Are your business processes automated or is the project in the pipeline? The time to adopt automation is now. Research has shown that automated processes can help 60% of enterprises save over 30% of their time. In fact, companies that have failed to adopt automation have experienced a 25% drop in customer retention. The biggest drivers for organizational process automation are improving customer experience and supporting digital transformation initiatives.

Currently, many company decision-makers are prioritizing responsiveness to business requests and trying to reduce the backlog on digital business applications. But in a study conducted before the COVID-19 pan­demic, only 61% of companies had met their automation targets.

While many organizations focus primarily on accelerating digital business transformation in their process improvement efforts, 95% struggle to automate processes. Business processes are always evolving to accommodate task changes, departmental functions, and regulatory updates. By understanding why automation efforts fail, you can make your automation efforts successful.

Why Automation Efforts Fail

Many workflow automation failures revolve around unrealistic expectations, but there are multiple reasons why they happen. Some businesses implement automation projects with hopes of instant gratification, which causes flawed or poorly designed processes. These are the key reasons why automation efforts fail.

Vague & Unclear End Goals

Improperly defining your success criteria can ruin your automation initiatives. You must clearly outline the desired outcomes at the beginning to set yourself up for success. Solely focusing on cost savings is a narrow view that obscures the tremendous value of successful automation adoption.

To enhance the impact of automation in your organization, rank processes according to key attributes such as structured input and error rates. Establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) goals so you can focus on processes connected to the overarching vision. Don’t automate processes for the sake of automation, develop a coherent strategy. Evaluate processes against attributes that showcase automation’s key strengths.

Not Knowing Which Processes to Automate

Automating processes not suited for automation is a sure path to failure. Not all business processes or steps in a process should be automated. Some business processes can be optimized in other ways besides automation. That’s why business process analysis is crucial.

It helps organizations understand which processes are ideal for automation. This saves time and resources, preventing delays in digital transformation initiatives. An automation team must consider process aspects such as workflow volume, repetitive steps, value stream, and if human intervention is needed.

Poor Change Management

Embracing new technologies such as workflow automation can be difficult because it significantly changes how individuals perform their jobs and transforms organizational behavior. Many leaders fail to think comprehensively about the organization’s culture and how it will need to adapt to automation, which results in failure.

Communicating potential changes effectively, listening to employees’ concerns, adjusting the working environment, and securing employee buy-in are essential for successful automation. Change management, work retraining, and continuing education are powerful strategies organizations can use to help employees embrace automation.

Incorrectly Defining the Success Criteria

Automation projects serve many purposes, therefore, you need to have a clear idea of the potential benefits, the problems that may arise, and the critical issues to prioritize throughout the project lifetime. Some common automation goals include improving regulatory compliance, enhancing process transparency and the available information, and reducing key person risk.

Lack of clarity about how you will measure automation success can lead to failure. Make the project goal clear to all team members and allow them to add rich, supplementary information to automated process steps. Reflect this in the project plan. During verification tests, review the quality and value of the supplementary notes to create automated processes optimized to meet project goals.

Improper Understanding of Processes

You may not know it, but team members may understand an individual process differently. And the only way you can discover this is by closely analyzing existing processes. An incomplete understanding of processes may be caused by consistent miscommunication or redundant process steps.

Each business process hides several variations, nuances, and layers usually left untouched in typical process mapping or interview-based discovery. 360-degree process analysis and a transparent view of the processes and their innumerable variants can produce more visibility.

The traditional method of process mapping is insufficient. Companies need to adopt modern, advanced approaches to process mapping. Process mining and discovery that leverages computer vision, machine intelligence, and technology will help companies map detailed process paths.

The Unilever Case: How One Organization Benefited from Digitization

Unilever began selling margarine and soap in the early 1900s. When the company’s agility became a challenge, it adopted process automation to transform product development. It started building a customer database with anonymized information that included over 900 million individual customer records.

In 2018, Unilever focused on digitizing all business sectors and leveraging data to increase its digital capability. Its massive data backs product-development strategies and digital transformation. This renewed focus has increased brand awareness and helped Unilever launch products about 50% faster.

Unilever uses an extensive artificial intelligence (AI) system to support its digital hubs of small nimble teams and to predict upcoming trends. These teams gather analysts around the world to study consumer traits, segment them into hundreds of categories and develop products to serve them.

How to Overcome Automation Challenges

  • Make decisions about the extent to which you will refine the processes during project execution. As the automation project progresses, evaluate the impact of the proposed process refinements.
  • Define the benefits expected from automating target processes. This helps you to identify potential disappointments early on and review the expected benefits or the entire process.
  • When formulating an automation plan, involve subject-matter experts who can dedicate themselves to the project. They should deliver more than 50% of the total project effort.
  • Prioritize project goals and communicate them to everyone. Clarify how, when, and how often you will measure these goals and report the results. Also, assign the automation team specific tasks to measure periodic progress against the goals.
  • To identify project dependencies before automating a process, draw up a process map that identifies the processes surrounding it. These may include connections between the target process and people, other processes, or teams.

Renew Your Automation Efforts This Year

Automation improves efficiency, boosts productivity, increases accuracy, reduces deviations, and offers increased visibility into work. Use workflow automation software to empower your employees and to improve the way they work. Eliminate wasteful activities and focus on enhancing tasks that add value.