Smart-Track, Don’t Fast-Track Business Survival

North Wind Digital
North Wind Digital.

There are plenty of gags out there about how the main driver to fast-tracking digital transformation in business has been COVID-19, rather than the CTO – and , sadly, they’re largely true. The necessity of shifting the majority of global office workforces to a ‘work-from-home’ scenario almost overnight has seen a huge shift in the way businesses function – and forced those who weren’t embracing digital to do so, in a hurry.

While the pandemic has necessitated swift digital adoption for many businesses, there’s a huge downside to simply making the shift for the sake of it – poorly-planned digital migration can prove just as detrimental to a business as no digital migration at all.

South African business leaders are doing what South Africans do – making a plan. These plans are focussed mainly on staunching the haemorrhaging of cash and clients, and getting back to work as swiftly as possible – embracing the ‘new normal’ for the sake of survival.  They still need to be able to service their clients, find more clients and ensure that they are not caught like this again. The smart businesses are the ones who had already embraced things like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) because they’re already an additional step ahead – they have the chance to examine their business and operational processes and ask how they can change things to be even better, rather than starting from zero, as so many companies are.

RPA can automate any processes which contain manual repetitive work, in order to free up humans for value-add activities which require judgement calls. RPA can automate anything from finance processes (from invoice processing to bank account sweeps and bill payments), reporting (revenue, cost of sales and cash flow reporting) and First-Line Customer Service interaction apps; procurement and supply chain management. On the micro-level, we have seen North Wind Digital clients deploying RPA for process optimisation and to reduce the human error of processes. On the macro-level, RPA can enable the business to make better use of its human capital, to gain ROI’s in the form of profit, cost avoidance and by aligning the business with regulatory and compliance-related requirements, enabling it to better reach its operational goals.

We are seeing successful clients park their traditional management metrics like Cost Reduction, Process Efficiency and Employee Productivity in favour of a more Digital Scoreboard. These new metrics measure a combination of the productivity of humans, enhanced by the productivity of bots. Humans should be measured on their intellectual and emotional capabilities, while bots should be measured on cost reduction, process efficiency and productivity.

This shift in focus isn’t easy, but the results are already proving the value of this type of examination. When leaders have the time to really consider who they are serving and how they can do it better, stakeholder satisfaction is improved across the board. Consider this: when an interaction or business interface is designed with a 360 degree view, it doesn’t only focus on the customer experience, but considers all the other role players, in one sweeping view. A very different perspective can then be applied when considering automation or the need for the process in the first place.

While nobody understands internal processes like the company which functions by virtue of them, the keen eye of an expert Business Analyst (BA) in advising on these rapid turn-arounds is a crucial part of the migration process – preaching ‘smart-tracking’ over ‘fast-tracking’. While the BA’s role will always be to act as intermediary and translator between technology and people, RPA means that today’s BA is required to understand technology more than ever to be able to analyse backend systems as well as front end systems, across multiple platforms.

The BA’s role is to reimagine the business – not just work with what’s in front of them and add a digital layer. They ask ‘why do it like that?’ and suggest ‘look at the benefit of doing it like this’. This skill, combined with the tools available for RPA, can drive rapid results, across the board. The BA in the age of RPA needs to be able to analyse systems in the way that humans use them – and see where bots can do things faster, to free up humans for other essential tasks.

Agility is important, but not at the expense of productivity. Automating a process that, for example doesn’t serve the company’s strategy, one that isn’t in an optimal state, or one that delivers no benefits such as low or no ROI or no cost avoidance, is a poor choice that won’t maximise the benefits of RPA – and the BA is the best person to help a business navigate the shift, especially in times of such upheaval.

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