Automation at Scale: Key Considerations for Enterprise-Wide Initiatives

by | May 16, 2023 | Automation

Automation yields many benefits for businesses—greater operational efficiency, more meaningful work, digital transformation wins, reduced costs, and more. Taking it to the next level requires strategic scaling, which can amplify all of these advantages. 

Automation at scale can be challenging, however, with many factors that impact its ramp-up and continuation. The results are worth the effort and critical to your future success as customer demands and employee needs continue to evolve.

How do you know it’s time to scale? Let’s look at key considerations for enterprise-wide initiatives.

When’s the Right Time to Scale?

Many drivers can accelerate your scaling timeline. In a lot of cases, the reasons for scaling originate from gaps within your organization. These could be gaps in process, people, or technology. You can bridge the gaps with automation at scale. There are four key issues that signify it’s time to scale.

Labor Shortages and Maximizing the Value of Existing Employees

Many organizations are struggling to hire and retain workers. Several components are magnifying this constant challenge. Unemployment is low and new job creation continues to surge, creating a competitive landscape. Additionally, budget restraints may keep you from adding employees or backfilling open positions. 

As a result, you have to do more with less. Labor issues are often an indicator that it’s time to expand operations. You might also prioritize scaling so that the employees you have can focus on more high-level work instead of burdensome, repetitive tasks. This type of work keeps them from being productive, and it’s not a small issue; according to a 2017 study, 90 percent of employees were “burdened” with repetitive tasks that could be automated.

Keeping Up with Customer Demands

Scaling may be a necessity as a result of customer demands. For example, say your customer base has grown tremendously. It’s a good problem to have, but you must ensure you can manage and support them. Because you’re already dealing with labor shortages, you’ll need to leverage scaled automation to improve how customers interact with your business or use your product. 

On the back end, scaling helps you be more responsive with customer service. Through automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at scale, you can provide digital robot support to agents and offer self-service options. 

Launching New Products or Services

The catalyst for scaling could be introducing new products or services to the market. You want to make your new offerings accessible and streamlined so there are no hiccups for new customers. It may also help you stay competitive. With both simple and sophisticated scaled automation, these initiatives don’t have to cause additional strain on your human resources. 

Growing an Automation Program from Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

Expanding your existing automation programs beyond Robotic Process Automation (RPA) likely requires scalability. Scaling RPA involves digital robots that can assume rules-based, repeatable processes and significantly impact operational efficiency. You can do even more with automation when you enhance it with AI and Machine Learning (ML). Combining these propels you to the next level—Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)—which allows you to do more with your data, analytics, and decision-making, thereby magnifying the value of automation for your company.

Is your organization at one of the above milestones? If so, you’ll want to explore the benefits you can achieve by scaling automation.

Benefits of Scaling Automation

When working toward scaling, you’ll want to quantify the return on your investment. These benefits run parallel with your goals and objectives for using automation. Here are the details of what you can realize.

  • Cost reduction: Scaled automation drives efficiency and productivity, affecting your overall business costs. In most cases, you’ll do more within a defined time frame than you were able to before. Another result of automation is a reduction of headcount needed for operations.
  • Streamlined processes: An effective workflow powered by automation virtually eliminates errors, improves accuracy, and ensures consistency.
  • Operational efficiency: Automation can optimize any process, increasing operational efficiency throughout the enterprise. You gain greater visibility into processes, uncovering barriers and addressing them. Eliminate waste across your organization and bolster productivity. 
  • Support for digital transformation: Automating a few areas of the business won’t be enough to accomplish digital transformation initiatives. Scaled automation will get you close to these goals by focusing on technology, processes, and methodologies. Automation enables you to modernize and adapt your business for digital transformation, yielding value, efficiency, and innovation.
  • Employee retention: Scaled automation reduces the administrative workload on your most valuable resources—your people. When they can direct their efforts toward more strategic work, they’ll be more engaged and satisfied, resulting in longer tenures.
  • Delighted customers: When you implement automation into processes, your customers will notice. The automation could be customer-facing (e.g., self-service) or purely on the back end. Automation increases responsiveness and can improve the customer experience at every touchpoint. 
  • Greater agility and adaptability: These attributes are critical for any modern business. No matter the industry, you have to be able to pivot on short notice. Automation is always adaptable to change and offers you a new type of flexibility in how you operate. 
  • Improved compliance and less risk: For any company that must follow regulations and keep compliance top of mind, scaled automation is an excellent tool. It can contribute to your auditing process and be a checks-and-balances solution to enhance your compliance posture. 
  • Increased revenue: Automation at scale has bottom-line results, too. All the benefits above show how automation contributes to a well-run organization that operates smoothly, making you the best option for your customers. 
  • Deeper insights to fuel better decision-making: Data is the new business currency. When you can harness it, you’ll be making data-driven decisions faster. Automation supports the aggregation of data from multiple sources as well as its analysis. 

