By John Kucera, Senior Vice President of Product Management, Automation
As a business leader, your team has likely used low-code tools to automate manual workflows without having to rely too heavily on IT and developer support. For example, you may have implemented self-service bots to help customers quickly get what they needed or reduced high call volumes around things like change of address, password resets, or checking order status. But now what? Where do you take automation from here?
A recent survey confirms that business teams are ready to take the next step: 86% of respondents say workflow automation has already driven business success across the entire company, and 80% are actively looking for new tasks to automate.
This is a good time to up your game and think about how to progress from automating low-complexity processes (like password resets) to automating more complex business processes (like incident management) that span multiple departments and systems.
By continuing to use low-code tools to automate and unify data and workflows across your marketing, sales, service, and IT departments, you can further improve the customer experience and create a far better employee experience. In order to achieve that payoff though, you will need IT’s buy-in. Your role is to bring business process expertise while IT ensures governance, security, and scale across all the users, teams, and systems involved.
However, before you approach IT, it’s important to work with your business team to answer these three questions. Doing this prep work will set you up to successfully partner with IT and fast track more complex automation projects.
1. What is the existing process and its impact on the business?
First, you need to determine which processes are the best candidates for automation by documenting standard operating procedures and analyzing their performance. Sure, this may seem like a no-brainer, but documenting the existing process and its impact on the business lays the foundation for everything else. Getting it right means using both quantitative analysis (Where are their performance issues?) and ethnographic research (Where are people creating workarounds? Gaming the system?) to determine where there is friction and/or a high amount of effort required. Through observation, you can accurately gauge where people are running into roadblocks that get in the way of doing their work.
One example of this would be observing how a case worker does their job. While in the field they may write down their case notes, then come back to the office and type them into a digital record in one system, match the client to resources in another system, and return to the original record to add a new note once resources are approved. It’s a tedious, duplicative process with high potential for human error. In this case, implementing robotic process automation (RPA) can remove some of that duplication effort.
Or, consider a more complex example of observing the entire return merchandise authorization process. This process involves multiple employees across multiple departments who are using many different systems. Once the customer contacts the service department, the agent needs to collect information about the customer, match it with existing records, and determine if it’s covered under warranty and needs to be fixed/replaced. The agent then must schedule field service or initiate the replacement process by checking inventory and scheduling fulfillment. Lastly, they’ll follow up with the customer to ensure everything is resolved.
In this case, the solution will likely involve more than one automation capability. With insight into the end-to-end process and where it’s breaking down, you’ll be in a better position to partner with IT and determine the right solution.
2. How will you measure success?
Next up is defining what success looks like. Be sure to attach clear metrics to the operational improvements you’re proposing: Are you trying to reduce a process from several days to several hours? Reduce the number of agents needed to resolve an issue? Set achievable and incremental goals; as you learn more about what it takes to automate a process, you may find it’s a multi-stage effort over several months.
Also consider how those goals ladder up to organizational priorities. If you streamline the process, will it lead to improved CSAT and efficiency? Free up agent time to focus on high-touch interactions? Reduce risk? The more you can align your team’s success metrics with both IT and the business, the more successful you’ll be with buy-in both now and in the future.
3. What is required to automate the process?
Once you’ve documented the business process and goals, then dig deeper into the business and operational requirements needed to automate it. Start by making a list of all the stakeholders involved in the business process from end-to-end, as well as the systems of record they interact with. If you’re dealing with a manufacturing defect, for instance, at what point do you want to route the issue to Quality Assurance (QA)?
Also consider any complexities and dependencies, such as upstream and downstream workflows, that may impact the larger business process. In the example of the manufacturing defect, dependencies could be within the inventory process. If the inventory system isn’t integrated with the service workflow, the service agent won’t have that information at their fingertips during the call with the customer and may need to schedule a follow-up. This could take hours or even days, which impacts both the agent’s and the customer’s experience.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to have all the answers at this stage; you just need to highlight potential complexities and dependencies. Once you begin to collaborate with IT, they will help navigate data privacy and governance issues, such as who gets to see customer data and what type of legal documentation is required for a recall or defect. From here, you can start to map the new automated process.
Low-code automation is a team sport
Gartner research shows that on average, 41% of employees outside of IT customize or build data or technology solutions. Their analysts also predict that half of all new low-code clients will come from business buyers that are outside the IT organization by year-end 2025. As more and more development projects originate from outside the IT department, it’s becoming especially important to find ways to collaborate across business functions.
The magic happens when you combine the superpowers of both business users and IT. Business users bring a deep understanding of the departmental needs. They also have closer relationships to customers and employees interacting with the process, so they’re able to dive deeper into opportunities for enhancing it. IT’s superpowers are understanding the tools and technologies to support the business need and creating reusable building blocks that can integrate systems and scale to meet more complex requirements. Joining forces helps business teams achieve their goals faster and helps IT build solutions faster without sacrificing scale or governance.
This is the time to build on your success with low-code automation and start exploring what’s possible.