Katie Gibbs

Katie Gibbs

I’ve seen a lot of companies take a top-down approach to automation, and the result tends to be that they automate a process that didn’t actually take much time or effort to complete in the first place.

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is a hot topic at the moment. For a lot of people IPA is the combination of Robotic Process Automation technology with Machine Learning in order to go further than if-this-then-that automated processes.

However, at BJSS we don’t believe that you need a Robotic Process Automation licence in order to utilise Intelligent Process Automation. IPA should be about optimising your processes to augment your workforce, and you don’t need to sign up to a lengthy and costly licence in order to benefit from process automation. Instead, we take the approach of combining our years of experience in process improvement and re-engineering with Machine Learning (although only when it will add value) in order to optimise workflows.

If you haven’t yet signed on the dotted line for a licence agreement with an RPA tool, then I hope to give you pause for thought. Using an out-the-box technology and applying it to numerous, varied processes may not be the optimal approach. What’s more, most RPA companies focus on reducing headcount as a means to ensure a Return on Investment, which we don’t believe is the best approach to take with automation. Most processes will need some level of human intervention in order get optimal value, so you may get halfway through implementing an RPA tool and then realise that you cannot automate the end to end process, meaning you will need to retain resources which you weren’t expecting and will therefore struggle to meet the ROI to justify the investment.

Instead of focusing on cutting headcount, you should be exploring how you can make the most of your employees knowledge of processes to identify which pain points to address. We do this by engaging with end users from day one to understand how IPA can improve their day-to-day tasks, so that we can focus on making your workforce more efficient but still relying upon human skills where needed in order to deliver optimal value to the organisation. Not only does this allow us to address the right processes, but it also enables us to engage with the people running these processes day in day out from the start, and we keep them involved the whole way through the automation journey so that they can help us design and iteratively deliver improved processes that work for them.

I’ve seen a lot of companies take a top-down approach to automation, and the result tends to be that they automate a process that didn’t actually take much time or effort to complete in the first place. Not only is this a waste of time and effort, but it also alienates the workforce. It sends a clear message to your teams that automation is going to be used whether they like it or not, and that you’re not interested in hearing from them about. Imagine how much more powerful the message is when you’re working with the end users to design automation that will make it easier and less stressful to do their jobs on a daily basis.

You will only get maximum value from new technologies if you combine them with the business knowledge that your employees possess. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about using AI to augment people’s roles in the workforce is because if you only view AI as a means to cut heads, and therefore costs, then this will massively impact the company culture, which has a far reaching effect. 88% of employees believe that a distinct workplace culture is important to business success, so it will become increasingly difficult to retain and attract talent in the longer term if your workforce becomes disengaged when people start to lose their jobs due to the introduction of new technologies. This disengagement will spread beyond the teams impacted by automation; if a company is cutting heads then even the teams that aren’t under threat will consider leaving, meaning that an exodus of the staff that you need to carry on business as usual is increasingly likely due to the hostile environment created for employees. Such a move is also likely receive negative publicity, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how ethical companies are and see the way they treat their staff as a reflection of how they treat their customers.  It’s worth noting that 86% of employees would not apply or continue to work for a company that has a bad reputation with former employees and the public, with 65% being likely to leave if their employer is being negatively portrayed in the news or social media.

The short-term decrease in costs that you may achieve are not worth the toxic culture that you risk creating in the long-term. Companies should be exploring how they can empower their human workforce with technology, not replace them. If you are working with automation, then pause for a moment to think about how it will impact you Employee Value Proposition, as you have a great opportunity to get your workforce involved, engaged and upskilled in new technologies so that they can help drive forward your automation agenda in a way that works for your employees.

We are different to other consultancies – we don’t partner with technology companies and we don’t receive commission, which is why we are going against the grain and don’t recommend signing an RPA licence. We focus on what’s best for you and your employees, so you won’t see us working in isolation so that clients become reliant on us. Instead, we work collaboratively with organisations to engage end users from the very beginning to make the most of their invaluable insights and, as we develop new and improved processes, we upskill them in the approach we take and the technologies used so that they learn new skills and ways of working. If you would like some independent, agnostic advice on automation, or would like to build out your own automation capability that won’t be reliant on a third party, then please get in touch.