How to Embrace Digital Process Automation

Posted by on September 01, 2020

digital process automation

Digital process initiatives are good intentions with failing outcomes if employees are not essential to transformation strategies. Ask thousands of defeated organizations. 

There is hope. Your organization can become one of the fortunate enterprises to embrace digital process automation (DPA) the right way. But you must follow the right path. In this blog, we're going to discuss the right and wrong way. 

Every quarter, organizations embark on DPA with little, if any, employee engagement, cross-functional perspective of business processes and tools that align with key enterprise objectives. Months later, they become the latest companies to blunder through unsustainable automation. 

No wonder an industry report by Everest Research discovered nearly three-fourths of all digital transformation efforts fail (73 percent). That's unfortunate, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of DPA. Execution separates companies that successfully launched automation prior to the pandemic or pivoted quickly during uncertain times from others that struggle to shift to telework or virtual communication. 

Matt Klassen, vice president of product marketing at Cherwell, says many of these organizations over-focused on customer engagement and neglected employee engagement. 

"They failed to realize the two are inextricably linked," Klassen says. "Organizations were too focused on one and not the other."

To combat this, Everest Research created a clear path to digital transformation. DPA can work—and will work—if your organization is equipped with a sound understanding of best practices, many of them revolving around employee-first strategies. Let's take a closer look.

Why Employees Embrace Automation

Frost & Sullivan reported organizations that automate processes related to workforce engagement management are more likely to enjoy better consumer experience, employee engagement, and, ultimately, increased revenue.

DPA does not necessarily mean automating every task. Humans are vital for reviewing information, communicating with other humans, and of course, taking action. That's not to say automation will not streamline human processes and procedures. But minimizing time-consuming or tedious tasks place organizations one step closer to success. 

When applicable, equip employees on all levels with low-code tools that allow them to develop their own automation processes. 

Engage Early and Often

As a member of your organization's C-suite, you have led automation conversations for months, if not longer. Are front-line employees included in these conversations? Has anyone approached them in small and large settings to explain the who, what, why, when, and how? Have conversations included upskilling and re-skilling opportunities? 

Organizations can't expect workers to understand the benefits of automation if they haven't taken the time to explain them, and even more importantly, explain employee roles—leading up to, during, and after automation initiatives. 

Help employees imagine how automation will eliminate boring and repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more important duties. And just like that, you have identified automation stakeholders. 

"I think now more than ever, organizations are realizing what was okay or good enough in the past isn't sufficient anymore," Klassen says. "When you worked in the office and systems didn't work together; maybe you had a bunch of disjointed systems. But you had co-workers sitting right next to you. It was easy to reach out and figure out through osmosis how to get your job done, even when things weren't optimum. 

"But now, since the pandemic, organizations are realizing they don't have that luxury. Employees are working remotely. And there's probably less employees. Clearly, everything that is cloud-based and digital is functioning better."

Also, respect your workforce enough to give them time to process change. After all, you've been kicking around the ideas for more than a year. 

Don't let legacy technology and rigid organizational culture sabotage automation efforts. Engage with people across the enterprise early and often, transforming silos into stakeholders that build clarity across teams, increasing the chance of success. Employees will also ensure new processes are created with their needs in mind, a critical piece of the automation process.

Smart small. Pick a team that's embracing change. Target no more than a few processes within a department. Save interdepartmental tasks for later. 

Find a Champion

Automation initiatives need a champion. This employee does not have to be a member of the C-suite, but they must be highly visible and engaged, able to help define and communicate the organization's vision. This person must have the ability to persuade stakeholders to overcome frustrations and celebrate collaboration. Someone who understands operations and processes, and is able to look at the big picture too. 

Starting Engaging with Employees

An employee-first strategy is vital to any digital process automation strategy. It engages employees on all levels, allowing them to create their own automation. For more insight on employee engagement during automation strategy, read "Industry Outlook Report: The New Digital Process Automation Mindset."

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