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Process automation challenges and how to overcome them

Intelligent automation is changing the way businesses operate by increasing productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. However, it is not without its challenges. Implementing automation solutions can be complex, and several obstacles must be overcome to reap the full benefits. In this article, we will explore some of the key process automation challenges that businesses face and provide practical solutions to overcome them.

What is process automation?

Process automation involves the use of technology to perform repetitive tasks and processes automatically, reducing the need for human intervention. Automation can be applied across various business processes, such as finance, HR, supply chain, and customer service.

Three key reasons process automation projects fail

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.

Overcoming Process Automation Challenges

Overcoming the challenges of process automation requires a holistic approach, addressing various aspects of the implementation process. Some practical solutions are:

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration are critical to the success of automation projects. Businesses should engage with key stakeholders and employees to build consensus and reduce resistance to change. Additionally, cross-functional teams should be formed to ensure collaboration and alignment across departments.

Proper Planning and Execution

Proper planning and execution are critical for the success of automation projects. Businesses should develop a clear roadmap and timeline, identifying potential risks and challenges. Additionally, they should prioritize automation initiatives based on their potential impact and ROI. Process intelligence software can help you identify process automation opportunities and track progress over the coure of your initiatives.

Embrace Change Management

A third crucial aspect to overcome process automation fatigue is a persistent effort in change management. Many people may feel threatened or frustrated by automation taking away work tasks. Its important to communicate the benefits of process automation - as well as educate and inform employees of the ways automation can free up time and resources for more meaningful work.

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.

Looking for a tool to support process automation? Download the Work API whitepaper.

Written by

Kazyna Turdibayeva

Marketing manager at Workfellow