Critical Factors When Introducing Automation into your Shared Services Organisation

The introduction of automation is a key priority for many shared service organisations, however, it is not a venture to be taken lightly. The gleam and buzz of digital tools are often enough to lead decision makers go forward with the implementation of RPA, Machine Learning or AI, but as 70% of digital transformations fail, all that glitters here is certainly not gold. With insight from Kathleen Terjensen, Head of Global Business Services at Bose, we explore some of the critical factors that shared service leaders must consider during their automation journey to ensure that they don’t end up on the less-favorable side of the infamous statistic.

Identifying the Correct Processes

It is vital to be clear on where intelligent automation fits into the workplace, in business processes and the business’ overall strategy. Our 2019 State of the Shared Services Market Report revealed that where IA/RPA projects have failed is predominantly due to wrong process selection. While RPA is a valuable tool, it is not a cure-all solution. RPA should be viewed as a way to increase productivity within the business by taking on simple, repetitive yet error-prone tasks.

Preparing your people

“My personal belief is the benefit of IA is more towards employee engagement than it is towards bottom line savings,” shares Kathleen. In some cases, there may be some animosity among employees toward to introduction of this technology due to fear of redundancy. To counteract this, Bose emphasizes the move towards automation as an opportunity for employees to create added value by doing more of judgement based work leading to the creation of more fulfilling responsibilities. 

Managing Expectations

As Kathleen explains, the excitement among employees is raised to a point where they have to say “slow down just a little bit and give us a bit of time to get the structure in place so that we can do it right.” Similarly, Thomas Haseneder, Global Head GBS Finance Services at Ingram Micro, shares that hype is good, but it is important to manage expectations around it and avoid an atmosphere of over-excitement that may create more disruption than opportunities.

Measuring the Scope of Impact  

Whilst individual productivity gains may be great in percentage terms, it is important to understand what these gains mean at scale. You may have to choose between an IA investment that offers 300% improvement in a small task or a 3% improvement in an end-to-end process. Central to achieving this is maintaining a clear picture of the organization’s strategic goals and time scales for achieving them. 

Balancing the Costs

The cost savings that may accompany intelligent automation implementation must be balanced against the cost of setting up and sustaining it. As shared by Kathleen, one of the main factors that Bose has had to consider throughout their automation journey is whether or not while a bot may save an employee salary of $20,000 a year, they “have to consider how much it will cost to buy the license, build the bot and maintain it.”

Looking toward the future

There is a strong consensus that robotics, human centred design and “Humanistic AI” is the future. But it is integral to understand that this is about amplifying human creativity, decision making and effort rather than replacing the entire workforce with robots. Organizations need to understand how this technology can compliment the aptitudes of the human workforce and how they can provide this workforce with the ability to make the most of it when it arrives which requires a significant change management initiative. 

Redesigning Work

Workflow design and workspace design will need to adapt to a new era in which people work more closely with machines. This is both an opportunity and a challenge, in terms of creating a safe and productive environment. Organizations are changing too, as work becomes more collaborative and companies seek to become increasingly agile and non-hierarchical.

Learn more about how to successfully make automation a reality at your organisation at the 20th annual edition of Shared Services and Outsourcing Week in Lisbon, Portugal. SSOW is your opportunity to learn how to evolve your SSO into the engine of Enterprise Transformation. Uncover case studies, workshops and sessions ranging from the use of design thinking improve customer experience to addressing the digital landscape.

Our 2020 event speaker line-up features leaders from of the world's most successful companies including Adidas, Coca-Cola, Philips, Tesco, Mondelez International, ING and many, many more.