Until this highly unusual year, “digital transformation,” while a priority for many companies, was a gradual process for most. The Covid-19 pandemic — with most companies not fully prepared for sudden remote work for the masses — has thrown transformation into hyperspeed, with automation as a key technology in that push.
Automation uses software to create repeatable instructions and processes that monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services. In layperson’s terms, automation makes routine tasks easier and more efficient. From customer service chatbots to self-generating finance reports or moving data from one system to another, automation reduces the manual labor of repetitive tasks. According to Gartner, it’s the fastest-growing software subsegment, seeing year-over-year growth of more than 63% in 2018.
Experience shows that automating high-volume, repetitive manual tasks is a win-win-win: It drives value for customers, empowers employees to take on more challenging work and bolsters the bottom line. It shouldn’t just be a consideration for your ongoing digital transformation plans. It will be central to crisis-proofing your business for the future.
Automation drives value for the customer.
As technology has advanced, what customers expect from companies that serve them has increased as well. Amazon’s next-day, or even two-hour, delivery is becoming the new bar to clear. Customers expect efficient, predictable, helpful experiences in the marketplace — they want what they want when they want it. These on-demand expectations will drive the adoption of automation and shape its use.
Speed and efficiency are at the top of the list of customer expectations, whether it’s working with sales representatives or customer support operators. Automating tasks such as responding to the most common customer questions via a chatbot enables companies to respond more quickly and shift focus to complex tasks or questions.
For example, one of our earliest uses of automation at our company was to retire a legacy billing system. We used bots to help our business teams process complex invoices in a more efficient, timely and accurate manner, supplying customers with the financial information they wanted quicker. From back-end processes like this to chatbots that directly interact with customers, automation can make your business more competitive when meeting customer demand.
Given these increasing expectations, automation and adopting a digital way to work have become a business requirement. There is simply no way to exceed customer expectations today without a digital workforce.
Automation empowers your best employees.
In recent months, many of us have had to change the way we work and are managing our workloads in new ways. Imagine having the ability to create software robots that could automate the most time-consuming daily tasks. The use of robotic process automation (RPA) — software robots, or bots, that can be easily programmed to perform tasks across applications — is doing just that.
Automation is another tool to help people advance professionally. By freeing up time to become valuable, proactive contributors, employees can focus on securing big wins for the company.
Helping employees overcome automation aversion requires empowering them as key partners in learning and adopting this technology. Learning automation will give employees a chance to become “citizen developers” and employ a new skill, enabling them to add more value to their teams. We’ve seen this happen successfully already: Over the past six months, as part of an automation education program, we have trained more than 800 employees to build bots that free them from their most mundane tasks. These employees are taking full advantage of these new skills, developing almost 50 bots so far across a wide range of functions, from finance to marketing to technical support.
Automation will bolster your bottom line.
Time is money, and automation can significantly reduce the time it takes for business-driving activities without losing quality. At our offices in Canada, we saw a 90% improvement in the processing time of transactions involved in creating and canceling orders by using bots. Bots perform transactions error-free in 20 seconds compared to three minutes with manual process. Automation can also reduce the time and value lost through unforeseen crises like Covid-19 when it’s incorporated into risk mitigation processes.
As automation leads to higher customer satisfaction and employee productivity, combined with increased operational efficiency, the natural result will be a positive impact on your business’s bottom line. This makes the investment of adopting automation as part of your digital transformation well worth it. But for automation to become a lasting part of your company’s strategy, you’ll need to streamline tech and process expertise. A center of excellence (COE) model is a common approach that works well here. Centralizing skill sets and building expertise is necessary to successfully deploy this technology at scale.
When applied strategically to areas that will drive the most return on investment, automation technology will free your employees up to focus on solutions to problems outside of their normal scope and enable your business to gain a greater competitive edge.