4 Reasons Why Process Automation Is The Key To Successful Digital Transformation Initiatives

As the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a global recession and continues to disrupt business, digital transformation initiatives take on greater urgency. Enterprises had already been pursuing digital transformation to modernize, cut costs, and improve competitive positioning, but now the pandemic has accelerated that trend, transforming as much as two-thirds of the U.S. workforce into remote workers.

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However, even if digital transformation is now considered mission-critical, many business leaders are unsure about how to proceed. According to McKinsey & Company research, 70 percent of all business transformation efforts fail. Root causes range from low expectations by C-level executives to lack of buy-in from employees to a deficiency of change-management skills within the organization.

Those people-centered issues are important and must be addressed, but there’s another root issue that is often overlooked: the lack of clearly defined and managed processes throughout the business.

Below are four reasons why process automation is foundational to successful digital transformation. Understanding how processes either enable or impede transformation will help your business avoid the pitfalls that lead to failure.

  1. Processes are the operational building blocks of business

Processes function as the algorithms that define the inner workings of modern businesses. They encompass the step-by-step procedures and overall workflows that lead employees down preferred paths toward desired outcomes. Building-block processes include everything from how to initiate an email marketing lead-generation sequence, to how to onboard new technologies, to how to escalate a customer service request.

Without clearly defined processes, an organization’s workforce flies blind, making things up as they go. This doesn’t scale, quality suffers as a result, and what is working might not be repeatable.

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In contrast, successful businesses are masters at mapping and optimizing business processes. Everyone knows McDonald’s cheeseburgers will taste the same anywhere because they’re made using the same proven processes. That’s why effective processes are so important in transformation projects.

  1. Process automation brings order to sprawl

As businesses become more digitally driven, trends such as the consumerization of IT, on-demand software, and shadow IT cause narrowly defined processes to expand and start to sprawl out of control.

Typical digital processes grow to stretch across diverse technologies, devices, and organizational roles. Such growth makes process automation increasingly challenging, but those challenges shouldn’t be allowed to slow or stymie digital transformation initiatives.  Overcoming such obstacles requires a shift in perspective, keeping a holistic view of processes and never losing sight of the overall goal of streamlined operations, greater efficiency or better customer service.

By viewing processes holistically across people, infrastructure, networks, and devices, business leaders are able to understand how components relate and interact. This digital transformation prep work has the twin benefits of enabling business leaders to optimize processes to better align them with business goals, while also helping them to pinpoint the repetitive, error-prone processes that deliver the fastest ROI once automated and which enable more ambitious transformations.

  1. Process automation enables not just digital transformation, but also unlocks new business opportunities

When business leaders look at processes holistically, a number of benefits accrue. With repetitive, predictable processes automated, business leaders free up employees to pursue higher-value tasks.

Business leaders themselves also benefit, having a better sense of both the pitfalls they must avoid during transformation, such as inefficient processes that lead to bottlenecks, as well as the opportunities that digital transformation unleashes, such as the ability to recalibrate your business to take advantage of emerging demand.

Team collaboration and productivity software maker Atlassian, a high-growth company with more than 5,000 employees around the world, is kicked off process automation efforts by automating its accounting processes in order to centralize financial workflows and speed up the recognition of new and previously hidden revenue opportunities. Another company, Deutsche Telekom, deployed process automation software to orchestrate more than 2,500 bots. These bots handle a range of otherwise manual, labor-intensive processes, helping save the firm more than $100 million.

  1. Process automation helps organizations overcome obstacles to successful transformation

If large, public companies as different as Atlassian and Deutsche Telekom are rapidly adopting automation tools, you can be sure that process automation delivers a competitive advantage. Innovative companies like these have been able to thrive during the pandemic because they were already pursuing digital transformation aggressively.

In 2020, Camunda commissioned a survey of 400 IT decision makers in the U.S. and Europe about automating end-to-end business processes. We found that virtually all (97%) enterprise IT decision makers agree that process automation is vital to digital transformation. Nearly 9 in 10 (88%) faced at least one major challenge during the initiative, and 84% intend to increase their investments in process automation over the next two years.

Yet, as businesses attempt to harness new technologies, such as IoT, containers, and microservices, many are held back by legacy technologies, monolithic platforms, and outdated workflows. If you approach process automation in a way that works with the old, takes advantage of the new and brings both together seamlessly, it offers the simplest, most powerful way to manage these challenges. And, step-by-step, it will get you closer toward your ultimate goal of becoming a digital enterprise – without breaking the bank.

Conclusion: Process automation drives not just digital transformation, but also business reinvention

Businesses face several obstacles when they embark on digital transformation efforts, including organizational limitations, lack of resources, and legacy systems and disjointed processes. However, many of those obstacles can be sidestepped or even automated out of existence if organizations re-imagine the way they approach process automation.

Innovative companies have already pursued new, more open and collaborative process automation technologies, and are reaping the rewards, leaving laggards further and further behind as the digitization of everything continues to accelerate.

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