How to Enable Digital Transformation with Automation: A Guide

When it comes to digital transformation it’s no longer a question of if you should do it, but when. According to global market intelligence firm IDC, 85% of enterprise decision makers say they have plans to embark on a digital transformation within the next two years, with more than a third (37%) saying they’ve already started executing one and nearly half (45%) saying they’re in the early stages of adopting one. Investments back this, with funding of digital transformation worldwide topping $1.2 trillion in 2019, up 18% from the previous year. With the ability to increase revenue, reduce operational costs, and provide enhanced experiences for both staff and customers, investing in a digital-first strategy seems like the best course to take. 

Despite this, only 3% of enterprises complete their digital transformation projects, most attributing failure to either a fear of change, lack of cloud resources, or lack of agility. But by looking at the explosive growth in the automation space — 100% YoY for RPA and 72% YoY for iPaaS, for example — it’s clear what role automation will play in the digital enterprise. Investing in a pervasive automation strategy and a related platform that provides end-to-end solutions is crucial to breaking through the noise and succeeding in any transformative efforts.

There will, of course, be a learning curve when implementing such a strategy, but many organizations have no idea how to start – or where to start – and what immediate value (if any) they will receive once they adopt such a platform. Here’s what we see working for enterprises today when it comes to an automation strategy.

Overcoming the Initial Barriers of Digital Transformation

Forward-thinking enterprises recognize that in order to remain competitive, they must continuously evolve their culture, processes, data and technologies – and this won’t be easy. Though 83% of IT decision makers say workflow automation is essential to digital transformation, a large number of manual processes still remain active in many companies.  

Unfortunately, even the most dedicated IT teams can’t manage the optimization of thousands upon thousands of processes across the business. Because of this, only certain processes will get prioritized for automation, meaning only a small number of users will reap the benefits.

For example, workflows critical to keeping the lights on will always be prioritized, while processes in lines of business (LOB) including HR, finance and marketing that could drastically improve with automation may sit on the backburner. This results in an increasing number of inefficiencies across business. 

Automation Platforms that can be used by non-coders like Business Systems teams, analysts, and App Admins democratizes the process of integration and automation. This is key to actually achieving Digital Transformation goals: when bottlenecks prevent progress and automation projects are not agile, there is no way an organization can transform at scale.

Is the Platform Flexible and Secure?

The key to enterprise-wide adoption of automation is that it should be something that can be used by both your IT team and other players like business systems, app admins, MarketingOps, and SalesOps teams. Spreading this skill set out across groups is the only way to scale. However, you still need to ensure that the platform has enterprise security and governance capabilities. The IT team and security team should be able to monitor everyone’s activity on a single platform.

On the business side, employees often want to use the tool they prefer for their job function. While IT/business systems teams will want to ensure the tool fits in well with their infrastructure, LOBs will often drive tech purchases without their oversight. To avoid conflict, it’s best to invest in an automation platform that is agile enough to enable LOB to choose whatever technology and tools they prefer. This, combined with an emphasis of time-to-value or an ability to build agile integrations quickly, makes a no-code solution the best choice. 

Early-Stage Digital Transformation

Once a tool is selected, there are several steps you must take in the first stage of adoption to ensure your investment doesn’t go dead in the water, according to HubSpot:

  • Use cases: The decision makers of your team now must identify what use cases they want to implement first. Consider the processes across your business that could use the most help — is it Order-to-Cash or Employee Onboarding and Offboarding? Could your organization use a virtual helpdesk to answer employee inquiries upon command, led by a bot-based protocol which uses ML to improve based on the feedback it receives? Whatever they decide, the right (and wrong) use cases must be identified at the very beginning, which may take a few trials given the amount you have.
  • Change management – Part 1: Automation is going to change the way you work drastically, which is different from the typical business-as-usual (BAU) change management. Therefore, it may be necessary to involve additional planning and implementation tools to ensure a smooth transition. The first step should be examining the extent or degree to which change can occur with said adoption. 
  • Operations & IT strategy: When testing the functionality of a tool, it needs to be able to support the load of several use cases (hence the selection of use cases in a previous bullet). This will help gauge what’s necessary for scaling in the future and help build an infrastructure for your platform. 

Mid-Stage Digital Transformation

At this point in your digital-first, automation-driven strategy, at least one use case should be actively in production. Now, the hard work begins.

  • Cost-benefit analysis – Part 1: Your initial use case(s) will help determine high level/unnecessary costs in the first year of your program. This analysis will be refined later in an integration “playbook.”
  • Gap assessment – Part 1: By using automation to eliminate manual, repetitive work, you’ll quickly see areas of improvement for other processes prior to applying automation. It’s best to consult with your IT/business systems team and designated LOBs to determine how to reengineer these processes before applying automation.
  • Integration playbook: Building upon your initial use case(s), you will need to deploy a large-scale integration playbook across LOBs and/or timelines. This will allow projection into your pipeline, and act as a primary input into your second cost-benefit analysis.
  • Cost-benefit analysis – Part 2: As you build upon use cases, you will continue to identify unnecessary costs, lessons learned, and value received versus expectations. Continue to apply this knowledge as adoption continues, marking it for any future implementations.

Growth Stage of a Digital Transformation

At this point, you will have several use cases in deployment that lack enterprise cohesiveness. Here’s what to do next:

  • Gap assessment – Part 2: If there are any reengineering techniques you’ve found successful at this point, now’s the time to apply them. This would also be the time to identify any other areas of improvement to ensure your automation footprint is sound. 
  • Power user program – Part 1: The power users, in this case, will be non-technical staff. Sure, IT and business systems need to be able to use the platform, but it’s the extent to which LOBs and other non-technical staff use the platform that’ll make the case for this clear. Identify a few LOB champions and assess how to scale and reduce costs based on their usage.
  • Scaling IT: At the Growth stage, you will have learned enough to be able to make informed decisions that significantly impact cost, such as the use of on-prem versus cloud systems. 
  • Change management – Part 2: In adopting an automation platform that changes the way you work, you will impact every customer, employee and department in your business. Be prepared to launch any change management plans at this point, preparing your enterprise for transformation.
  • Power user program – Part 2: As you begin to transition developers and LOB users, you will start to iron out the kinks of your platform. This is necessary before establishing a center of excellence (CoE) or distributing the platform as an end-user computing (EUC) model for the larger enterprise.

Mature Stage of a Digital Transformation

By now, your platform has completed development and you have a centralized program ready to scale. At this point, you’ll want to implement:

  • Portfolio management of best practices: Your integration “playbook” is now mature. You will have experienced enough refinements, shifts, and digital transformation on a scale that requires you to apply business intelligence. We recommend getting ahead of the game and investing in warehouse tools like Snowflake and visualization tools like Tableau and integrating them into your platform.
  • Modernize IT: As technology changes, so do the available options for automation support. Your company may have since moved to a cloud platform, leaving on-prem systems in the past. Be sure to integrate (or determine the availability of integration) of any new apps or processes.
  • Thought leadership: When your business is ready to perform in a new way both internally and externally, this presents an opportunity to reach out to a matured network to leverage the best practices of others. Implementing a seasoned approach, or using it to validate your own, is a necessary last step in becoming a truly intelligent enterprise.

Interested in seeing how an intelligent automation platform works? Request a demo of Workato – the leader in Enterprise Automation.

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