3 Tips for Ensuring your Automation Journey Succeeds from the Get-Go
Within the OPEX community, we are all seeking faster, leaner and more efficient processes and there is little doubt that automation tools are of the most powerful solutions for making this a reality. But with 70% of digital transformation efforts ending in failure, the decision of how, when and where to introduce this technology into your organization should not be made lightly.
In a recent content piece, OPEX Week World Summit 2020 Speaker Mike Lamendola, Director of Operational Excellence and eProcess Solutions at Covance, breaks down the critical factors to consider when embarking on your own automation journey. He provides an insight into how Covance began their own automation journey, the process of implementation, the lessons learnt along the way and the businesses plans for the future. Here we share Mike’s advice for ensuring your automation journey achieves success on the first try.
1. Decide what you want to do before you invest in doing it
Mike’s first recommendation is to “look in the mirror and understand what you want to be organizationally when you grow up from a process standpoint”. He suggests asking yourself the questions: What does digital transformation mean to you? What is your endgame, or at least what is the first phase of achieving that endgame? Is it just to implement RPA? Is it just to do process optimization and not to implement any e-process technology?
“We have all had an opportunity to work with vendors that have phenomenal products, but it’s really important to make sure that we don’t get distracted by the shiny object in the room,” he explains.
During the first quarter of 2018, Mike’s team invested a significant amount of their time scoping the different functional areas that had potential automatable opportunities, taking care to deeply understand those opportunities through rigorous process decomposition efforts with different functional subject matter experts. From there, they came up with a prioritization matrix based on a number of criteria that they had put in place, in order to narrow down their scope and identify where they wanted to focus our time.
“There are a lot of organizations out there that don’t have process excellence support but maybe they could use it, and that may be the first step in their journey.”
2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
For Mike, the second tip is to remember your endpoint: how can we become ultra-efficient by figuring out where there are manual steps in those processes that can be made even faster? “That is how you start a digital transformation – and you can reverse-engineer it from there,” he expresses. “You must reflect on how your processes look and what can be changed and improved upon. If you don’t invest the time to do that, you will just automate a bad process and you will not receive the full benefit of automation, which will stall your overall digital transformation approach.”
To increase your speed to delivery, once you have decided to make the investment, get your processes ready and your subject matter experts engaged. Set the expectation and understanding with them so that they know exactly what this new investment is going to do for them.
At Covance, processes were prepared for automation by a team with the responsibility of constantly looking for operational process improvement opportunities, and applying different tried and true methodologies, like Six Sigma, to remove waste. Then, and only then, do they consider automating that process.
Mike uses the phrase “Good process standardization leads to successful automation” to describe Covance’s strategy around RPA. He believes it is believe it is mission-critical to standardize your processes before even attempting to automate them.
3. Have a plan for operationalizing the technology.
“Large Programs, and the Projects that comprise them, typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” says Mike. He provides the example of any technology implementation. “Most of us have observed, participated in, or led a project where we have to ‘stand up’ a system at our job. While that might be an aspect of your automation journey, it’s not the big picture.” In Mike’s opinion, a Digital Transformation Strategy shouldn’t be a program, nor should it be a project. It should be a well thought-out roadmap for taking your company through the next several years, and should ultimately be embedded as part of your organizational strategy.