This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Chetna Mahajan in her capacity as chief digital & information officer at Amplitude – the company is known for its digital analytics software.
Mahajan reminds us that business process automation helps drive digital experiences and operational excellence at scale. Faced with lean teams and even leaner budgets, today’s leaders increasingly understand the value of automation more so than ever before. Automation improves time-to-value, reduces costs and helps standardise processes to drive business growth.
But despite its known benefits, organisations looking to implement an automation strategy often don’t know where to start. Mahajan says it is not just a technology transformation, but an overall business shift and writes from this point forward to provide opinion and insight…
When it comes to developing a business automation strategy, leaders need to invest in three areas: low and no code tools, governance and measurement.
Step 1: Adopting low & no code
Low-code and no-code tools have become a critical investment for businesses because of their accessibility. These tools empower non-technical team members to utilise and action on data without taking up technical time or resources. The rise of these technologies are already well accounted for. Gartner predicts that, by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organisations will use no-code or low-code tools, up from less than 25% in 2020.
With low and no-code tools like Airtable and Notion for project management, Toca and Appy Pie for building apps or websites and Shopify for e-commerce, businesses invest in a culture of self-serve data access. These tools are easy to use and flexible to update, making universal adoption faster and easier. With out-of-the-box connectors that integrate with enterprise software, organisations not only fuel growth, but also create cost savings.
When adopting these tools, organisations should begin adoption in lower-risk areas. Starting with go-to-market teams—where day-to-day disruption could be costly to the business—is not the way to go. Consider HR or finance tools first. Processes like the reconciliation of financial data, a natural language processing (NLP) chatbot, or punching data to submit forms all make a great use case for automation and can be easily stood up in a matter of hours rather than weeks and months and without the need of programming skills.
Step 2: Putting governance in place
Automation drives business productivity while ensuring that the same processes are followed consistently. But using automation is not just a technical transformation, a team who owns governance and federation is needed. Depending on the size of the organisation, this may fall under the responsibilities of the chief information officer, chief digital officer or even chief data officer.
Many organisations create a corporate engineering team that becomes the centre of excellence for managing these self-serve tools. Whether it is the IT or corporate engineering team, identify who owns the infrastructure, who develops the best practices and privacy and security standards and who oversees automation lifecycle management. Without this, an organisation will soon get chaotic. As the business grows, this team can also own the federation of process automation to various business units where there are subject matter experts who have the business acumen and can manage the workload.
Step 3: Measure, measure, measure
The last critical piece of any automation strategy has to be measurement.
Without it, organisations will never know if their automation programme is effective. Goal setting is the first piece of this. Every tool and process in place should be tied to a larger business goal. There is no value in automation for automation’s sake and organisations should always be thinking about how automating a process helps reach its teams’ goals faster or smarter.
While it is good to have time-to-value goals and metrics tied to specific initiatives, I also recommend setting a business digital score. This score is based on how many processes a team has been able to automate to improve overall agility. Once defined, if, for example, a team is at a score of 40 out of 100, they can then work to strategise how to get to 60 by the end of the quarter, or 80 by the end of the fiscal year. This not only brings attention to the automation improvements a business has committed to, but it signals to the executive leadership team that improved efficiency is an organisation-wide effort.
Automation may be a buzzword, but its end result is real growth. By investing in low and no code tools, prioritising governance and committing to ongoing measurement, organisations can eliminate bottlenecks and ultimately make smarter decisions, faster. By empowering everyone across an organisation to seek out ways to improve existing processes, leaders will not only save costs for their business, but fuel growth.