Business Process Automation

Three core business questions before you bring in the robots

This is a contributed piece by Pascal Baker, chief client officer at Symphony Ventures


Robotic process automation (RPA) is many things, but it is not a Band-Aid solution. Businesses that believe they will experience superior workflows, best-in-class customer service and a healthy bottom line simply by deploying the technology may be disappointed. Because while RPA can certainly help deliver on all those things, its success is heavily reliant on upfront work.

This work begins with an assessment of the state of an organisation's business. To develop a smart strategy that will yield the desired outcomes, it's essential that companies considering RPA deployment ask themselves these three important questions before rolling out the technology:

What do our customers need today?

Before overhauling processes and systems by adding new technologies that claim to deliver tremendous business value, it's imperative that organisations first consider what their customers are demanding. There's no use disrupting operations unless a company has a clear sense of what actually needs to be disrupted. Many companies make the mistake of constructing new ways to deliver the same outcomes for their customers, but this approach doesn't take into account that customers' objectives and needs can evolve. As a result, clients won't see value from these outcomes, even if they're delivered in a better way.

After identifying clients' true needs, an organisation's next step is to consider:

How well are we meeting our clients' needs currently?

As businesses grow, it's common to become complicated by a multitude of stakeholders, processes and systems that accumulate over the years. This becomes problematic, however, when stakeholders and processes start to stifle business opportunity as employees feel bound by particular ways of operating. What's important to recognise is that if a system is no longer delivering customers' desired outcomes – and ultimately a business' desired outcome – that business should re-evaluate the system’s role in the organisation. There is no point in having a smooth-running process that adds no value to the business.

As such, companies should regularly take stock of what current processes and systems are relevant and beneficial to customers' needs today. For those processes that are no longer delivering impact, businesses should evolve or remove them. Eliminating futile systems is critical to the future of work. Futile work takes up valuable resources – both human and virtual – and slows down cycle time. Perhaps more importantly, it creates unnecessary complications, thereby providing greater room for error and more issues for teams to manage.

By streamlining processes and systems, businesses allow themselves more flexibility and stability. As a result, they are better equipped to adapt with the evolving technological landscape and new customer demands.

Once businesses identify where they can cut out futile work to become more agile, they are ready to ask:

How can we update our processes and use the resources available to us to improve our performance?

At this point, businesses will have identified their objectives (based on how they can deliver the most value to their customers) and eliminated outdated processes and systems that challenged their ability to achieve their goals. With a clear line of sight into what they want to accomplish, they are now at the point where they can evaluate the various tools in today's digital toolkit to determine which is best positioned to help them meet their goal.

Rather than jumping to the newest, most advanced automation technology, organisations must weigh tools based on their true worth to their business today. Some may find that the latest AI solution really will give them what they need to set themselves apart from the competition, whereas others may find that traditional desktop scripting is best for moving their businesses forward. Still, more may find tremendous value in an innovative, but well proven, technology, such as robotic process automation. Regardless of the chosen solution, a purposeful approach to a digital operations strategy is the only way to ensure that a business is capable of achieving its goals in a highly efficient way.

Remember: automation is not the answer to process problems; it's an amplifier that allows businesses to perform processes with greater speed, accuracy and agility. However, it provides very little value if it's amplifying a process that's no longer needed. For that reason, it's important for organisations to consider current customer needs, and then the processes and systems that are helping to meet them. Once organisations have a solid framework in place, they can enhance their operations with the automation solutions that will truly move the needle.


« When will the IoT begin exploiting visual data?


News Roundup: Should robots come with 'Black boxes' to record their decision making? »
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

  • Mail

Recommended for You

Trump hits partial pause on Huawei ban, but 5G concerns persist

Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond

FinancialForce profits from PSA investment

Martin Veitch's inside track on today’s tech trends

Future-proofing the Middle East

Keri Allan looks at the latest trends and technologies


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?