Automation can provide tremendous cost savings and operational efficiency to an organization when deployed correctly. However, automation could also serve as a money pit if not carefully considered. Before you begin an automation project, learn about the common pitfalls that organizations face.
The top 6 mistakes in automating a business process are:
- Attempting to automate a process that is not well defined and/or has not been tested. You should have a clear understanding of each task that will need to be performed, the order in which it should be performed and the expected output(s). If there are too many exceptions to your defined process, you will need to define how those exceptions should be handled as well. If you cannot do this, you may not be ready for a complete automation.
- Automating a process that is not stable or efficient in its current state. If you automate an inefficient manual process, you will get an inefficient automated process. Automation will only escalate the inefficiency, as you will add an additional layer of complexity to the process (i.e. maintaining an existing IT component).
- Not defining the primary purpose for automating. Why are you seeking an automated solution? Are you seeking to complete the process faster? Are you seeking to automate a process that drains much of your staffing resources? Are you seeking more consistency in how the process is performed? You should have a clear understanding of the “pain” that you’re experiencing to ensure that your automated process provides an effective remedy.
- Not understanding the monetary value to your business. You should have a clear understanding of the costs for completing the process in its current state. Calculate the total staff hours dedicated to the process, their relevant hourly rates and other costs such as materials, supplies, hardware, and software costs. You will want to be able to state that “on average we spend a total of $xxx/per month (day/quarter/year) in managing this process.”
- Not considering the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs. Prior to automating a process, define how much your initial investment will cost. The initial investment should include all costs for developing and implementing the automation; this includes staff time, hardware costs, software costs, outsourcing fees and all resources required to complete the automation. As you analyze your existing costs and the cost for the automation, don’t forget to factor in the ongoing maintenance and support costs. Many organizations mistakenly believe that upon automating a process, “the computer” will do ALL of the work going forward. Once you automate a process, you will need to define the personnel that will be responsible for maintaining the technology and supporting the people that depend on the technology. You will need to compare your existing costs with the total cost for implementing and supporting the automation to determine your long-term Return on Investment.
- Lack of consideration for the “human” element. Even automated processes require human input. For every stage of your business process, define the role that your team will play once the automated process is in place. For example, if you are designing an automated data feed (to eliminate manual data entry), you many need a person to proactively generate and review your data input summary reports.
To avoid the common pitfalls, you should address the issues noted above prior to approaching an automation project. This will help you determine when and if you’re ready for automation.
“If you automate a mess, you get an automated mess.”