In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology and business, automation stands as both a solution and a challenge. It promises efficiency, speed, and transformative potential, but harnessing its power requires navigating a complex web of considerations. In this blog, we explore the challenges that often accompany automation initiatives while highlighting the paramount importance of embracing automation in today’s world.
The ‘Art of the Possible’
One common challenge in Automation is that people often fail to grasp the full potential of the technology, or the ‘Art of the Possible’. The implications of this failure can include reduced benefits to the organisation, as well as reduced agility.
Powerful capabilities – Automation is fraught with missed potential to leverage feature, function capability inside their existing technologies. Similarly, just because a tool has a feature, it does not mean you must use it. Do you use RPA here, a script or an orchestration tool incorporating RPA, scripts, and other Automations you already have in place?
The most important aspect of implementing advanced automation is to ensure this driven by business need. The core objectives should be defined by the business without consideration of technology. This should also not be constrained by stakeholders’ assumptions on the feasibility or how the automation will be achieved. This pure business focus avoids the pitfalls of:
- Ownership: Automation initiatives should be owned by the business with IT as essential stakeholders and enablers. This ensures focus on the big picture and strategic objectives being driven by the dynamics of the business.
- Design: Automation must be designed around the business need not functional capabilities of technologies. When business automations are adjusted and designed around technologies, it not only constrains thinking and benefits, but also distorts the strategic focus and puts strains on business operations.
- Assumptions: Too often stakeholders will make decisions on what processes can be automated or not based on their perspective of what is achievable. The focus must be on what is required to achieve the business objective and the realisable benefits. Only once these have been defined can the feasibility be evaluated and the appropriate technologies to deliver the requirements identified.
By this we mean automation that addresses end-to-end business operations, not isolated task or process automation.
Failure is the default result for “big bang” transformative automation initiatives. This was the underpinning driver behind the creation and subsequent success of Agile execution methodology. The timelines for achieving these kinds of ambitious initiatives ignore the dynamics of business reality. Business changes and adapts at a faster rate than a big bang approach can achieve. Even if they reach completion, they are most often the best solution for yesterday’s problems.
Enterprise Ready Automation
Beware! Allowing lots of uncontrolled Automation is a business-critical hazard! A core challenge for enterprise scale automation is coherently managing deployed automations. This requirement extends well beyond just version control.
For Enterprise-wide automation it is essential that the following aspects need to be considered:
Version Management: Of note here relates to low/no code platforms where visualisation is key. This should also permit simultaneous deployment in production environments of different versions of an automation.
Role Based Access Control (RBAC): capable platforms for developers, automations, and consumers (end users).
Developer Communities: Repositories and visibility should enable multi-developer working, contributions and management of automations in a frictionless manner.
Modularisation and re-suability: Automations must be able to be managed in a modular fashion that enables them to be linked together to create powerful end to end orchestrations. Parameterisation of automations also enhances the ability to re-use automations across different departments, business units and businesses.
Automation can only be successful if people trust it and the benefits are demonstrable. The best way of achieving this is to start with automating core scenarios in a specific focus area. This approach enables focus on achieving the highest success possible with the automated scenarios. This can only be achieved with reliable and consistent exception handling capabilities and embedded in the automation design.
This needs to catch exceptions at a granular level and hand them off to operators in a known state with as much information as possible permitting efficient manual completion. Correctly implemented, this quickly builds trust and confidence while also clearly demonstrating the benefits of the automation. The bulk of the volume should be handled by the automation with the minority requiring manual activities and this “mopping up” of exceptions is much more efficient due to the enrichment provided in the handoff. Incremental improvements and extensions of the automations demonstrably reduce the manual volumes and make the benefits tangible.
Organisation and People
Analysts and consultants are unanimous that the biggest challenges automation faces are not technical- they are people and process. The people aspect includes broad aspects across the whole business and business operations. Key aspects to address are:
Executive sponsorship and vision: Transformative automation must be visibly driven by an executive and strategic directive towards a clearly articulated vision.
Organisational Readiness: The business operations must be adjusted to cater for the migration to increased automation. This not only includes clear identification of roles and responsibilities but also how the automations will be identified, designed, implemented, and supported. Skills, career, and manning must also be clear.
Stakeholder Involvement: The involvement of all stakeholders in automation initiatives is central to success. It brings all skills, people, and knowledge to the table. This minimises process, technical and people risks and is central to addressing cultural adjustment.
Cultural Readiness: Vested interests, resistance to change and fear of job loss are major impediments to automation. All the above contribute to creating an environment where automation can be successful.
There is nothing quite so effective as an automation initiative to expose poorly defined or understood processes. Even where businesses have diligently documented business processes, they can uncover significant gaps and variances when looking to automate these. The root causes are clear, people are innovative and adaptable so they will make processes work because it is their job. They also adapt incrementally and seamlessly to the dynamics of changing business needs, personnel, and circumstances. Reality diverges from a documented business process from the moment it is published. When automating, it is always prudent to re-evaluate business processes in depth as part of the “as-is” capture and stakeholder sessions.
Too often businesses will introduce Automation or Automation capability without fully understanding their processes, leading to either failure or material operational issues. Automation accelerates, multiplies, or amplifies ‘the Good’ but also ‘the Bad’. Automation can damage your business so quickly and so profoundly, that great caution must be observed when introducing it. Each organisation must balance how to achieve this caution, without being so risk adverse to harm progress and innovation.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Another common challenge in Automation is what is known as ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.’ It refers to your candidates for Automation. What processes should you pick? The ‘Good’ refers to clean and repeatable processes that are easy to automate. The ‘Bad’ refers to processes that are less clean and less repeatable but can still be automated. Finally, the ‘Ugly’ refers to unstructured processes that are difficult or which will be more than incredibly challenging to automate.
Surveys have shown that businesses may struggle with Automation for a variety of reasons, including a lack of understanding of the process they are attempting to automate. To ensure successful Automation, businesses must understand their processes thoroughly and identify specific benefits (for example ROI). *
Importance of Automation
For a CSP, Automation is important in a number of ways. These include:
Process Cycle Time Reduction: Automation plays a vital role in reducing the time it takes to complete tasks or processes, enhancing efficiency and responsiveness across a CSP.
Process Unit Cost Reduction: Automation can lower the cost of producing goods or delivering services, contributing to improved competitiveness and profitability.
Reduction/Elimination of FTE (Full-Time Equivalent): Through Automation, organisations can reduce or eliminate the need for additional full-time employees, leading to potential cost savings and resource allocation efficiency.
Increase in Capacity: Automation enables organisations to scale operations, accommodating higher workloads and capability expansion without proportionally increasing human labour.
Increase in Agility: Embracing Automation fosters a more agile business environment, allowing CSPs to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands.
Increase in Accuracy/Quality: Automation enhances precision and consistency in tasks, leading to higher quality outputs and reduced error rates.
Increase in Predictability: Automation brings greater predictability to processes, helping organisations better forecast outcomes and make informed decisions. This can increase their reliability and competitiveness.
Implementing Automation in telecommunication operations can hugely drive efficiency, innovation and improved customer experiences. But, it also brings various challenges for CSPs.
These include data management and integration, security and compliance, technical complexity, cost considerations, scalability and flexibility, and change management; and CSPs must address these challenges effectively to successfully leverage automation across their business. With careful planning, collaboration, and a positive change mindset, CSPs can navigate these challenges and unlock the full potential of Automation in their operations.
If you want to find out more about the challenges of Automation for CSPs, download our free eBook A Buyer’s Guide to Automation for CSPs.