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Understanding process most critical for process automation

Srividya Kannan, Founder, Avaali Solutions, talks about the state of information management in enterprises today, and, what it takes to ensure RoI when implementing information management based process automation.

srividya-kannan
Srividya Kannan, Founder, Avaali Solutions

What are the primary concerns around information explosion in enterprises today?

In the last few years, the world has become increasingly interconnected. Information now comes from people, processes, devices, and from the technology element itself. It is a challenge for enterprises to address this information in an efficient manner. In Information Management, we are talking of how this information will be used by the enterprises, whether or not the insights from the information will be used, and how they will be used. We look at how these insights can help in better decision making.

In that context, we talk about the process itself, how process agility can be built as result of information from structured and unstructured source elements.

Governance aspect of it includes information not falling into the wrong hands, right people having access to the right information as and when they need it, and so on.

How big is the problem of unstructured content?

Unstructured content comes in from the ecosystem –customers, employees, partners, devices, etc. We call unstructured content so because, there is no uniformity with respect to its source, formats, and even what role it is expected to perform. For example, take a process like finance which generates a lot of documents for procurement process. Once this content comes into the workflows, the automation of the workflow, like email approvals and other documents are unstructured in nature. 80% of a business process is typically unstructured in nature. Only 20% resides in transactional systems like ERP, CRM, HRM, etc.

What does a process automation roadmap entail?

Digitization has been around for several years. Enterprises have been scanning and digitizing documents. What happens after that? Businesses are getting the input as documents and are trying to make sense out of it. The information from these documents have to be disseminated to the right user, so the user can start working on that information. Based on this, a whole stream of process management or business process automation beings to flow. There are various aspects of this business process automation, with respect to its entire cycle time and breath – the various processes and sub-processes that need to be covered from an automating angle; the governance aspect of it; and what insights can be derived from that process automation.

Speaking of technology, it comes at the very end. Organizations assume that technology comes at the forefront. What’s to be determined first is, ‘how can I automate this process?’. Whether one adopts analytics or information management; whether the solution will be on-premise or on cloud; are discussions that come in later. What’s important is what value one should derive from the information once it is inputted into the system and how processes can be automated. That automation cycle is the meat of the opportunity. The ‘intensity’ of automation, whether it needs to happen end-to-end, or for a specific cycle, and how quickly it needs to happen are related immediate questions.

Nowadays we have robotic process automation, and that really accelerates the process significantly for routine tasks.

How would you explain the ROI of implementing an information management solution?

RoI is determined by costs, which in turn is determined by process agility. More agile the process, lower the cost, and hence higher is the RoI. We first need to understand the ‘as-in’ process clearly – what is the challenge with the as-is process? What are the associated high level costs with the process? We then need to have a roadmap with respect to what kind of reductions we want to see from a cost standpoint, what kind of increase in cycle time from a process agility stand point, and what the impact is on the overall process cost. RoI comes in from all these elements.

We are talking about reduction in costs, we are talking about improved visibility which by itself is a major advantage to organizations. When they have improved visibility into processes and what people are doing in the organization and how productivity can be improved significantly, visibility on the output that is coming in from the various structured data elements as well.

Improved governance of the entire process, reduction in cost by process agility, better business decisions which are a result of process automation, are all going into the RoI bucket, versus the kind of investment one is putting in to automate those processes.

Enterprises tend to marginalize on the change management which is an important aspect of the investment made in process automation. I have seen enterprises that have robust and well implemented solutions, yet the RoI is not as expected, and the reason for that is change management. The culture of the organization has to be built to accommodate process automation to realize the returns. That’s where it gets tough, because it is not possible to change culture quickly. We are talking of adoption of the solution. If the solution is not adopted by the stakeholders, irrespective of whatever math you have at the backend, the solution will not yield expected RoI. There has to be buy-in from the stakeholders early on, and this also means leading from the top, where senior stakeholders in the organization take ownership and drive execution. So, the adoption of the solution is a critical component of RoI.

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