By Todd Weiss

Transactional businesses, both financial institutions, and corporations have implemented automation and orchestration across their organizations, and the value is quickly realized – from reducing the amount of manual time-demanding processes to reducing levels of attrition. While automation is immensely helpful, if it is not implemented correctly these process upgrades can create and compound risks of their own.

Orchestration: the context here refers to the automation of complex workflows and processes. It involves coordinating and managing tasks and activities across multiple systems and technologies in order to achieve a specific goal or outcome. Orchestration can be used to automate various IT processes, such as deployment, scaling, and maintenance of IT infrastructure and applications. It can also be used to automate business processes, such as order processing and customer service.

Transactional organizations often have slip-ups when attempting to scale automation, from attempting to mimic human-driven, manual processes to only automating processes within the IT department. Unfortunately, these mistakes can reduce the overall value of automation and orchestration across the board, causing the organization’s ROI to fall short. The key to successful execution is embracing a new way of thinking about the way the work is done, which means workers must relinquish control of the mundane tasks that have been the focus of the workday for so long. This will result in them having the time they need to work on strategic projects that will give the business the competitive edge it needs to thrive now and into the future.


5 common automation mistakes and how to avoid them

To reap all the benefits of workload automation, there are five common errors to avoid:

Implementing Automation? Avoid these 5 Common Slip Ups By Todd Weiss, Vice President of Product Management at SMA Technologies

  1. Only automating processes within the IT department. Many organizations purchase automation software to solve a single-use case or with only IT in mind. The problem with this is an organization will not grasp its full potential, nor will it maximize its value. Managers should consider how processes across the entire organization can be automated. This will deliver efficiency gains and generate more time savings, as well as reduce or eliminate more errors. It will also enable smart scaling without adding more employees, allowing current employees to focus on other strategic work that will drive the business forward.
  2. Only mimicking human-driven processes when setting up automation. As opposed to a person following a step-by-step guide to managing a series of screens to finish a particular task, an automation tool can be set up to execute the same job using event-driven dependencies. This means each task can be broken down into dependencies that need to be met, instead of requiring a job to capture every click and keystroke a person would otherwise have to follow at certain times of the day. This method will make jobs easier to manage, as well as run more efficiently.
  3. No documentation when setting up automation workflows. When no documentation is recorded for workflows, knowledge silos can rear their ugly heads. This can inhibit other need-to-know parties, such as support teams, from mimicking workflows to improve them, incorporate new information, and reflect automation priorities. When setting up workflows in an automation platform, documentation that can explain what the workflow does must be noted. This will keep teams out of the dark and allow future administrators to understand how it functions and the purpose it serves.
  4. Permitting success notifications. While it may be tempting to set up an automation tool so that it notifies every person in a workflow that the process is complete, similar to how many manual workflows operate, this can trigger an overabundance of notifications that can not only distract employees but negatively impact their productivity. At some point, employees will begin to tune out these notifications and end up missing the important ones. Instead, automation tools should be set up to only send a notification when there’s a hiccup or if a job doesn’t run successfully. This will ensure that, when a notification is received, employees will know it is something that must be paid attention to and addressed.
  5. The lack of communication on the value of automation and fear of job loss across the organization. Unfortunately, many people still associate automation with job loss. This is one of the reasons it’s vitally important to communicate to employees that the contrary is actually the truth. Employees can become more efficient, leading to fewer overtime hours, and the ability to focus on priority tasks because the time-wasting manual effort is reduced. In some cases, it enables management to redeploy staff to other areas where staff has been lacking. Since automation is designed to handle tedious and time-consuming tasks and give time back to staff members, they can spend their days working on strategic and innovative tasks. It provides them a chance to make use of their skillsets, which will make them feel more valued as an employee, as well as those who invested in the growth of the business. Furthermore, in a time of increased turnover of staff, automation and routinizing of work can also speed up the training process. New, or reassigned employees can get up to speed much quicker by leveraging automation tools.

Embracing a new way of thinking

Credit Departments have been automating AR processes for over 25 years. Collections and deductions workflow, remittance processing, credit application workflow, and invoice presentment and payment tolls provide well-documented examples of the power of automation when it has been applied. Today we are now able to automate the next mile, so to speak, of the order-to-cash process using bots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning among other tools. This advanced technology now allows us to do additional things like answer common email queries (e.g., requests for invoices or other documentation), route other emails to the proper authority (e.g., pricing inquiries), email a request to the customer for remittance details when a payment cannot be matched to the AR, and automatically offer third party financing options.

Automation can be invaluably beneficial when applied to transactional activities. The key to making it work in the most productive way is ensuring it is set up correctly and that there is an open conversation about the benefits it brings. An organization must welcome the improved change and adapt by surrendering control of the tedious tasks they’re accustomed to spending their days performing.

About the Author: Todd Weiss is the vice president of product management at SMA Technologies. He is responsible for setting and owning product strategy as well as managing the product roadmap for SMA’s solutions.

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