Business technology continues to rapidly evolve, as change is pervasive and persistent. Organizations are prioritizing efficiency, often best achieved through automation and machine learning. Connective Automation, which aims to expand and optimize automation throughout the entire lifecycle of a business process, is one of the best ways for businesses to accelerate innovation while also reducing risk.

The need for speed makes businesses vulnerable to mistakes, as companies attempt to move quickly and end up losing valuable time and ROI. At the Connective Automation Summit, industry tech thought leaders across all industries acknowledged the massive amount of work that goes with effectively transitioning to new systems, and the importance of an automation strategy free of disparate tools that can lead to costly gaps and diminishing ROI.

Connective Automation is the solution; by connecting all three stages of automation–discovery, testing, and RPA–businesses can confidently accelerate enterprise transformations, reducing risk and cost along the way.

Process Automation: Driving the Autonomous Enterprise

As this innovation continues to speed up, automation has become more advanced than ever, and only continues to grow and adapt. Basic automation is available for almost all industries but is prone to errors if managers and business leaders don’t take the time to adapt their processes to that automation. Meanwhile, human-directed automation is where the field is starting to see huge improvements.

During a recent panel discussion at the Connective Automation Summit, CEO of Constellation Research Ray Wang explains, “We’re actually getting to a level able to build and train systems so they can start making their own types of decisions. We want to get to the point where machine intervention comes in and says ‘That was a really bad idea. Would you like to continue?’”

With basic automation, the program will simply do what you tell it to, even if that’s not going to function properly. Now, with smarter and more advanced automation platforms, there can be more of a relationship between users and systems, with the automation program adapting to and pointing out issues.

Advanced users of automation are constantly trying to optimize even more. To do so effectively, organizations must piece together the right suite of technology and ask themselves two questions: Should we automate this, and is the automation driving success?

Process Discovery: The Ultimate Enabler

The first step to automation is Discovery. Automating your processes without first discovering how they function together leads to more work than is necessary. This is why Worksoft’s Connective Automation Platform begins with automated process discovery. Discovery helps to answer the question “Should we automate?” by examining your processes to understand and capture what end users do.

Successful automation offers three key benefits. First, it increases efficiency by speeding up or even removing processes that are either slow or outdated. Second, you get better experiences for end-users. And finally, it drives the top line, increasing revenue and enabling you to get that revenue faster. But if you don’t start by understanding your processes through Discovery, you may end up missing automation opportunities.  

But in order to break down barriers in your business, Process Discovery needs to be straightforward. An employee or team member sitting down and explaining what they do is not only going to take considerable time but will also not always give you the information you need to decide what to automate. Whereas an advanced process discovery program like Worksoft Capture can simply perform discovery while someone does their job, allowing you to easily see which functions can be automated.

Achieve Scale with Connective Automation

Once you’ve utilized Process Discovery to determine what can and should be automated, you can begin moving onto the automation stage of the process. This does not mean that all of the processes you’re focusing on will immediately and successfully be automated. It still requires attention and care to ensure a proper transition.

For panelist Euronica Olivier, QA Assurance Manager at Brambles, “[There are] key principles you have to take into consideration like the ownership of automation, making sure your current structure is in place, making sure you are accommodated within the timelines of your project, whether it’s a Waterfall project or an Agile project, and making sure you do the proper development on your script.”

Many teams make the mistake of thinking that when you do automation, you do it quickly, without realizing that you have to work on proper, quality scripts that not only function but are sustainable. “They need to create data and delete data so that you can run it at any time,” Olivier notes. “You don’t want to create a script and have to throw it away at the end of the project. You want to be able to use that script over and over again.”

This means scaling automation over time so that the organization can get used to the changes in their processes. Like any new technology, automation brings organizational hurdles, the biggest one of which is culture. “I think culture change is one of the biggest barriers in automation and the least understood and invested area,” says panelist Shail Khiyara, Intelligence & Automation Expert. Automation is about people more than technology, but this is not often an understood fact.

While discussions about automation can sometimes lead to fears and questions about human job security, the truth is that when employed properly, automation is a good thing for employees, leading to increased knowledge and efficiency, and not a negative impact. But it does require buy-in to get off the ground and scale up to the size of your organization.

Extend Automation Value with Resilient RPA

After learning about your business processes with Discovery and scaling your automation, you can begin moving into even more advanced practices like RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, which allows you to repurpose existing automation to quickly and easily implement and maintain robotic processes. RPA you can trust is often best employed once an organization has already been utilizing test automation, because of the above-mentioned cultural buy-in, as well as the systems already being in place.

If you automate a process a single time, and you know that process is one that you’ll need to continue doing on a routine basis, RPA can be a natural progression, especially if you’re utilizing one single platform like Worksoft’s to do both automation and then RPA. When you have the cultural buy-in and automation already set up, RPA is an effective way to progress.

At its base level, RPA can help you automate tasks on a routine basis that require big volume, high repetition; basically actions with a lot of interactions and connecting points that need a lot of scale. But the next level of RPA is more complex and more creative. “What we’re instrumenting for in the future is really a set of choices,” says Wang. “[We’re creating] digital feedback loops, because if the goal is instrument for AI, the way you do automation is a little bit different because you want to give as many choices as you can.”

Each choice is a demand signal, which eventually helps to pair the human and the machine so the bots can figure out what the rules and exceptions are. As RPA continues to create bots that can learn the rules, you get more advanced bots that break far less often. Bot fragility continues to be one of the key issues in the field of automation, but the solution is not a quick fix; it’s experience.

Once automation and RPA are implemented, the entire organization can enjoy the benefits, not only in the form of increased ROI and efficiency, but in experience and knowledge for the team. Employees who’ve never considered automation before can now become more aware and skilled in interacting with it. With a single platform for all three stages of automation, from discovery to testing to RPA, you can seamlessly move between each stage, as your organization does the same.

Adapt Seamlessly to Ongoing Change

One of the most important aspects of automation is the ability to adapt to change. Most modern enterprises today rely on a myriad of technology applications to run their business. And whether it’s an enterprise packaged application like SAP, or a mobile app, web app, or custom app, each is subject to ongoing, frequent change.

That change comes in the form of new releases, internal development, and organizational and process updates, all have the potential to impact automation, putting your operation at risk. That’s why the experts agree that effective change management is critical for automation success at any stage of the process lifecycle. 

“The amount of effort that goes into building really solid automation can't be discounted and it doesn't come easy. It comes with experience,” said Shoeb Javed, chief technology officer for Worksoft. “We build automation that eliminates bot fragility as a result of our extensive experience with complex packaged app-based business processes—experience gained from a lot of time, a lot of iterations, a lot of versions of the solutions. For testing, we build automation and manage it as application changes are impacting your business and your tests all of the time. That’s why Worksoft automation is fundamentally and purposely built for change.”