Business Process Automation: What Will be Left for People to do?

Digital transformation is revolutionising the way business processes are managed.  Rather than merely evolving over time, processes are undergoing wholesale change in order to adapt the challenges faced by digital businesses, and yet while advances such as digitalisation, BPM and the introduction of AI have obvious benefits, many workers regard them with fear. How can businesses convince employees of the opportunities inherent in automation and eliminate resistance to innovation?

Automation: Efficiency for the digital economy

Thanks to digital transformation, we are witnessing the biggest growth in the BPM market for 20 years. Many Business Process Management (BPM) tools and processes currently in use were developed in the 1990’s. At the time, they provided a relevant response to the need for business processes optimisation. Today, the need is different. Players in the BPM sector are making a 360° turn – moving away from improving the processes and focusing instead on changing them. In fact, the world is evolving so rapidly that it is becoming necessary to introduce new models.

Automation is becoming a necessity – regulations, complex taxation, short accounting milestones, stronger customer commitments (SLA) – are increasing the volume of work that needs to be done quickly and accurately. The only way to keep up is by using technologies to improve management, promote performance and reduce the occurrence of errors.

Achieving this level of efficiency is a two stage process. First, businesses need to make their processes as transparent as possible, secondly, they need to automate the processes in order to increase operational performance and achieve competitive advantage in the market. But in the midst of all this automation, exactly what role remains for humans?

Better communication for better automation

The automation of company processes is a subject that has often evoked feelings of fear. In the minds of some employees, “efficiency” means uncertainty, either due to a reduction in the number of staff, or a change in their position. From this perspective, the prospect of automation is at best unappealing, and at worst demotivating.

Communication plays a vital role in overcoming these obstacles of perception. Awareness – something which is often forgotten during major transformation projects – takes on its full meaning when managing any kind of change. To begin with, it’s important to have a good understanding of the interdependent objectives of the various processes, as well as the end user benefits that will come from automation. These can then be implemented in the form of a communication plan that is adapted to the automation project and makes the benefits of the project clear to all users. With this information at hand, it becomes easy to focus on the benefits, objectives and messages that are appropriate for any given audience or channel. This is especially useful because, after all, employees are rarely a homogenous block: they are a diverse group, with diverse needs, priorities and preoccupations. Clearly defining your messages makes it easier to engage in direct communication and to tailor messages to groups or individuals. Using this technique, your communication will have more impact, especially if transmitted with the support of line managers.

Automation for better innovation

One often overlooked benefit of automation is its potential to free up employee time and skills, giving them more scope to make an active contribution to business growth. In other words, employees play a key role! By taking the time to understand the challenges employees face with regard to BPM, you will find it easier to help them embrace the opportunity to take on a more strategic role. This is made even easier when your chosen BPM solution is geared towards collaboration. The advent of all things digital is driving BPM tools towards a more human-centric model and this delivers three main advantages:

  • Greater team collaboration
    Platforms which combine omnichannel capture and BPM make it easier to exchange  information between employees. It can be hard to centralise this data across different channels and locations, but if information is gathered using a single and shared platform and integrated within ad hoc processes (BPM), actions and decisions are synchronised more easily.
  • Greater innovation
    Choosing automation means allowing your employees to focus on tasks with a high level of added value – repetitive tasks can be managed by technology, freeing people to innovate. And BPM tools, as they allow for fast modelling of your processes, will accelerate the time-to-market of this innovation.
  • More comfort
    The automation of processes allows you to gain a certain level of comfort in the workplace, as employees are freed from repetitive tasks; but they are also granted simplified access to information in the company, and collaborative functions are enabled. This way, BPM tools promote the involvement of employees in achieving business objectives and reduce stress.

 

Given the existence of automation and digital technology, the role of humans is now more than ever at the centre of the company, for two reasons: a) the implementation of a BPM platform implies a real integration of the employees more than anything else; and b) because it allows for relationships in the workplace to become more fluid and to focus on tasks with higher added value, such as analysis and innovation. Humans may benefit from the support of new digital technologies, but they are the real masters of the game. And with their powers now strengthened by automation, they can get ready to deliver real competitive advantage.

 

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Post by Francesca Timpson

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