Find the right use case
First and foremost, it is essential to identify the right process, task or activity to be automated.
Think about where you regularly see backlogs, delays and mistakes, or situations where lots of people are spending time on doing the same thing daily.
Consider whether the whole task or just an element of it – for example processing, assessment, communication, identification, comparison or negotiation- could be automated.
A good use case should offer a clear operational efficiency benefit to the organisation – e.g. speed, accuracy – that will have a direct or indirect link to revenue growth or improved profitability. Ideally it would also link to the business’s most immediate priorities too. If the value of a use case isn’t immediately clear, then it probably isn’t the right one and will struggle to garner support.
For more advice on how to pick the right automation project, refer to our guide (INSERT HYPERLINK).
Get the project scope right
It is important to know all the ins and outs of the activity you want to automate so that any requirements or limitations are understood from the off. Get the most experienced people possible to map out the process, its boundaries and variables so that the full scope of requirements are clear.
Don’t be too under or over ambitious with your project goals. That way, that the level of perceived risk will not be too high for senior decisionmakers to confidently sign off, but the results will be impressive enough to be noticed and return on investment won’t take long to deliver.
Aim for a project that is relatively small and easy to deliver, but that has potential to be developed further when the initial project has been proved a success
Identify the right software
Once you have identified what to automate and the project scope, you can start to appreciate what type of software would be required. The two most common types of automation used – outside of the industrial sector – are robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent or cognitive automation.
RPA is a productivity tool which uses software robots to replicate simple, computer-based activities that humans do, for example mimicking the movements and clicks a person makes with a mouse. It is used for tasks like opening software applications, moving text, populating online fields and/or submitting forms.
Intelligent automation refers to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within an automated process to imitate human thinking, for example decision-making, identification, analysis, and learning. It can be applied to tasks like assessing and approving applications, engaging with customers, or evaluating situations to choose the right course of action.
Every automation platform will have strengths and weaknesses. Consider your priorities and any parameters alongside the pros and cons of each, and whether you would need to use more than one platform to get the required functionality.
Selecting automation software that gives you the functionality and configurability you need is a complex task. Most businesses benefit from appointing a specialist automation consultancy to assist them with purchasing and implementation.
Once you have the right use case and software to deliver it, you need to begin building your business case. To make the project stack up, it must have a SMART (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and time-bound) objective attached to it, in order for it to gain the support it will inevitably need.
Clear, realistic goals will also help you manage stakeholders’ expectations regarding the budget and resource required and the likely timeframe for delivery of operational benefits and return on investment. It will also mean that you have a tangible vision to ‘sell’ to key stakeholders when trying to gather support for the initiative.
Get the right team
Have the right team of people invested in the project’s success as early as possible. This will ensure that all technical and operational considerations are taken into account at an early stage, and that there are no surprises mid-way through.
Aim to create an automation ‘centre of excellence’ that is responsible for any associated strategy, business analysis, IT, budget, operational change and internal influence. This will facilitate success and ensure that the skills and experience gained in the initial project can be drawn upon again, if and when required.
Enlist the person most qualified in undertaking the task being automated to ask them for detailed guidance on the process and the rationale behind the way things are done. Make them a key advocate of the project as stakeholders will look to them for validation. Involve the relevant team leader – if they aren’t already – to get them to evangelise about the project so that it has support amongst those it is likely to affect first.
Find a senior decision-maker that will back plans with budget and resource, and drive change forward.
Engage your head of IT so that they can advise on the technical logistics and available skillsets. If you don’t have adequate IT skills available internally, find an experienced consultancy to help you get things up and running. They can also identify what training needs your existing IT team may have to enable them to deal with minor automation enquiries and issues.
Intelligent automation is still viewed with suspicion and mistrust by many people. It can be an uphill struggle to convince key stakeholders to back the investment and upheaval required if they don’t understand the technology and how it works.
Educate as many people as possible on what automation is, how it works, and the pros and cons of it before looking for their support – check out our intelligent automation cheat sheet (INSERT HYPERLINK) for all the key points you will need to communicate.
Make sure that all the relevant stakeholders have a good understanding of the business case for the automation project, and what impact it will have on them personally and their wider remit.
Negativity is contagious and it can only take one person to cast doubt into the minds of key stakeholders and make the project seem more risky than it actually is. The more people that fully understand the technology, the more likely it is to get a fair hearing.
Implementing automation involves change and budget/resource commitment, so it is unlikely to succeed if it only has one person spearheading change.
Aim to build support across the organisation by regularly communicating with stakeholders on the progress of the project and inviting questions and feedback.
Once underway, the project will almost certainly result in disruption so it is important to manage people’s expectations about what to expect and when. This will give colleagues the opportunity to work around or mitigate issues, and ensure that their first experience of the automation project is not a negative one.
 Deloitte, ‘Automation with intelligence’, 2019