Creating Business Value with Digital Process Automation
For many companies, Digital Process Automation (DPA) is the easiest way to justify increased investment in digital technology. The benefits of automating and improving previously manual processes are realized almost immediately, and determining ROI is straightforward.
This is in contrast with understanding the direct business value of a cloud migration or building out data and analytics solutions. They require a deeper understanding of your value stream and the bottlenecks that these technologies eliminate. Without this knowledge, their value may not be quickly perceived.
30,000-foot view of the digital technology value proposition
Before we dig deeper into what digital process automation can do for your business, here’s a quick, 30,000-foot view of the digital technology value proposition:
More cost-efficient computing models: Cloud platforms have changed the computing landscape, making it affordable and relatively easy for any business to leverage advanced computing technologies to create innovative digital solutions. With pay-as-you-go and pay-for-what-you-use fee structures, along with a reduced need for IT maintenance staff, a good cloud strategy can lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a company’s digital technology infrastructure while enabling more powerful computing capabilities within an organization.
Enabling “data-driven-ness”: Data and analytics are making companies smarter at what they do, and enabling them to make more informed, accurate decisions across the entire organization. Improved decision-making translates into better performance and an improved ability to win market share.
Creating efficiency through process automation: Digital transformation is forcing companies to rethink activities across their organizations to figure out how to intelligently improve them. At the core of this is digital process automation (DPA). DPA applies digital technology, data, and analytics to automate previously manual tasks and processes so that companies can work faster, better, and cheaper.
The need for urgency
Digital technology is transforming industries, giving companies that figure out how to use it the most effectively a competitive advantage that translates into greater market share and increased profitability.
We’ve noted that companies who are maximizing the benefits of digital transformation all have a clear digital technology vision and are implementing a strategy to get there. Through dedicated effort and deliberate action, they’ve uncovered the answers to the most common questions we hear from leaders of small-to-midsize businesses (SMB):
Why exactly is digital technology so game-changing?
How do competitors use it to create true market advantages?
What are the specific use cases that provide the value to justify investing in digital solutions as a top organizational priority?
With this in mind, our goal with this blog is to help SMB leaders better understand specifically how companies are leveraging digital technologies to create market advantages. Our hope is this will help you identify ways that you can do the same for your company.
Back to digital process automation (DPA)
Traditional business process management (BPM) focuses on analyzing and improving how the people in your workforce complete tasks and processes, but the goal of DPA is to shift their workload, or parts of it, to machines to increase productivity and efficiency. This frees your staff to work on higher-value tasks and strategic priorities.
If done right, DPA:
Saves Time: By automating repetitive manual tasks across your organization.
Reduces Costs: By lowering the man hours that it takes to accomplish tasks.
Increases Accuracy: By leveraging computer algorithms that eliminate human error.
Use cases for Digital Process Automation
From sales and marketing to operations and customer service, companies have virtually unlimited opportunities to leverage automation to create efficiencies. While the use cases that provide the most value will vary by company, the following are some of the most common:
Purchase Order (PO) Generation:
This is one of the most common DPA use cases - automating the triggering of POs when raw material inventories drop below certain levels. For many companies, this is a high-priority / high-value DPA use case because PO generation is repetitive and can potentially cause significant delays that directly impact productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.
All manufacturers aim to maximize the capacity of their production resources. Ineffective and inaccurate production scheduling that fails to maximize the use of a company’s resources has a direct impact on profitability. DPA is frequently used to automate or semi-automate production scheduling processes.
New Customer Onboarding:
Onboarding new customers requires collecting a lot of information from them and setting up their accounts in multiple systems, along with many other tasks. Organizations can automate many steps in this process using DPA to provide a quicker and more user-friendly onboarding experience.
Customer Service Management:
Happy clients are the key to business success. Using DPA, organizations can create superior customer experiences that make their customers want to stay with them even more. Activities such as service requests, product inquiries, and contract renewal can be executed by chatbots and other automation tools.
IT Service Requests:
Most companies struggle with IT request management. Using DPA, many are automating the management and execution of routine IT service requests, reducing resource requirements to service these requests, as well as freeing valuable IT staff to spend more time on more value-added tasks.
New Hire Onboarding:
Employee onboarding involves completing forms, gathering documentation, setting up training sessions, assigning assets, etc. Many of these steps can be automated with DPA.
For many companies, monthly invoicing is a time-consuming, repetitive process that involves several levels of approval. Companies that have embraced DPA have automated these processes, making invoicing faster, less error-prone, and better aligned for audits.
Another function commonly improved with DPA is contract management. Instead of a time-consuming process using physical contracts, online forms can be automatically generated as legally binding digital documents.
How to identify a DPA use case for your company
Identifying and prioritizing the use cases that will provide the best value or ROI for your organization is a challenging process. Choosing the wrong process to automate can lead to unsuccessful projects that not only fail to create the expected business value but may also leave an incorrect impression regarding DPA’s potential for your business - ultimately impacting your company’s future.
Here’s how you can avoid that outcome:
Start with a pilot program: Instead of trying to “boil the ocean” with a broad and aggressive DPA implementation plan, we recommend you start small. Find a high-priority, high-impact manual process that is repetitive and time-consuming. Build a solution for it and prove its value. This will help you build organizational support and excitement about expanding to other activities. The more excitement you can create, the more engaged your workforce will be, significantly improving your ability to successfully drive broad DPA adoption. People are key.
Create a cross-functional DPA Fusion Team: Assemble a multidisciplinary team that blends business and technology domain expertise to share accountability for project outcomes. IT (or a technology partner) should oversee the implementation of the project while your business users monitor the impact of the pilot through prior agreed-upon KPIs.
Pick the Right Process: Spend time finding the ideal process to pilot for automation. Have your Fusion Team facilitate brainstorming sessions to ID good “process candidates”. Here are some questions you can ask to help ID good DPA prospects:
Is the activity high volume, repeatable, and standardized?
Is the process prone to manual errors?
Does the process have clearly defined business rules?
Does the process involve a lot of manual input?
Is the process monotonous and time-consuming?
Does it frustrate your staff?
The overwhelming majority of SMB business leaders we’ve spoken to agree that implementing some sort of digital transformation strategy is crucial for business growth and sustainability. After they fully understand the value of solutions such as digital process automation, they always point at the elephant in the room - the lack of access to affordable talent to help them create their digital technology strategy and implement it. We’ll talk about this in next week’s blog.
Are you clear on how digital technology, data, and analytics are changing your industry and the competitive landscape? How well-equipped are you to keep your market share? Take this free 13-point online digital technology self-assessment to find out.
You’ll receive a detailed report based on your responses, with step-by-step instructions on how you can implement best practices to help you get the most value out of digital technology solutions for your organization.