How to Select Your First Process Automation Project and Calculate the ROI

How to get better ROI through process automation projects

In a post COVID-19 world and the new economic reality it brings, process automation seems to be the most promising solution that does more than just save on costs. It improves productivity and the quality of work, and allows workers to spend more time on tasks that add more value to the organization. As a result, you are able to spend more time rethinking and creating a new balance to the way you work to reshape our economic offerings.

Automation is set to change the way businesses work. In fact, companies are already using Intelligent Process Automation to automate 50-70% of their tasks, with ROI percentages reaching into the triple digits.

But being aware of the benefits of automation doesn’t make it easier to implement within your own organization. Choosing which processes to automate to achieve the highest possible ROI is not always obvious, and without conducting research into the right areas to automate, the project is likely to result in failure.

What Are the First Steps?

The first step on the journey is to understand what can be done today using state-of-the-art automation, and perhaps more specifically, using Intelligent Process Automation. Without this prior knowledge, there is no doubt that the decisions made by those responsible for the organization will be null or minimal. The correct way to approach your automation project includes a joint decision being made between:

  1. The automation provider.
  2. The person within the organization responsible for process improvement.
  3. The people who participate in the process that needs to be automated.

With this knowledge in mind, it is time to choose which process can – and should – be automated. But this doesn’t mean listing each and every one of the organization’s processes. Rather, list the few that we know are good candidates for automation thanks to prior research and the help of an expert. These are the four parameters that should be taken into account:

● The number of hours this process requires annually.
● The volume of errors found due to this process.
● The volume of repetition this process requires.
● Its degree of definition and structured data.

With these criteria in mind, you can begin by analyzing which process would be the best candidate for automation. In this case, the best candidate is the one with the one projected to have the highest possible ROI.

If this project is the first case of automation within the organization, it’s important to take into account the difficulty of implementation and the criteria required. If the organization is looking for a case study to promote internally, try not to start with the project that has the highest ROI if it is too complicated to execute and implement. Instead, try to start with a more simple case.

Selecting the Process

As mentioned earlier, you can select the process to automate using the four criteria above. But when making the final decision, it is important to go into more detail by calculating the technical feasibility and ROI of automation.

The Technical Viability

In short, a process is made up of inputs; a series of related tasks and rules, and outputs: what these tasks and rules achieve. Being able to define the process in writing will help us to understand its degree of definition, and therefore its level of difficulty when it comes to automating it.

Many companies make the mistake of defining a process by its main function, but they neglect to take into account its secondary uses. So, for the automation project to be a success, there must be a clear understanding of all of its uses. If this is not possible, the organization and automation provider must make it clear that only the main branch will be automated, which therefore means that the ROI calculated will only be that of the main function, and not the entire process.

Understanding Human Tasks vs. Machine Tasks

When selecting the best process to automate, it is essential to understand the differences between human tasks and machine tasks.

Humans are better than machines at dealing with uncertainty, ambiguity, change, and novelty. Humans are also very good at decision making when it comes to the more complex conditions of a task. It is still very difficult for the machines to beat humans on this ground, therefore automating this type of task remains difficult.

Humans are also very good at working with analog and unstructured data, whereas machines require more structured and digital data. However, A.I. has made some serious progress in these areas within recent years, meaning that they may one day catch up with humans in this regard.

But when it comes to very repetitive tasks, humans often don’t perform as well as machines. This is because tasks that require consistent concentration over a period of time usually result in errors. Machines perform better here as they do not get fatigued and aren’t prone to making mistakes.
These differences are another factor that should be considered when selecting which process to automate.

Calculating the ROI

Calculating the ROI of a process automation project isn’t always easy as it goes much further than simply making a financial calculation. When analyzing the ROI, we use the 3-wins pattern which takes into account the value for the user/client, the value for the organization, and the value for the employee. Here are some of the benefits that may result from this approach:

Customer Value
● Improved service quality
● Remove pain points
● Improved service consistency
● Time saved can be spent in other customer areas (such as product evolution)

Employee Value
● Less repetitive work.
● Increased employee satisfaction
● An easier way to solve problems

Shareholder Value
● Operational efficiencies
● Increased speed
● Competitive advantage
● Brand enhancing
● Data time access reduced

Calculate the ROI of your process automation projects

Some of these benefits can directly translate into time and money savings, and others provide more value in tasks over a longer period of time. Some of these benefits also result in higher levels of employee and customer satisfaction, and others help to fulfill the strategic objectives of the organization.

The ROI of an automation project will be greater if one of the automation benefits can generate greater employee engagement.

Similarly, the ROI will be higher if the benefits of automation are clear and the project is easy to create and implement. The automation project must also have an obvious economic benefit that is easy for all parties involved to to justify, calculate, and understand.

 

A Process Automation Success Story

Our latest case study provides a recent example of implementing the first automation project for a leading ticketing company. We worked with them to help automate a process that was currently costing around 130 hours per year. This task entailed a repetitive process of extracting data and generating reports, which when carried out by human workers was prone to errors.

By automating this process, we were able to reduce the hours required for this task down to zero – ensuring the full automation of the entire process and making the information available in real time, instead of weekly. Automating this key process took just 70 hours, and as a result it’s clear to see the benefit of significant time reductions, as well as providing the additional benefits mentioned above in our 3-wins pattern.

As this was a highly successful first automation project for the company, they were able to convince internal members of the business of the benefits of automation and use it to inform other areas which would lead to high ROI.

Summary

Implementing Intelligent Process Automation within an organization is no longer a case of deciding whether or not to do it – but rather when and how to get started. It’s easy to rush into an automation project without considering the benefits and ROI, but carefully choosing the best candidate – along with a trusted IPA partner – for automation is key to realizing both of these aspects and avoid potential failure of the project.

 

Our latest case study gives a full breakdown of how how we have helped businesses successfully implement automation into their business critical processes: 

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