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Automation Dangers: What to Look Out For

On this blog, we write a lot about automating business processes with Laserfiche and the efficiencies that you’ll achieve. I’m an optimist and love to discuss the positive side of technology initiatives. However, I also think it’s appropriate to share what can go wrong with

automation projects and what you can do to ensure your project doesn’t go sideways.

Priorities Differ

One of the biggest problems organizations have when trying to deploy automation (especially without an external project partner). On one side, you’ve got the business unit trying to deploy automation with minimal IT support⸺which can lead to automating just the simplistic tasks and without considering impacts to the overall process, especially if the process runs through other business units. On the other side, you’ve got IT building out enterprise projects without the participation of the business units⸺which leads to a huge gap between what is automated and what delivers value.

As software applications have become easier to use and GUIs more user-friendly, business teams want to step up and build what they need to solve their problems. However, sometimes this proves opposed to IT who generally wants to standardize, need to support the technology, worry about security, and mitigate risk. This, my friends, is when you hear the dreaded and unfortunate, “we don’t support X application, it belongs to the business unit.”

Even when preferences are aligned, business units often lack the tech chops to build, implement and support business processes on their own. Also, these efforts can compromise the integrity of the enterprise tech stack and the strategy driving it. Hence, the business needs are often reliant on IT and sometimes subservient to.

Sometimes IT just doesn’t have the bandwidth to assist the business unit to use yet another application for automation. The overall results can be animosity between the unit and IT, inefficiency because of broken processes, and occurrences of Shadow IT⸺where business units budget and source applications independent of IT. It can be a miserable situation for all involved.

Standardization⸺The Problem With

The entire point of automation is to rid humans of inefficient, repetitive tasks. In fact, the ideal processes for automation are repetitive. COTTS software cannot analyze a business problem and automate it via AI. At least not yet. Plus many business processes require some wiggle room or exception handling

It also takes effort and time to automate processes. IT doesn’t necessarily have an army of business analysts. Besides, the domain expert may not have the time or the interest to work with IT. Also, these types of projects generally are not one-and-done. The software requires updating and support and business needs shift so the process will need to change accordingly. Who will do this? The software obviously can’t change without human intervention.

So, now what, Tom?

A few suggestions. First, IT and the business units need to work together, before the software is purchased. Many organizations have IT conduct their yearly planning with the business units. This way, needs can be identified and a case can be made. Secondly, at the enterprise-level, IT should look at sourcing multi-functional applications, like ECM. With Laserfiche, the GUI is easy enough that some tech-savvy business unit staff can be trained and charged with building the business process, supported by IT. Finally, I recommend that IT adopt a formal project management method such as Agile⸺allowing feedback loops (with the business unit) and retrospectives, to show them what was developed.



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