This can depend on many different factors. I believe the main one is the source of the process itself.
I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t automate a poorly optimized task. What do I mean by this? The best phrase I could use to explain is “you can’t polish a turd”. In the sense that a process that has been poorly created, to begin with, will not suddenly become a good process once you implement automation.
What is an inefficient process?
An inefficient process is one that is not optimized to save time or money. It can be a manual process that takes too much time or an automated process that is not configured correctly. There are many factors that can contribute to an inefficient process.
Some common causes of inefficient processes are:
- Lack of standardization
- Poorly designed processes
- Lack of communication
- Manual processes
These are just some of the causes of inefficient processes. I would recommend this article to learn more about the reasons your business processes could be inefficient.
Now that we know what an inefficient process is, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t automate one.
Why you shouldn’t automate an inefficient process?
There are a few reasons why you shouldn’t automate an inefficient process. The main reason is that it will not suddenly become a good process once you implement automation. The automation will just make the process easier to do, but it won’t make it any better.
Another reason is that automating an inefficient process can be very costly. If the process is not well designed, implementing automation can be very difficult and expensive. It is important to remember that you should always automate a process that is already well-optimized.
The last reason I will mention is that automating an inefficient process can cause more problems than it solves. If the process is not well designed, automating it can lead to errors and inaccuracies. This can cause frustration for employees and customers alike.
These are just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t automate an inefficient process. I believe that the best solution is to optimize the process first and then automate it. This will ensure that the process is well designed and that it will run smoothly.
How to fix an inefficient process
If you find yourself in a situation where you have an inefficient process, there are a few things you can do to fix it.
The first thing you should do is to identify the root cause of the problem. This can be done by looking at the factors I mentioned earlier. Once you know the cause of the problem, you can start to look for a solution.
The next step is to find a way to optimize the process. This can be done by streamlining the steps involved in the process or by automating certain parts of it. Once you have optimized the process, you can then start to think about implementing automation.
Finally, you should always test the process before you implement it. This will ensure that the process is running smoothly and that there are no errors.
How to Implement an Automated Process
Now that we know why you shouldn’t automate an inefficient process, let’s talk about how to implement automation.
The first thing you need to do is to identify the tasks that can be automated. This can be done by looking at the process and identifying the steps that are repetitive or time-consuming. Once you have identified the tasks that can be automated, you need to decide which software or tool you will use to automate them.
There are many different software and tools available that can help you with automation. I would recommend doing some research to find the one that best suits your needs.
Once you have chosen the software or tool you will use, you need to configure it. This can be a difficult task, but it is important to make sure that the automation is configured correctly.
After the automation is configured, you need to test it. This will ensure that the process is running smoothly and that there are no errors.
Then, you need to implement the automation. This can be done by deploying the software or tool to the production environment.
Finally, you need to test the automation. Many automated processes will seem perfect when planned out on paper. However, it isn’t until you actually rigorously test the process over a period of time that you will pick up on the small nuances and issues which can cause bugs in the process. When creating an automated process, I go into at least a couple of weeks of testing where the process is running in production, however, I will watch it from start to finish and note any issues to resolve.
Focus Intelligent Automation on Higher Value Tasks
Sometimes it isn’t worth fixing a process to the point where it is then worth automating. What I mean by this is that sometimes making a process efficient enough to automate does not actually produce much value. You will find that a lot of time will be spent optimizing the initial process, but then the actual value derived from the automation is minimal.
In these cases, it is often better to focus on automating the tasks which will produce the most value. For example, if you have a process that takes two hours to complete and you can automate 80% of it, you will save 1 hour and 12 minutes. However, if you have a process that takes 10 minutes to complete and you can automate 80% of it, you will only save 8 minutes.
The key here is to focus on automating the tasks which will produce the most value. This can be done by looking at the time taken to complete the task and the potential savings from automation.
Optimizing Manual Tasks
There are many tasks which can be automated, but sometimes it is not worth the effort. In these cases, it is often better to optimize the manual task. This can be done by streamlining the steps involved in the task or by automating certain parts of it.
For example, if you have a task that involves filling out a form, you can optimize it by streamlining the form. This can be done by removing unnecessary fields or by making the field names more intuitive.
Another example would be if you have a task that involves sending emails. You can optimize this task by automating the email sending process. This can be done by using a tool like SendGrid or Mailchimp.
