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How to build an automation roadmap

Chatbots and robotic process automation (RPA) can have a ripple effect throughout organizations, improving both the employee and customer experience. But while enterprise automation is an exciting prospect, it shouldn't be implemented haphazardly. Getting it right and reaping the benefits involves putting a proper automation roadmap in place from the start.

According to Deloitte's most recent global survey of executives, nearly a quarter (73%) of those surveyed in 2020 say they're on the path to intelligent automation, a 58% increase from 2019. Further, 78% say they're already implementing RPA, a result that's emblematic of the growing appetite for automation in day-to-day operations.

Implementation, however, doesn't necessarily mean optimization, says Bryan Phillips, senior manager of product marketing at TELUS International. "What we're seeing with this new wave of automation is that people are building bots for the sake of building bots so they can check a box and say, 'yes we're a digital company.'" Sometimes, that rush to automate can lead to bot sprawl, a situation where an organization is paying for licenses on more bots than it is using.

But taking the time to get automation right can pay dividends.

According to a Forrester report on the impact of RPA:

  • 86% of firms that implemented RPA saw increased efficiency;
  • 67% found it provided deeper insights into customers; and
  • 57% reported improved customer service and employee engagement.

Putting a roadmap in place can help you capitalize on those benefits.

Here are some key considerations.

Identify opportunities and objectives for RPA

According to the Deloitte survey, the fragmentation of business-critical processes across multiple software systems and teams was one of the key hurdles for implementing automation workflows. A roadmap can help rectify process fragmentation and ensure your automation efforts are optimized from the beginning.

The first step, says Phillips, is mapping out your current processes and identifying what can be streamlined. "You don't want to automate a process that isn't the best it can be," says Phillips. Rather, identifying efficiencies early on is important, so that your company doesn't have to invest more time and money into added functionality in the middle of the automation process.

Look for the segments of your business that are prime for automation — processes that aren't one-offs, but are recurring. Phillips says something like formatting data for regular reports is a good candidate for your automation focus. "You should focus on the repeatable processes where you can then benefit from the time saved and the accuracy," he explains.

Once you've identified the tasks ripe for automation, it's time to buckle up — you're ready to define where you want your roadmap to lead.

Determine automation parameters and benchmarks

Another vital part of an automation roadmap is identifying specific parameters and benchmarks for the process. According to Deloitte's survey of global executives, the absence of a clear understanding of automation goals is a major barrier to success. A key part of overcoming that barrier is knowing what you hope to achieve by automating a specific task.

Take, for example, TELUS International's experience using a conversational bot to help streamline user requests. As the case study notes, the IT service desk identified that 29% of the tickets received were for simple tasks like unlocking accounts and resetting passwords. Using a chatbot to answer 1,000 of those tickets saved the business 50 staff hours a month. That success provided a clear benchmark on what automating that specific process could do.

"It doesn't always have to be time savings. Customer experience and employee experience are just as important," says Phillips. You should set benchmarks for how you want automation to improve your key performance indicators, like customer and employee satisfaction, and take some time to confer with teams across the business to develop parameters unique to your organization, he says. "You really have to keep your finger on the pulse of your ROI and the key initiatives that you're trying to tackle within your organization."

Implement, test and optimize

Once you've established your goals and the metrics that will mark your success, it's time to implement, test and optimize.

To improve optimization, it can be helpful to utilize a holistic platform to manage your chatbot and RPA systems. Intelligent Insights, for example, offers the comprehensive functionality a company needs in order to bring efficiency to their automation efforts. Helping companies gain clarity and make strategic decisions, the platform is an agnostic, front-end tool for bot lifecycle tracking, ROI calculation, value creation and RPA idea submission through an executive dashboard.

No matter what platform a company implements for testing and optimization, process monitoring and mining data are key tasks. Keep a close eye on event logs, which can enable you to keep track of your roadmap rollout, and identify missteps before they become big problems.

Scale up automation strategically

Lack of IT readiness is another pothole on the road to effective scaling. Bot sprawl is one example of poor scaling practices, says Phillips. Without a strategic plan in place, it's easy to find yourself at a point where you're carrying more licenses for chatbots than you need and underusing the ones you have.

Scaling thoughtfully means getting the full picture of the current automation in place, the specifics surrounding the licenses for any chatbots, and gradually introducing new capabilities. Building a new bot isn't always the best move, says Phillips: "You can leverage that current license, or unused licenses."

Thinking about scaling in advance can also help you decide when you need to bring in outside support. Doing so helps you identify areas of the business that need to be more streamlined to get to the automation stage, and can point out potential issues that could arise between a digital and human-led workforce.

The path to automation may take upfront work, but the benefits are undeniable. Intelligent automation can help you create more engaged employees and customers, reduce costs, boost productivity and more. But before you hit the road on your automation journey, make sure you have a roadmap of where you're going and how to get there.

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