When is IPA the Right Tool for the Job?

When is IPA the Right Tool for the Job?

Identifying and Prioritizing Opportunities for Automation

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow .

The concept known as the law of the hammer, or Maslow's hammer, describes a cognitive bias that involves an over-reliance on a familiar tool. For those in the business of process automation, it’s tempting to look at any process that involves a human being spending more than a few minutes in front of a keyboard and mouse on a tedious task as a candidate for automation.

In reality, however, most companies, not to mention most solution vendors, have focused on the most obvious processes—those with high volumes and a high velocity of data, documents and transactions that require lots of wasteful, inefficient human intervention. In that context, AP vendor processing and sales order handling are the post children for intelligent process automation.

The same opportunities for automation exist in banking, where opening accounts or processing mortgage applications are low hanging fruit. Insurance companies have similarly capitalized on process automation to take the pain out of health and injury claims, or onboarding applicants or employees. Transport companies, meanwhile, have targeted supply chain and logistics operations.

That said, not every process is ideal for automation, even when intelligent, flexible, low code approaches can relieve the heavy lifting from IT and reduce the total cost of ownership.

Nailing the Problem with the Right Solution

How can companies evaluate processes and identify the best candidates for automation where intelligent process automation can deliver the best ROI? THAT process begins by stepping back to fully understand the process in question. Often, this crucial step is overlooked, and often companies have a less than optimal experience implementing IPA because they cut corners when looking at WHAT to automate and WHY.

The worst case scenario when it comes to process automation is accelerating a flawed or misunderstood process, so that bad things happen faster.

With that in mind, the starting point for evaluating a process that is a candidate for IPA includes:

  1. Is this process highly repetitive? From the examples described above, we can see how back office processes, or the kinds of tasks associated with finance, real estate and transportation apply.
  2. Is this process high volume? Of course, this is highly subjective, but most often, companies look to automate a process once they achieve a certain volume and velocity that overwhelms their existing staff and the options are to automate or to keep throwing people at the problem.
  3. Is the process rules-based? Sometimes, companies fail to fully grasp the degree to which some processes follow a prescribed set of rules, because those rules exist inside the heads of the process owners. Getting those rules down and ensuring that everyone agrees to the rules is key in automating any process.
  4. Is the process vulnerable to human error? Generally, anything that requires a person to sit behind a screen with a keyboard and mouse qualifies. That’s equally true when there may have been a human operator on the front end of a process—for example, when your company receives an invoice that has been keyed in by a vendor.

Finding the Right Fit

More broadly, there are categories of tasks that can help companies to prioritize processes that are the best candidates for process automation. Often, Artsyl customers that have tackled low-hanging fruit like APO vendor invoices or sales orders, evaluate other process candidates using this framework. For those companies, the technology platform they’ve invested in has already essentially paid for itself, and they’ve already cut their teeth on an implementation and adoption process.

In essence, at that stage, they may have a long list of automation candidates. The question just becomes prioritization.

Often, prioritization means digging deeper to look at processes where there is a good fit. Those priorities may include looking at how IPA can contribute by automating the following:

Updating information: This includes cleaning vendor or customer addresses in an ERP or CRM system, or any data that may flow from one source (a system, document or communication) to another. This includes creating new transaction records for approved purchases or sales, relieving your staff from a tedious tasks while ensuring timely, up to date information in your system or record.

Transferring information: One of the problems with Big Data is where to put it, how to organize it and how to move it. One example is during a merger or acquisition, ERP, CRM, HR and data from other systems need to be consolidated. IPA platforms provide intelligent, flexible tools to integrate with various systems to achieve this. In the case of inbound data and documents like vendor invoices or customer orders, IPA applications like Artsyl’s docAlpha can automatically classify, sort and file data and documents into the appropriate ERP or ECM system and create new records or transactions where necessary.

Urgent tasks: When we talk about “velocity” related to a process rather than volume, we’re factoring time and urgency into the equation of dealing with large volumes of data or documents. Any process that requires timely attention can be a good candidate for IPA. The faster you can process a sales order impacts cash flow, while also providing more timely access to data in support of that customer, and in support of your market analysis and sales forecasting. On the AP side, faster transaction processing can translate into early pay discounts and to better visibility of g/l accruals.

Want to learn more about what’s possible using the latest intelligent process automation systems and applications, so you can make your own target list of processes to automate? Visit the Artsyl Resource Page.



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