Think: Does This Automation Improve the Customer Experience?
One of the most important things to consider when automating a process is whether or not it will improve the customer experience. You need to think about how the automation will affect the customer and whether or not it will make their life easier.
For example, if you are automating a process that involves sending out emails, you need to think about how the customer will receive the emails. Will they be able to read them easily? Will they be able to find the information they need?
Another example would be if you are automating a process that involves filling out a form. You need to think about how the customer will fill out the form. Will it be easy for them to understand? Will they be able to find the information they need?
You also need to think about how the automation will affect the overall customer experience. Will it make it easier for them to do business with you? Will it make it easier for them to get the information they need?
Think: Does This Intelligent Automation Require Human Intervention?
Something to consider when deciding whether to automate a task is whether or no human intervention is required. Or, perhaps, more importantly, the level of human intervention which is required. You need to think about how the automation will work and whether or not it will be able to run without any human intervention.
As a real-life example I have experienced, if you are automating a process that involves sending out emails, you need to think about how the emails will be sent out. Will they be sent automatically or will someone need to manually send them? Something which many may not consider is the roadblocks outside the process itself. For me, I was implementing a process that ended with a report being sent via email. The problem? Everything worked perfectly except for that final email. The reason was that the company had a firewall that blocked any ‘automated emails’ being sent from their computers. The IT was adamant there was no way they would allow this to happen, and therefore the automated report died.
Ultimately, I found a solution where the report was sent via Teams message rather than email. However, these things should still be considered before creating the process, rather than finding out afterwards. This was a valuable lesson I learned that day.
You also need to think about how the automation will affect the overall process. Will it make it easier for humans to do their job or will it make it harder?
Think: Does This Intelligent Automation Add Value?
As mentioned previously, you should focus on automating high value tasks. That’s not to say you cannot automate some smaller tasks. For example, in my early days of automation, I made a very simple script that downloaded two reports on a daily basis, sorted them into the correct files, and emails them out to a team. This saved approximately 3 minutes per day. But the script itself only took me 10 minutes to make and has run seamlessly since.
That small 3 minute saving per day equates to almost 15 hours per year. Not a huge saving, but considering it took me 10 minutes to make, it is obviously a net benefit.
It all comes down to the overall benefit. If, on the other hand, the intelligent process automation solution here saved the same amount of time, yet was a complex implementation of intelligent automation. The outcome may have been different. Let’s say it took me 10 hours to create the solution. Sure, we’re still receiving a net benefit over a year. However, this also assumes the process runs perfectly and requires no updates over time. In reality, you would probably find that you spent more time creating the automation than the automation saved in time.
How to Calculate Intelligent Process Automation Cost Savings?
It is more difficult than it may seem to quantify the benefit of intelligent automation. Understanding your business processes is at the core of estimating the benefit. The goal is obviously to reduce costs, and improve the day to day operations of the business. But how do you know what is going to add value before you actually implement the intelligent automation to the business process?
In order to accurately estimate the potential benefit, you need to first understand how the business process is currently being completed. This will involve some investigation and analysis of the current process. You need to ask questions such as:
– How long does it take to complete the task?
– How many steps are involved in completing the task?
Some intelligent automation processes will be clear as to whether they create productivity gains. However, some more complex processes are difficult to really comprehend how simple the intelligent automation implementation will be.
Ultimately, understanding automation capabilities and the implementation of intelligent automation solutions will really hold you in good stead here. To some extent, it comes down to the experience of implementing intelligent automation into business operations. We all learn from experience, and learn from mistakes. Intelligent Process Automation is something that will teach you new things over time, and you never get to a point where it is a perfect science.
If you are not an expert on intelligent automation, or process automation, then it may be worth bringing in an expert to consult on which processes are worth automating, and which are not.
In conclusion, when shouldn’t you use intelligent automation? In short, don’t automate an inefficient process. It will be costly, difficult, and can cause more problems than it solves. The best solution is to optimize the process first, and then automate it. This will ensure that the process is well designed and that it will run smoothly. If you find yourself in a situation where you have an inefficient process, you can try to fix it by identifying the root cause of the problem and then finding a way to optimize the process. After the process is optimized, you can then automate it using intelligent automation. If you are new to the automation of business processes, then it may be worth consulting an expert to understand whether there really is a business case, and to what extent the manual work within your company can be reduced.