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Forrester: ‘Identify process experts in your organisation. Then listen to them!’

by Gary Flood

Later this month (December 15 to 17 inclusive), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market leader UiPath is hosting a special Reboot Work Festival’. The virtual event’s aim: highlight the ways companies are using automation to reinvent the way they work and free their employees to realise their potential, and on Day 2 there’s a special ‘Meet The Analysts’ event, with a topic of “Where are we and where are we going?”

There, Chief Evangelist over at UiPath, Guy Kirkwood, will be in dialogue with senior analysts covering all things automation and digital transformation, and it looks like a session very well worth attending. We have already profiled what one of the participants, IDC’s Neil Ward-Dutton, wants to discuss at Reboot Work; today, we have a chance to hear from his analyst debating partner at the conference ‘stage’, Dr. Bernhard Schaffrik, Principal Analyst at Forrester based in Frankfurt.

Thanks so much for agreeing to help potential delegates understand what you’re going to be talking about at Reboot Work, Dr Schaffrik. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your research interests first?

My research supports CIOs and technology leaders with their broader transformation challenges. My thought leadership provides guidance on how to manage technology-driven business models and how to drive sustainable technology innovation. I am a hands-on expert in emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing.

Leveraging my business process and enterprise architecture expertise, my research takes a holistic look at business and operations automation and serves clients in these areas of responsibility. I hold a PhD in economics and social sciences from the Helmut-Schmidt University in Hamburg and a diploma in business administration from Passau University.

The main theme of the conference is the role of automation/robotics/RPA in the future of work. This is obviously a complex issue, but what are your maybe top 2-3 thoughts here?

  • Start now! Don’t hesitate and wait for the pandemic to go away, or until the running ERP implementation project has finished or the cloud migration project has been completed. You’ll learn skills that are critical for a future-fit IT landscape with every automation project.
  • Don’t get confused by the differences between attended and unattended automation. Ultimately, it’s about automating manual tasks. Identify the ones that are most painful and mostly repeated by many employees, and you will create great benefit for them. With every benefit created, people will understand how automation technologies are working. This will remove adoption barriers and will create excitement!
  • Leave work that is made for people with the people. That’s to say, decision making under uncertainty, designing new products/services based on creativity and empathy, solving conflicts etc. In fact, don’t even try to automate these. Instead automate what is getting in the way of people trying to accomplish complex or creative work.
  • Don’t throw automation technology to an existing process without having fully understood it! Usually, as-is processes carry a lot of legacy with them that led to manual workarounds, processing bottlenecks, undocumented approval thresholds and things like that. Understand and analyse the process first before improving and automating it.

What do you want to tell us about at the conference specifically in your on-stage debate with Neil and Guy?

Intelligent Automation is about orchestrating a set of automation technologies to automate end-to-end business processes. Though RPA is a powerful automation tool that has gained another capability boost through AI, it is reaching its limits with increasing business process complexity. Technologies like digital process automation, dynamic case management, digital decision tools, and no-/low-code application platforms complement RPA towards end-to-end business process automation.

The challenge is a) to identify which technologies to use for which automation complexity b) how to ensure that the right skills in the right amount are available to fully leverage these automation technologies c) how to get to the business process insights required as input for the aforementioned automation technologies.

And of course, AI is here to help; however, we are far away from being able to utilise its full potential.

If there is ONE thing to do about automation at my organisation in 2021, what should it be?

Identify the process experts in your organisation–the ones who know the devils in the details, who can do the prep work for successful automation.

Then listen to them!

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