We’ve been dreaming of enterprise automation for a long time — from the stuff of sci-fi films, to the time-saving, productivity-enhancing promise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and now the hype around Hyperautomation. With significant advances in the technology, we’re getting closer to the real thing: intelligent, real-time (think nanoseconds, not minutes), end-to-end automation that delivers millions of dollars in value, with minimal disruption to the business.
In a recent survey by McKinsey, 66% of respondents were at least piloting the automation of business processes in one or more business units or functions. Of those however, only 16% have fully automated a process, and just 15% have set up an automation program across multiple parts of the business. So while many companies are dipping their toes in the water, few have managed to scale their efforts successfully.
As a product marketer specializing in automation, I have spoken with many customers about their automation initiatives. The feedback was consistent. Regardless of the type of automation in place, such as RPA or Digital Process Automation (DPA), it can be very difficult to scale. There are reasons for that, of course. The time it takes to implement can be long, and the time to value even longer. You also need to train your employees, most of whom won’t be familiar with the technology.
Additionally, enterprise systems are complex, rigid and fragmented, making it difficult to visualize and identify the right processes for automation. When people start on their automation journey, they don’t know enough about the technology to orient themselves, so they default to whatever’s easiest to automate. That’s often not necessarily the best or most effective use case for them. Automate a broken or inefficient process, and you’re just replicating inefficiency at speed. RPA — often the first port of call as it’s sold as a cheaper, simpler option — also happens to be brittle. Because it automates click paths, it breaks any time there’s a system or interface change, and has to be rebuilt from scratch.
Under these circumstances, scaling becomes increasingly difficult.
But all is not lost. The solution lies in considering automation not as a stand-alone catch-all, but as one technology in a broader transformation effort. The combination of analytics and automation, for instance, is becoming increasingly important.
Let’s take a look at the basics of Accounts Payable as an example. Process mining technology — paired with machine learning — extracts the data from your transactional systems and identifies any blockers or gaps in the process, like duplicate invoices and or incorrect payment terms on an invoice. Automation technology can then block duplicate invoices from being paid, correct payment terms, send an automated email to the vendor, and post and clear the invoice. With this combination of analytics and automation, you’ve got a system that’s flexible enough to adapt and learn over time, unlike the aforementioned RPA.
Talent is another crucial part of the equation that not enough customers take into account. I’ve worked with many customers that don’t have dedicated automation centers of excellence, or specific in-house expertise to tackle automation the right way. An enterprise with multiple technologies in place must ensure that those technologies are communicating with each other. By bringing together technical experts, your processes can be better visualized and monitored end-to-end across the organization, leading to a higher chance of success.
The complexity and effort involved in this kind of endeavour can be off-putting, but it’s worth the reward. Nor is it truly as complicated as it sounds — execution management systems, for example, already bring together technologies like process mining, automation and AI into a seamless, intelligent execution layer. Bring in or train the right people to champion it, and you’ve got a headstart on the next step of the journey.
So while many companies haven’t been able to bring the full promise of automation to bear at scale just yet, that promise is getting closer to becoming a reality every day.
Find out more about the Celonis Execution Management System, and how it can help deliver intelligent, real-time, end-to-end automation that delivers value without disrupting your business.