Undoubtful IA Opportunity & How to Cultivate a Continuous Funnel

by | Jan 17, 2022 | Continuous Process Improvement, Intelligent Process Automation

As we quickly launch into 2022, an emerging subset of organizations have strategic objectives specific to intelligent automation, which, in an ideal world, tie directly to top-level organizational goals.  These goals might look like the following: reduce time to market, reduce cost per invoice, reduce sales outstanding, reduce order entry time, improve customer satisfaction score, increase revenue, and reduce internal hours.

As you may have noticed, these metric-driven targets are strikingly similar to legacy goals, with the obvious difference being the approach — leveraging emerging technologies.  In the spirit of simplicity, this parallel brings clarity to a recurring question of organizations across the globe at the beginning stage of IA implementation: “Can intelligent automation be applied to our business? and, if so, “What can we automate? ”.  While we are all unique in our own ways, it’s not a question of if there are opportunities within an organization; it is merely a consideration of effort – a concentrated one.

Can intelligent automation be applied to OUR business?

The number two goal of CEOs is the application of technology to help control costs and improve productivity.[1]  We know that across-the-board IA is a top-level priority and we know that its application is universal.  Building upon this theme, we also know that the existing workforce is stretched thinner than ever to execute in an increasingly competitive market.  That said, why is there a gap between the priority of IA and its execution?

I would suggest that the gap is in the ‘HOW’.

In this article, we will fill the gap and layout the actionable key variables for an initial process discovery using an internal resource or partner to lead the process.

Top-Down Bottom-Up

It starts with an executive-level call to action.  This is a ‘must’ for an IA initiative to fend off-flavor of the month perceptions if IA is truly a priority.  Executives should take a moment and hold a town hall, Zoom call, or at the very least, send a communication launching the initiative.  To truly harness a quality outcome-driven initial initiative, messaging comes from the top.  Lead from the front and take this time to educate and create excitement.

Education First

Ensure education is the priority upfront.  While technology continues to advance, most professionals – both blue and white-collar – have a limited understanding of IA.  Passing over the education component wastes considerable time throughout the entire journey.  With RPA, for example, educate to the process characteristics that make a good use case—manual and repetitive data entry, multiple platform integrations, high volume, quality control/validation, and business rule-driven.  Compliment education with use cases and demos to maximize absorption of RPA.  The more your community ‘gets it’, the more you will receive high-quality ideas.

Work Cross-Functionally

The more departments represented the better.  Establishing a COE (Centers of Excellence) is preferable as it establishes structure and governance, just ensure IT is not the only department in the room.  (Yes, I’ve seen this more than once.)  IA programs are business-driven and IT-supported thus the need for subject-matter experts from their respective units.  Broader representation acts as an accelerator as well; COE reps can act as farmers planting seeds of education and assisting in identifying opportunities that bring efficiency and cost savings in short order.

Pre-Work Prior to Ideation Sessions

If ideation sessions are executed properly, they can cultivate a robust pipeline of use cases.  If executed poorly, sessions can be inefficient and demotivating.  Brief, but valuable prework in collecting department processes ripe for automation establishes ownership, cultivates participation, and sets ideation sessions up for success.  Successful ideation sessions, in turn, generate excitement and an automation buzz that leads to richer conversation promoting additional processes and possibilities with the intent of driving business results.

It may come as a relief that there is a step-by-step process for an IA initiative that might, upon onset, seem overwhelming.  Whether starting an IA journey or getting “unstuck” in an existing one, it’s a focus on laying each individual brick versus building the entire wall.

[1] Katie Costello, 2019.  “Gartner Survey Reveals That CEO Priorities Are Slowly Shifting to Meet Rising Growth Challenges’.  Gartner.

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