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5 Things to Know Before Starting Your Next Process Automation Project

Juan Jiménez-Huyke, Lead Product Strategy Engineer, Appian
February 27, 2023

Process automation is a worthy goal for any organization. Automation unleashes human innovation, increases process effectiveness, and empowers your operations to adjust to change. But taking a pell-mell approach to automation will put these benefits at risk—you might actually create new inefficiencies you’ll have to rectify later. So before you get started with process automation, keep these five key things in mind.

1. Identify the right processes to automate.

Not all processes are suitable for automation. Carefully evaluate your business processes and identify those that can benefit most from automation. Look for processes that are repetitive, time-consuming, or prone to errors, as these are excellent candidates for automation.

2. Understand the costs and benefits.

Automation can be a significant investment, so you’ll want to understand the costs and benefits of your project before getting started. Calculate the return on investment (ROI) and consider whether the benefits of automation justify the costs. 

Also, evaluate the following benefits of automation:

  • Unleash innovation by freeing your organization’s human capital from repetitive tasks, enabling them to do what they do best.
  • Increase the effectiveness of your business processes to drive value.
  • Empower operations to adjust to change, whether those changes are due to regulations, economic conditions, or supply chain issues.

By evaluating these benefits that go far beyond cost reduction, businesses can make more informed decisions that balance short-term cost savings with long-term strategic objectives and overall business success, such as improving quality, customer satisfaction, innovation, and employee satisfaction.


3. Choose the right technology. 

There are many different technologies available for process automation, including workflow management software, RPA tools, and artificial intelligence (AI). You might think the best place to begin is with just one technology, like RPA, so you can start reducing the burden of manual activities immediately. This isn’t actually the best approach. Instead, maximize your investment by choosing a process automation platform that allows you to tackle the most diverse set of challenges. In addition, process automation platforms will reduce technical burden, simplify staff training, and accelerate implementations with fewer tools to manage.

If you can merge or consolidate your automation capabilities under just one powerful process automation platform, you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Using standalone systems for different automation tasks often leads to difficult automation management for IT teams and stunted growth for business leaders. A platform that unifies these technologies enables you to use the best-fit technology for your data and enable automation-native operations.

[ Get advice on building your automation tech stack from Gartner® Beyond RPA: Build Your Hyperautomation Technology Portfolio. ]

4. Communicate with your team.

Automation can have a big impact on your team, so you’ll want to communicate with them about the changes that are coming. Make sure to involve your team in the planning process and keep them informed about the progress of the project. Communicate about the impact of automation on their work, like how it will free them from routine tasks so they can focus on higher value work.  

One of the best indicators of process automation success is when tactical automation initiatives gain broad visibility from the organization and top leadership. Backed by an implementation that is well-prepared for scaling, leaders can introduce it as a broader strategy. They can encourage the rest of the organization to get on board and establish governance structures such as an automation center of excellence (CoE). An automation CoE can help prevent different departments from working in silos. 

5. Plan for change.

While you might know (or think you know) the ins and outs of your processes today, new regulations, business opportunities, or requirements will certainly impact them in the future. Selecting a process automation platform founded on low-code design and well-defined governance ensures future changes can be applied with minimal disruption and cost.

Don’t let a haphazard approach put the immense benefits of process automation at risk for your organization. These five factors will help you create a strategic implementation plan before getting started with process automation. More importantly, they’ll help you prepare to scale and grow your automation program so that ultimately, your entire organization can reap the benefits. 

[ What leads to a successful RPA project? Get the eBook: 5 Best Practices for RPA Success. ]