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3 factors slowing down business process automation

The knowledge work landscape has been changing considerably over the last few years, and things have accelerated even more with Covid. As clichéd as it may sound, the world is never going back to old “normal”, and it’s time for us to fully embrace the changes and build a new working world. 

In line with workplace transformation, companies have been open to knowledge work automation activities more than ever before. According to Deloitte, the number of companies piloting business process automation has doubled in 2021 compared to that of 2019. These numbers keep increasing because automation brings so many amazing opportunities to improve employees’ workflows and companies' processes, and shapes the new world.

However, such crucial changes are never easy and are accompanied by quite a few challenges that slow down the digitization and automation journey. What are those and how to address them then? 

Factors slowing down the automation adoption 

It could’ve been perfect if companies knew exactly why they need automation in the workplace, what end results they want and expect, and what path to take to achieve that. Of course, the reality is far from that, and there are other exogenous factors that influence an organization's transformation process.

1. Organizational change fatigue.

The first and foremost reason that slows companies’ digital transformation efforts is the good old change fatigue. Well, the fear of change is inherently present in humans, but coupled with the “unsuccessful” past experiences of management changes, it can turn into a complete nightmare.   

What scares people the most is the uncertainty that is associated with that transition stage. One way to deal with it could be communicating all the upcoming changes to the employees. It is vital that everyone in the company recognizes the value that the changes bring to the organization. When people don’t know “why” they’re doing it, they’re not willing to do it in the first place, right?

What can leadership do then to smooth out that process? They could properly introduce all the big events in advance, involving every single person, who is affected by the change. Planning the upcoming changes, guiding people in every stage, asking for their feedback, and ensuring overall mental safety might sound basic, but this does help a lot in making the automation initiatives easier to go through.

2. Disjointed business processes

Another big barrier that makes the automation attempts less effective is the fragmentation of the processes. When the companies pilot and even implement automation ideas, departments and units act as separate entities. While this is reasonable when doing department-specific changes, lack of organization-wide process unification turns the whole automation process into a huge mess. Using completely random tools and automating “here and there” might lead to even bigger loopholes in the system. 

As a high-level solution, companies should first discover how the work is really done currently. It’s easier to pick the direction, when you know at least where you are! Once there’s a clear picture of all the existing operations with the biggest problems detected, then it’s easier to see, which changes should be prioritized through yielding the highest impact.

3. Lack of readiness for a new work reality 

Quite obvious yet a bit more challenging factor is the lack of readiness to the changes. New work environment, where people work together with robots and AI, requires a different approach and mindset from both the leadership and employees. Very soon each modern team or unit will have both traditional and digital workforce, working together on projects and complementing each other's capabilities. That would mean that employees would need to be adaptable and learn fast, but also the new hire for automation projects would be slow and difficult to acquire. 

It’s very important to note that robots do not substitute humans, at least in the foreseeable future, but rather help them and assist. Machines and robots would be doing low-level transactional work, which doesn’t require human intelligence. This would mean that people will have more time on non-manual and more creative innovative work. 

Obviously, this requires slightly different skillset from employees, so upskilling the workers would be a necessary step to prepare them for such big changes in the workplaces. Moreover, many software applications require certain qualifications and extensive training programs, so open-mindedness, agility and high tolerance for ambiguity would be highly valued in employees.

Change is inevitable, but resilience and agility are a must 

Regardless of the industry and geographic area, any company that has employees doing knowledge work will have to turn to business process automation in the coming years. It is not just a good-to-have anymore. It is an amazing tool that eases the job for people and makes companies more competitive IF implemented right. Automation is much more than just robots assisting people; it is a whole new way of work that ensures better systems and automated workflows.

However, the key factor here is the speed. It is essential to have a strategic plan and a clear path of what results are expected, so that company pursues automation with a goal, and not because everybody else does that. However, with things being uncertain and changing so rapidly, speed would be needed not only to be in the forefront of company’s competitors, but even to simply sustain its growth.

That being said, if you want to see where your company is right now and build a clear path that will lead you to a painless and effective automation journey FAST and hassle-free, book a demo with us to see how Workfellow could help you with that!

Written by

Kazyna Turdibayeva

Marketing specialist at Workfellow.