6 Suggestions For Attaining Actual-World ROI From Digital Automation

By Jeff Koyen 

In terms of promising actual, measurable return on funding, some technologists hedge their bets. There are too many elements to think about, they are saying. Too many variables in advanced IT installations.

That’s not the case for Dr. Gráinne Watson.

“When you do all the things proper, you probably have a enterprise case, if you recognize precisely what you want and when you begin with the fast wins, you may see return on funding inside six months,” she says.

Six months.

Watson serves as director of the automation observe at Capita, the U.Okay.’s largest skilled providers firm, with greater than 61,000 staff. As such, she’s been integral to the agency’s digital transformation from day one.

Years in the past, she says, “You would offer a enterprise case and say, ‘I assume the ROI can be right here.’ You’d price out as finest you possibly can.”

In the present day, because of trendy, cloud-based platforms that monitor each course of to the tiniest element, “we are able to drill proper down into how a lot the automation is costing per transaction,” she says. “That is revolutionary to the market.”

The advantages of automated digital workflows don’t finish there.

Writing for Workflow Quarterly, a analysis publication from ServiceNow that covers rising tech and enterprise technique tendencies, Thomas H. Davenport—distinguished professor at Babson Faculty and an skilled on large knowledge and synthetic intelligence—offered knowledge that helps the enterprise case for automating widespread enterprise processes. 

Based mostly on a ServiceNow survey of greater than 7,200 IT executives and staff in 2019, Davenport discovered that:

  • For 9 out of 10 IT executives, automation reduces repetitive duties
  • 85% say it fosters staff collaboration
  • 85% say it improves job satisfaction
  • 87% imagine automation will increase time for creativity

In abstract, “firms can obtain billions in combination financial savings from widespread implementation of digital workflows whereas enhancing the standard of labor life for workers,” writes Davenport. 

Talking from her workplace in Belfast, Watson provided six suggestions for getting began with workflow digitization technique. 

1) Head to the cloud

Fashionable digital workflows first appeared round 2012, primarily within the insurance coverage and banking industries, Watson says. At first, most organizations hosted these workflows in their very own knowledge facilities. This was lower than very best, says Watson.

“When a course of broke down or if one thing modified, it was very tough to know why. We spent plenty of time sending service engineers to get issues up and working,” she explains.

Transferring its automated practices to the cloud has realized three key advantages.

“First, now we have reusable code that we are able to raise and shift to different issues,” she says. “Second, now we have a full view of our automations, which was inconceivable earlier than. Lastly, as a result of we run all the things within the cloud, we are able to pull all the info into our ServiceNow automation portal by way of APIs.”

Taken collectively, these advantages make measurable ROI potential.

“When you’re watching all the things from the cloud,” she says, “you are not depending on individuals going to the positioning, taking a look and reporting again. You’ll be able to monitor, measure and optimize regularly.”

2) Enlist top-to-bottom assist

When Capita first embraced automation in 2018, the mandate got here from on excessive. “Our CEO wished automation up and working in each Capita enterprise,” Watson recounts.

Assist additionally got here the bottom-up, from Capita’s 61,000 staff within the U.Okay.—and this was vital to the corporate’s success.

“We understood that we needed to educate everybody inside Capita about what automation might do for them and the way it might assist them of their roles,” she says. “We held open days each month, and we tasked our companies to appoint an automation champion.”

For organizations struggling to drum up this inside assist, Davenport’s analysis helps creating an automation heart of excellence. Writing in Workflow Quarterly,  he says:

“In my interviews, the simplest corporations at managing digital workflows had established Facilities of Excellence in automation or associated matters. They included representatives from all throughout their organizations, they usually addressed a number of applied sciences and course of sorts.”

3) Deal with staff as clients

Though Capita is likely one of the U.Okay.’s largest enterprise consultancies, with tens of hundreds of purchasers worldwide, the corporate’s automation journey started with its personal staff. 

“We had been seeking to rework ourselves internally after which take that to market,” Watson explains. To make this potential, Capita handled everybody internally as a buyer.

“After we had been getting all the things up and working, we really used a buyer portal,” she says. “Our individuals might log in and discover out what’s taking place with their bots 24 hours a day.” This direct entry helped inside stakeholders perceive the advantages of automation extra clearly and concretely.

With these inside processes perfected, Capita created a service portal for its purchasers, giving them entry to the highly effective instruments developed for its employee-facing features.

“Our purchasers right now log into our service portal to test the standing of their processes, test exceptions, get high-level service updates and handle any potential points,” she says. “Once you look [back] on the first era of automations, that is revolutionary.”

4) Pump up the amount

To work successfully at scale—and produce a measurable ROI—automated processes want two issues: massive quantities of knowledge and dependable guidelines.

“Quantity is crucial for automation,” says Watson. “That is the place you get your ROI—from decreasing the period of time it takes to course of massive volumes of data. You additionally want clearly outlined guidelines that not often change.”

Whatever the business, Watson’s staff begins every new consulting engagement with the consumer’s finance and HR division.

“With finance, there are very particular guidelines, and that signifies that we are able to construct enterprise guidelines that [can be automated],” she says. “The identical goes for HR. It doesn’t matter what job you are in, there will be onboarding and offboarding processes, for instance, which might be ruled by guidelines.”

5) Govern accordingly

At any group, however particularly one as massive as Capita, a companywide digital transformation isn’t any small feat. The various potential pitfalls embody scope creep.

Watson argues that automation may help you keep away from scope creep.

“For lots of massive transformation tasks, the previous scale was two or three years earlier than you’d see ROI,” she says. “Automation is totally different. We are able to have a pleasant automation up and working inside about six weeks, from begin to end. Some are even sooner than that.”

Nonetheless, that is solely potential with strict governance.

“Once you simply hold constructing new issues, you’re consistently innovating,” she explains. “However you could even be innovating constantly. As a result of we’re such a giant group, now we have very strict governance. We should be constantly adequate to ship on daily basis.”


When you don’t have all the things in place, she warns, “it’ll drag on and on.”

6) Don’t ignore the smooth stuff

The flexibility to measure real-world ROI is game-changing, however don’t ignore the the “smooth advantages” of workflow automation. In response to ServiceNow’s analysis:

  • 88% of IT execs say course of automation will increase buyer satisfaction
  • 80% say automation reduces worker turnover
  • 90% say automation frees up staff to deal with extra strategic work
  • 72% say office automation creates jobs

Watson agrees—however argues these smooth advantages are literally quantifiable.

“The softer advantages are in all probability extra vital to us,” she says. “However they are usually financial as nicely. Our attrition is healthier, for instance, as a result of we’re eradicating the guide, irritating elements of individuals’s roles, giving them time to deal with the vital bits.”

Most organizations, Watson says, will get pleasure from related advantages in the event that they get automation proper.

Nonetheless unsure? Think about these real-world examples, courtesy of Watson:

Ticket Processing

Earlier than automation: An inside Capita staff was accountable for manually processing 150,000 unused practice tickets per 12 months.

After automation: Over 90% of those rail tickets are actually processed routinely.

Checking Pensions

Earlier than automation: Annual pension program required a big seasonal employees to conduct guide checks towards a mess of regional databases.

After automation: Processing time lowered by 50%, no seasonal employees wanted 


Earlier than automation: Time-consuming insurance coverage queries carried out manually

After automation: 3,500 hours per 12 months returned to the group

“With the intention to achieve success on this quickly altering technological world, each group must consistently innovate,” Watson says. “Automation is the glue for that. Automation will get you the place you are making an attempt to go, brick by brick.”


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