The increasing complexity of modern organizations pleads for simplification. A multitude of data streams are flowing into our offices on a daily basis and subsequently overwhelming us and our capacity to analyze them. Business planning professionals report, for instance, spending only 25 percent of their time on value-creating analysis, and most of the remainder on manual tasks like data gathering (42 percent) and process administration (33 percent). And according to Gartner research, CFOs reported losing an entire business day each week to lower-value activities. The loss of our time to unproductive work is costing us our bottom line and, in some cases, our own well-being.
Businesses that intelligently automate their most repetitive or complex tasks will find that their talent is freed up to focus on creating value through what humans are best at: creative problem-solving, innovative thinking, and humanizing the customer experience. Those that don’t automate will find themselves constantly trying to play catch-up in the marketplace. But despite knowing this, many organizations are still struggling to implement automated processes in an effective way.
And just because a process has been automated doesn’t mean it doesn’t require evaluation and tweaking. I offer three ways that organizations can improve their implementation of automation.
1. Communicate with those who will work with the newly automated systems
An automated process still has to be understood and overseen by someone—whether employee or customer—and if the process is not intuitive, it fails to be maximally efficient. If we insert automation into processes in ways people don’t understand or don’t need, we risk introducing new errors into a system we were trying to reduce errors in. Instead, sit down with your users (internal or external) to ask them what is and isn’t going well with their current processes.
Shadow them while they go through their task flows and see where they’re getting bogged down in manual tasks or confusing systems that don’t communicate. This is also an opportunity to build buy-in on automation by proving to team members and customers that the organization is taking their needs seriously.
For example, look at Zimmer a global leader in musculoskeletal health care and joint replacement systems with $7.8 billion in sales in 2022. Zimmer was struggling with “Excel hell” and excessive manual data input, and users were constantly overwhelmed by multiple data sources and a lack of visibility. They decided to do a two-day test workshop with Jedox to see if the platform could meet their users’ needs. After a successful workshop, Zimmer was able to configure all their solution interfaces and start defining their first reports. This consideration of needs should be repeated frequently throughout the implementation process to ensure that things are going the way you planned, and that expectations are aligned and what and where to automate.
2. Define the problem and its scope before starting
Once you’ve conducted some initial research and begun to build buy-in, you need to identify which processes are easily automated and which ones are better off left alone. Don’t do things piecemeal—make sure you have thought through the entire scope of the problem you’re trying to solve before investing more time and money.
3. Observe, test and tweak—constantly
Once you understand how an automated solution can and can’t solve your organization’s problems and have created a plan for implementing it intelligently, constantly observe and test during implementation. Make tweaks to account for the particular needs and habits of your organization and your customers. Take note of any previously-unforeseen difficulties and go through the same observe-and-define process from above, working closely with your users so they develop a sense of ownership and understanding.
As automation becomes more commonplace and less revolutionary, the organizations that are able to automate their business processes intelligently will find themselves out-performing their competition.
The author, Tim Caudill, has over two decades of domain expertise primarily focusing on financial software implementation as well as leading corporate finance teams. As Director of Solution Advisory at Jedox, Inc., he is responsible for showing how Enterprise Performance Management solutions advance the digital transformation journey.