Automation, particularly when implemented in small, manageable steps, can bring significant advantages to various sectors, including businesses of all sizes. Starting the journey to automation in incremental stages allows organizations to test, learn, and adapt, reducing the risk of substantial process disruptions. By initially focusing on routine and repetitive tasks, businesses can free up their employees’ time, allowing them to engage in more strategic, creative, and value-adding activities.
As the business becomes more comfortable with automation, it can gradually scale up, automating more complex processes over time. This phased approach allows for the gradual build-up of skills, fosters a better understanding of the technology, and helps inculcate a culture of innovation within the organization.
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Automation in small steps.
How do you use automation in small steps to shift the focus of your team on tasks that need human intelligence?
Any major organization, trying to roll out a large initiative more or less faces the same challenges throughout. Two major challenges that plague such rollouts are the following.
These challenges are not new, small, and big organizations have been impacted by this. Unfortunately, the problem still exists and its side effects are large enough to push any organization to its limits. Every initiative that requires technology comes with built-in unknowns and these unknowns, throw a wrench into any and all planning.
Most of the technology teams that are hit by the unknowns during large rollouts look for breaking through the unknowns by workarounds, these workarounds, unfortunately, are a series of manual / semi-automated steps. Seldom do the technology teams have the luxury of going back and fixing these manual workarounds.
According to PWC’s Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Report, most organizations spend almost 50% of their time focused on mundane tasks, unfortunately, these tasks do not provide the ROI organizations/businesses are planning to see.
Leaders in the organizations should focus on small automation issues as these are not only a drain on the resources deployed across the organization but these are hurdles in allocating resources to the productive roll-out of future initiatives. When technology leadership takes a conscious decision to alleviate these manual tasks, they free up more resources to deal with productive issues.
Since these tasks are mundane and repetitive, the solution is straightforward, these tasks can be automated and help free up critical resources that can help in the delivery of the larger initiatives faster and on time.
Automation in small steps, fortunately, has been improving in technology, speed, scale, and cost. Smart technologies like process automation, AI, ML, NLP offer organizations efficient opportunities to improve performance and processes.
Smaller automation projects solving specific problems can be deployed in shorter sprints, in a flexible manner and multiple technologies that enable new levels of productivity on a rolling basis. When building automation at the enterprise level, we need to drive standardization and centralized processes. Enterprise-level automation can be deployed in smaller chunks in rolling sprints to manage larger capacity and minimize risk.
Small automation improves productivity and efficiency of processes and tasks by over 75%. The PWC’s Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Reportfound that in finance function automation saves 46% time and cost of key processes, hence saving financial professionals doing more critical work than mundane repetitive tasks. This ability to economically solve problems at the team or even task level marks a significant change in business technology.
Using automation to be flexible
Small automation is not a replacement of big automation, but a series of steps to help us get to big automation. It relies on multiple technologies to build on the data and standardized processes that enterprise-level technology has already set up. The small automation approach helps in pivoting/adapting to challenges faced while trying to attain the big automation goal while enabling process improvements.
Small automation solves a particular problem at once and is easier to implement as it is less expensive. The comparison is the cost of a couple of sprints to the cost of full execution of the automation. This also helps in making connections and collaborations at a bite-size level, which are easy to understand and adapt to the team working on the automation while they learn the processes of the organization. For example, the automation team understanding how the sales team works before automating their system in a bite-sized manner.
Small automation is much more flexible than big automation. It helps everybody across different teams come on the same page and prioritize to automate solutions that give a bigger bang for the buck. Technologies enabling small automation are easily configurable and able to learn dynamically. This allows companies to deploy small automation in environments where the input and output are highly variable and require tailored responses.
If the task is repetitive or mundane a machine can do the job efficiently and relieve the team to do work that requires human and emotional intelligence.
Automation is an attitude
Technology leadership should realize that automation is not just a process change for your teams. It is a change in the mindset and how you tackle small challenges as a team that lead you to solve the bigger puzzle.
Small automation can solve specific problems, the leadership team should be able to identify and guide the team towards challenges that give the biggest bang for the buck, not just in the monetary sense. The aim should be to make a bigger change by taking smaller steps. The technology leadership should back its team to chip away at large scale initiatives using automation in small steps.
Conclusion – Automation in small steps.
This would mean improvements not only in the process but in the thought process itself. Once your team has taken these small steps you can start layering more complex technologies with automation. For example, you can use automation and AI to build smarter cybersecurity systems. I have written an article about this and you can find the link here.
This is a small but fundamental part of the process. This is the future and it is here to stay. This approach would mean retooling your people, process, and products to be part of the future of work for your organization. Automation is here to help your team be a smarter workforce, and not to replace teams. Small and smart automation helps the leadership team redeploy resources efficiently and unlock the potential of your team in doing big things that help your organization disrupt the marketplace.
LaWell, Carolyn. “Process Automation: How Small Steps Lead to Large Productivity.” BONEZONE, 6 Mar. 2019, https://bonezonepub.com/2019/03/06/process-automation-how-small-steps-lead-to-large-productivity/. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.