Addressing the Big Pink Robot in the Room – How to Take the Robot Out of the Human
We have all been there, or even are there, performing a task, over and over again, because it has to get done. It is not what we signed up to do, it isn’t what we wake up in the morning for, yet, it is a requirement for us to do our job, so we are stuck doing it. It’s also not because the business truly wants us doing those roles either, they add no true value to the business, they prevent us from spending more time on tasks that you were really hired to do, and still, we find ourselves having to do these tasks anyways.
Think about this for a second, we are now performing a task, that we neither want to do, nor the business wants us to do, but both parties agree that it is a requirement.
We have also been made to believe that this is the status quo, and in fact, I have often seen employees become protective of these duties as if they have job protection because they know how to do this function and no one else does. From the business perspective, these are often roles that require a lot of training, a lot of attention to detail, and ironically take a great deal of patience while lacking career growth opportunity, so there ends up being a lot of turnover in the position, or worse, that person is either sick or on vacation and you are now stuck trying to piece this process together. These place a lot of burden on the employee not to take time off, and a lot of burden on the business to hire/train, rinse and repeat. Again, I ask, how did we end up here, where we have a process that neither the employee or business really wants to be doing, and we end up latching onto the tasks.
Now, over the last 10 -15 years, if you were ahead of the curve and tried to do something about this, you didn’t have many options. Those that had large volumes of tasks being repeated on a daily basis, or as we like to call them, inefficiencies, you essentially only had a few choices.
One way a lot of companies opted for was to outsource/offshore those processes. This had a lot of benefits, of course, 20-30% cost savings, less internal employees to manage and in the selling world we told people “you do what you’re good at, and let us do what we are good at.” It did work, but it also came with some significant downsides: companies no longer had quality control, costs were now fixed and often the costs were very difficult or painful to switch which made the company less maneuverable. Lastly, we again are letting people perform these tedious tasks, just in a different country, so really the problem didn’t go away, it’s just not in our faces anymore.
Another option companies went for would be to have a custom (e.g expensive, time consuming, disruptive) solution like Enterprise Resource Planning/Warehouse Management System/Business Process Management Solution put into place. Most Enterprise companies would go down this route, and really was and always will be required for Mass-Volume operations. Usually though, these systems are never complete and the larger the organization, the more gaps in automation you would see in different departments, so again, while you got rid of the Mass-Volume tasks, your gaps still create these inefficiencies and ultimately leave you with the same challenge but in different areas.
In the mid-market and SMB arena’s, these solutions were often too costly, so you went for option three if it was available. This was the elusive search for a custom solution out there that was specifically designed with your business in mind and came out of the box ready to go. There were a lot of great solutions sold over the years because someone who spent a career in one industry, came up with a niche product that provides automation for these tasks that could be sold at scale for a reasonable price because they lacked the need to customize. While these solutions seemed like lifesavers at the time, usually 5-10 years down the line, these products struggle to stay up to date with the other technologies surrounding it, handcuffing the business to that solution and often having to throw more resources at it to keep it running or supported.
Lastly, as an attempt to help, the business IT Departments have tried to fill these gaps and often resorted to screen scraping, macro’s or integrations. While desktop automation was easy to setup and quick to implement, it left a business with no control over compliance or reliability. With no change management or process assurance in place, it wasn’t possible for businesses to make this their enterprise solution.
Thankfully, now, we have access to scalable Enterprise Robotic Process Automation, which is controlled by the business, but secured and governed by IT. This solution can really address the middle/back-office tasks that we have been forced to perform on a daily basis and finally it can take the robot out of the human. These solutions are able to be implemented quickly and efficiently, making them accessible to every level of business, and can be implemented for point problems or as a full business solution so that it doesn’t impact the business operations.