Businesses worldwide are leveraging automation to deliver services at a lower cost with a higher level of customer satisfaction. The return on investment for automation is well documented, both in financial benefit and higher customer retention rates. But not all efforts to implement automation are created equal, and many companies stumble to meet their goal.
Integrating automation into a business requires planning and strategy. This post walks through the top pitfalls to avoid when implementing automation.
Recreating the Workflow
The first mistake many businesses make is automating the steps of an existing workflow. This may seem like a shortcut since the workflow provides a blueprint for the steps needed to achieve the end result. But workflows created around manual processes focus more on previously performed tasks than on the entire problem.
I experienced this firsthand while developing a process to automate billing based on cloud usage. The existing workflow had many steps that required manually altering the output of the previous step and reformatting it before sending it to the next person in the chain. This process created a significant margin of error, as even minor changes caused the entire chain to break. This leads to our next major pitfall.
Automating Independent Tasks
Budget and resource limitations make large automation projects challenging, so it’s best to break them up into smaller components. But many businesses make the mistake of automating independent tasks first with a plan to retrofit them together. Automating in this way leads to “code islands,” or silos, that require heavy rework in later integrations.
Taking the previous example, the development group at the company automated a billing task by taking a canned report and outputting a file that the billing system imported. The automation successfully reduced the amount of time spent on this assignment from hours to minutes. However, customers began reporting invoicing issues; it was discovered that the invoicing team had been using raw data that wasn’t being transferred into the new automated report. This mishap resulted from dependent teams automating their own duties independently.
Applying Automation to Existing Policies
There are few less-loved tasks in enterprise than revisiting and rewriting existing policy documentation. Businesses use those existing policies as automation guidelines. But internal policies are typically built with the process, rather than business needs, in mind.
Compliance policies around data protection are the worst offenders of this mistake due to the sensitive nature of handling data. These policies are often based on specific actions from a prior breach or created with the goal of passing an audit, which makes them cluttered with process documentation. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to identify the end-result requirements instead of the method to achieve those results.
Automating is a powerful way to improve a business’ effectiveness and lower its total cost of ownership. But unless automation is well planned, it can lead to unexpected costs and headache. So, take the time to create a future-proof workflow that aligns with your business needs.
If you want to learn more about integrating automation, read our blog: Using Automation to Validate Applications and Services in Rubrik Backups.