Gone are the uninspired and terminal perceived benefits of deploying process automation technologies to business as a cost saver through sole FTE reduction. By now, most realise that the real benefits of, and savings from, process automation are elsewhere in the mix.
Digitalisation of business operations through automation brings direct and indirect cost savings among other benefits, and it also requires investment in and commitment to building new enterprise capabilities. The cost savings here are much more meaningful to a business than a contributor's paycheck. And the other benefits, largely over-sighted, are the actual contributors to adding heaps to your service relevancy, sustainability, and competitive advantage. The investments made are in business transformation, workforce development, and in acquiring and operating the right business technologies.
First, a successful business continuously and gradually transforms to meet the expected demands of its surrounding market environment.
Second, a successful business returns to its top-line the investments made in its workforce and is concerned in practically magnifying the effects of its workforce's actual performance to reach new levels (i.e augmenting) - rather than decreasing it (i.e. replacing).
Third, a successful business operates the right technology to meet its business users' and customers' demands for best in class service.
In any other cases or scenarios: that same business most likely has more pressing priorities to tend to as to achieve appropriate service sustainability and competitive ability in an always changing services market. Also alternatively, that same business has leaps to make as to achieve internal as-is efficiency. And lastly, that business must acknowledge that not adapting to and adopting the right new technology is the fastest route to becoming irrelevant in our modern services market.
Observers see how the drastic concept of automating-to-remove rather than automating-to-improve had originally found its way to and then tagged an emerging technology and industry. Now, before describing the real benefits of achieving Digital Process Operations, it is important to pinpoint the fallacies surrounding the automating-to-remove concept-tag. Here we address the fallacies themselves rather than the origins of this tag and its implications on industries.
The fallacy of Automation as a Zero-Sum Game
At the core of the automating-to-remove concept tag is the cognitive bias of zero-sum thinking.
Your interests, you lose. My interests, I win. That is zero-sum in a nutshell. And that is the logic behind the automating-to-remove concept. Automating processes to remove FTEs assumes that there can only be winners and losers, and underpins that the losses of the losers are aligned with the benefits of the winners in a constant-value universe.
While that is a seemingly perfectionist view, yet it is poker-naive and not the one with benefit to any given group or business. It is also an approach that is not sustainable. On the other hand you have the more realistic areas of overlapping interest, that is where the benefit is found and maximised for the same given group of businesses or a business.
When it comes to business operations automation, the non-zero-sum view is not only the viable choice, but it is also the key enabler of the prerequisites to achieving Digital Process Operations. In short, you may be able to automate-to-remove in a process, but that effectively hinders your chances of bringing the right contributors together in the triangle of digitalization. Meanwhile, automating-to-improve enables the three contributing sides of the same triangle. Yes, the three sided shape is simple enough to clarify the three major prerequisites of DigOps.
The fallacy of Automatic Automation
Deploying an automation successfully to operations is only possible after careful and sufficient process discovery, and after an artful build and configuration of a process solution, and after a consideration and adaptation of the transformed environment in which the automation is expected to operate.
The fallacy here is buying-with-expectation of instant deployment, or in expectation of a magic wand, while the truth is that there is no ready made process automation to deploy. In fact, all three time-to-value and cost and effort of process technologies have sharply decreased over the last two decades, but not completely vanished. The chances for an operational end to end ready-made bot matching your process needs are slim if not close to none. With that said, some RPA vendors provide useful components which can be part of an overall automation. Buying with expectation of achieving desirable results through commitment and investment is closer to what you're looking for.
This fallacy in automation being automatic is concerned with automating what it takes to automate in the first place. For example: both automated process discovery or record-to-deploy are quite ambitious. In fact, a tool to overcome the scarcity of competent process analysts, who are able to absorb what it takes to perform a process in a business at an automation suitable level is in demand by automation adopters. Although, an inherent limitation to developing such tools is that process discovery itself is not a repeatable structured process, and thinking that each and every business process can be discovered automatically to magically fit in operational contexts is fallacy.
In conclusion, even the currently most advanced, formalised, and applied form of automated process discovery, namely: process mining, does not remotely provide to aid the keystroke level, click-stream level, and atomic-action level requirements of robotic process automation. If process mining or record-to-deploy construct process models from key-click streams, then, automating as such could miss the entire business context of the process being automated. There isn't a way around it, the competencies for performing process automation cannot be automated just yet.
The fallacy of Deploying-to-Forget
At the outskirts of automating-to-remove is the illusion of the empty office. While effective in scaring your workforce away, if that's what you're looking for, yet it does not do much to assure the continued operations of your new transformed business.
Rather than configuring to deploy, operate, monitor, and maintain, some dream of configure, deploy, and forget. But, in more traditional business terms, do you expect to design a business operation, bring it to action, and forget about it? Probably not. A manual traditional business operation can be compared to a new automated business operation in that both are results-focused and value-oriented. These two contrasted models, and the different levels of automation in between, carry differences in how they are operated.
Similar to traditional business processes, automated and semi-automated ones still require the post-deployment effort, but in new terms. An automated or semi-automated process is enhanced by the automation system, it behaves and responds differently to environment changes, and requires a different and more lightweight set of post-deployment operating activities. Hence: transformation, not magic.
The fallacies from Positioning
These are quite messy. As with any early adoption curve, there are always questions asked. Some of these questions require serious thought before enacting in a business, while others are quite entertaining.
What is this? is it business? is it IT? is it software development? is it Agile? is it operations doing their own IT thing? is it allowed? is my department going to disappear? what if we get hacked? are the robots taking over? what if a robot misbehaves? will we have robot managers? isn't our IT already automating things? is my new robot also on the payroll? does the bot have a name? but you see, our HR needs the birth date of the software, does the bot have a birth certificate? And, we have already automated this a long time ago.
Do I say more? It is none of the above. For starters, see build a lean RPA practice, and add RPA to your BPM practice. There isn't much traditional nor groundbreaking about building and operating a digital workforce other than what is found in business and technology common sense and business process management. Look no further. Keep it simple.
The Real Benefits of Digital Process Operations
Now, having -possibly- cleared some of the thorny fallacies related to automating-to-remove, it's time to touch upon the real benefits of automating-to-improve. Keeping in mind that RPA is currently the most suitable starting point for bringing your business closer to the more intelligent future of Digital Process Operations.