As the digital economy takes hold across the globe, companies in every industry are recognizing the enormous business value they can gain by automating processes to accelerate operations, slash costs, and drive better business outcomes.
The range and scope of these projects vary wildly: from mission-critical processes that cut across multiple functional units and require high-end developers and sophisticated technology, to very simple linear processes that can usually be handled with wizard-driven solutions.
Unfortunately for some companies, the successes they’ve had with a particular automation project have convinced them that the solution that worked so well for one mission-critical initiative should be made the standard across the entire company, regardless of the scope or complexity of the process involved.
Evaluating the vast experiences my company, Nintex, has had with 10,000-plus customers and many tens of thousands of projects, I can say with great confidence that the all-in-one approach to process automation simply does not work. But as bad as “doesn’t work” can be, it’s even worse than that: those failed projects burn up money, time, opportunities, and often good relationships with customers or key partners who had to endure bad experiences with your company because of those failed initiatives.
Automation solutions are designed for very specific purposes, and that’s particularly true at the high end where a company spent many millions of dollars and several years to craft a mission-critical solution that involves dozens or even hundreds of sub-processes.
That level of sophistication and technical depth simply doesn’t translate to a smaller-scale or even simple process that needs to be automated. In fact, it’s sheer overkill and will result in wasted time and money as well as frustrated users and related stakeholders.
But in today’s high-change world, most companies are facing intense pressure to move, change, innovate, automate, optimize, and transform as rapidly as possible. In that context, it’s understandable that some business leaders might feel that since a certain automation vendor did a great job over here, let’s use that same vendor across the company for all our high-urgency projects.
The Magic Number is between 3 and 5
As I look at our deep experiences with thousands of organizations in every major industry, the ideal mix for mid-sized and large enterprises is 3-5 automation vendors. For example, certain niche automation providers are exceptionally strong for building consumer-grade mobile applications and others are uniquely strong in document automation.
Simply stated, one process-automation vendor just won’t work, while 10 is too many.
5 Critical Steps for your Process Automation Success
As you set out on your own journey to jump into the digital economy and get your processes automated, here are 5 steps to guide you in making the optimal decisions for the specific needs of your company:
- Start off with this high-level 3-step perspective: first, reimagine the processes you’ll need to create in your digital future; second, automate those and all sub-processes around them; and then relentlessly optimize those processes to drive the best outcomes.
- Always look for the easiest and lowest-cost solution provided it solves your problem and delivers the desired business outcome. Ensure that you are considering both initial time to design and ongoing application maintenance when making this decision. Key to this will be who you are targeting to be able to build these applications: is it professional developers, operations pro’s / power users, or the average knowledge worker? Who will do the work is a critical consideration.
- Strive to automate as much as possible, and to do so as quickly and inexpensively as possible, while ensuring the solutions fully align with what your users want and need not only today but also in your digital future.
- Don’t get distracted by vendors who promise to blow you away with wall-to-wall RPA, AI, APIs or other fancy lingo. While those technologies are fantastic for some processes, they are dead wrong for others.
- Will the CEO of the automation vendor give you his/her personal commitment to see your project through to a fully successful outcome? If not, is that a vendor on which you’re willing to bet the future of your company? Strong executive support, high peer-review site ratings, high customer NPS, and a willingness to provide customer references are all good signs.
Today’s business environment is putting enormous pressure on companies to move rapidly and aggressively into the digital economy, and an essential element in that is process automation.
As you begin or extend that journey, remember that not all processes are the same, designer personas are very different, and no single vendor can possibly deliver all the great outcomes you deserve for each of your automation projects.