These benefits contribute greatly to your organization’s growth, employee satisfaction, and customer experiences. But you won’t get there overnight—or without some careful planning.

Steps to Take to Achieve Automation at Scale

The path toward scaling can include some detours and wrong turns. You can get there faster with less friction by defining the precise steps you’ll take along the way.

Define Your Business Goal

First and foremost, you need to have a specific business goal for scaling and be able to clearly articulate how a scaled end-to-end process will help you meet your objective. Examples of goals include:

  • Improve the employee experience and create more meaningful work.
  • Process data faster and more efficiently to act on real-time insights.
  • Gain efficiency with streamlined processes while decreasing the time and resources required for decision-making.
  • Increase accuracy by reducing errors prevalent in manual tasks and processes.
  • Reduce costs in processes that have bloated expenses because they are manual and time-intensive.
  • Achieve decision automation to support your human workers.  
  • Ensure you have the right internal talent, experts, and consultants from the beginning.
  • Get buy-in from leadership and employees.

After defining the goal, proceed with these steps:

  • Use Process Mining to identify the actual steps within a process.
  • Establish and cultivate a Center of Excellence (CoE).
  • Extend capabilities across the enterprise and decentralize governance.
  • Expand executive sponsorship to a broader group of stakeholders.
  • Ensure business process owners remain engaged with the automation program as drivers of their own destiny.
  • Understand the future of IPA tools and capabilities to continue to innovate.
  • Initiate a readiness plan for change management.

These phases take time and effort. After you achieve your initial goal, stay open to opportunities for continual improvement and optimization. 

Avoid These Pitfalls in Scaling Automation

Before you set off on the journey, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with some common pitfalls to avoid: 

  • Focusing on one executive sponsorship: Push for broader enterprise buy-in to have the scope to scale.
  • Selecting technology too early: Define the business value and expected outcomes before investing in technology platforms and tools. As you map out processes, decisions, and complexities, you’ll gain more clarity to help you make decisions about technology.
  • Ignoring the human element: Decision automation can be powerful for your business, but it still needs the watchful eye of humans. For example, you should establish human-in-the-loop (HITL) principles alongside AI and ML to leverage machine and human intelligence. It’s a crucial aspect of scaling. Companies that use HITL principles are more likely than others to achieve scale.
  • Thinking that data quality doesn’t matter: Scaling will falter fast when you make decisions based on poor-quality data. It’s critical to address this before you shift to scaling and decisioning.

Automation at Scale Success Stories

What does automation at scale success look like? These examples demonstrate the potential of scaling.

  • Contact Centers: Start with scaled RPA to accomplish ticket tagging, integrating support software with other applications, moving content to new fields automatically, and more. Then layer in scaled IPA for self-service, providing context via knowledge articles to agents, smart routing, and more. 
  • Healthcare: Scaled automation can support healthcare organizations in many ways. A great example is using it to streamline and improve end-to-end workflows for EHRs. Doing so reduces the time clinicians have to interact with technology and reduces errors.
  • Manufacturing: Automation is prevalent in manufacturing in many ways. Looking at scaled RPA and IPA, an excellent use case is using these methods to monitor asset performance to shift the organization to predictive maintenance. 

Ready to Learn More About Automation and Scale?

Now that you know the benefits and considerations for scaling automation in your enterprise, it’s time to explore how to do it right. Read our e-book How Scaling Fuels Decision Automation for Enterprise Organizations for more insights. 

Begin your intelligent automation journey today

Our team is ready to guide the way.