10 Process Automation Mistakes That End in Chaos

cloud automation concept

Author: Nathan Whicker, Lead Solutions Architect

In 2022, Gartner published its list of the ten most common mistakes when implementing automation. MCCi’s mission is to free your staff from repetitive tasks and give them more time for higher-value work. For over 20 years, our team of experts has delivered automation. Gartner researches and writes about it, but we are the delivery experts!

This blog post is our take on the top 10 common mistakes seen during automation implementations.

Treating Automation as Simple Task Replication

It’s easy to view business process automation (BPA) as tasks within employees’ job descriptions. But before you implement automation, look at your current workflows.

Ultimately, automation initiatives transform your agency's operations — one task at a time but within a larger framework of process oversight.

Not Involving all Stakeholders

Each line of business in your agency has its responsibilities to citizens and the organization. If you don’t get all the stakeholders involved in the process or tasks being automated. In that case, you risk the possibility of negative ripple effects throughout the agency.

For example, think about how your contracts are routed and approved. Suppose the focus is simply streamlining the approval process and not the outcome. In that case, you might not get your legal department involved until the end, and your automation might not comply with regulations or governance standards.

Not Devote Enough Time to Testing

This mistake is related to several others on the list, most notably creating automation without engaging your agency’s IT staff. Automated tasks often have variations that only some of your staff handle. Therefore, it’s important to be sure that all business functions and groups that might use automation have been part of the development process.

Carpenters have a saying, “measure twice and cut once.” For no-code and low-code software development, we say, “test frequently and include everyone.”

Wasting Effort on Complicated Projects

This one is straightforward. Assess all workflows that you think can be automated.

More than likely, new wrinkles uncovered will result in scope creep. The key is to have a way to measure the ROI of your automation.

Measuring Success with the Wrong Metrics

It is best to define what makes automation successful – such as removing a single bump in the road for one staffer. Time savings – gaining additional data for decision-making? The best automation projects help change your agency’s functions and create longer-lasting impacts. Focusing on outcomes vs. simple time metrics will help you find the best metric.

Falling in Love with a Single Technology

Technology changes rapidly, but it’s easy to get stuck when you have already invested in implementing a tool, training your staff, and maintaining licensing. Plus, if you only make automated decisions based on the needs of one department, other parts of your organization might not gain the same benefits.

For example, your finance department might be comfortable with a specific Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, but will that system easily share data and work with other apps? Finally, when scoping out an automation solution, see if any existing applications create task flow roadblocks or data silos. If so, this could be the right time to make business process improvements and upgrade your automation tools.

Automating without Your IT Department

MCCi believes that no-code and low-code automations are powerful because they allow people familiar with the work to create solutions based on their experience. However, solution design is only one aspect of automation.

Your IT department will help ensure that automation connects to other business systems securely and consistently while ensuring proper security, system capability, and compliance. This is critically important when internal systems move to the cloud

For example, if part of an automation project moves HIPAA data to the cloud, the cloud-based IT provider must also meet HIPAA standards.

Thinking Automation is Always the Solution

People always want to free themselves from repetitive tasks. But trying to automate more complicated workflows can create quality control issues and, ultimately, the need for a human to intervene.

Sure, you might be able to automate a very complex and time-consuming task flow, but at what cost? What is your ROI? When subjective reasoning is part of a process, the human touch (human-in-the-loop) is needed.

Failing to Monitor Post-Production

Automation complete… what’s next? Next is monitoring feedback loops among the different users and stakeholders to ensure your automation project is working as expected and that users aren’t reverting to old ways.

For example, maybe your no-code solution needs a programming tweak that only your IT staff can figure out—a transition from no-code to low-code. Are your metrics correct and provide valuable data? Let the data and user feedback guide the evolution of simple task automation into a larger business process solution.

Ignoring Culture and Employee Impacts

For any project involving process changes or new apps, communicate the benefits and get buy-in from all users and groups that will be affected. If your automation increases productivity, adjust the KPIs for these groups.

And on the cultural side, some people still like paper and don’t like bits and bytes. Instead of emailing or talking on the phone, your employees may have routines around walking to the file cabinet, saying hello to coworkers down the hall, and exchanging details around the copy machine rather than emailing or talking on the phone. Automation can potentially disrupt these moments of camaraderie. Instead, reinforce that your staff can work together on more interesting, challenging, and rewarding work.

Start Your Automation Journey

Agencies need to plan for automation to reap the benefits of speed, quality control, and cost savings - before creating a solution. A risk mitigation plan covers these top 10 common mistakes—and others we haven't mentioned here.

Our team of experts has used industry best practices for over 20+ years of solutions delivery.
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