When companies first deploy automation, they tend to follow a pattern. They see the efficiency automation creates and they want to find other tasks to automate to build on that initial success. The question is, how can they do it successfully? How can they create a self-sustaining program that multiplies automation’s benefits? The answer lies in what we call an “automation flywheel.”
Let’s start with a definition. A flywheel is a mechanism that helps generate and distribute energy and maintain momentum. In business terms, the flywheel effect is where complementary activities create a virtuous circle where success compounds. For example, strong marketing leads to sales success, which makes it even easier to market more effectively, which increases sales again, and so on.
With an automation flywheel, the deployment of automation inspires new ideas for other tasks to automate, which leads to user-created automations, which inspires even more automation ideas, and so on. The momentum keeps building and the impact multiplies.
But it’s important to remember that the automation flywheel effect usually doesn’t happen by accident. You need to create the right conditions. Here’s a step-by-step overview of how you can do exactly that:
- Establish an automation center of excellence (CoE) – This centralized team creates the first automations a company will deploy. It targets processes for automation based on their potential impact and the ROI. In most cases, these early automations are unattended automations that don’t require user intervention.
- Distribute attended automations through the CoE – After successfully deploying unattended automations, the CoE can begin distributing attended automations to employees. With attended automations, users either start the automation or work with it to complete a task.
- Employees use the CoE’s automations – At this point, frontline employees start to see how automation can change the way they work. Many of the routine, repetitive, and cumbersome digital tasks they used to perform suddenly get a lot easier.
- Employees start submitting ideas for automation – Employees know exactly where the inefficiencies are in their jobs. They know which parts of a process can improve, so they begin to submit ideas for automation to the CoE.
- The CoE creates new automations based on employee input – The CoE team isn’t an expert on every aspect of the business. They can take the ideas of employees who are the best experts on their own work, analyze them, and build new automations that can generate even more ROI. Momentum starts to build.
- Citizen developers start creating their own automations – Eventually, technically savvy employees will get the urge to create their own automations—and with no/low-code tools and some quick training in the fundamentals, they can.
- The CoE vets employee-developed automations – The CoE analyzes the automations that citizen developers create to make sure they’re safe and secure.
- The CoE installs governance guide rails – An important part of the CoE’s job is to build and enforce the governance structure for employee-developed automations. This includes adding functionality to an automation, adjusting an automation to conform with best practices, and analyzing whether an automation could be useful in other areas of the business.
- The CoE distributes employee-developed automations – After vetting and tweaking promising employee-developed automations, the CoE can make them available for wider distribution across the enterprise.
At this point, three types of automation development cycles are running in concert. The CoE is creating automations for the enterprise. Employees are submitting automation ideas to the CoE. And technically savvy citizen developers are building their own automations. The flywheel keeps building momentum as people see the different ways automation transforms work and find tasks and workflows they would like to automate.
For many businesses, “digital transformation” is a buzzword. It’s not always clear what business leaders mean when they use it. But by using the automation flywheel to unleash the creativity of their workforce, companies can turn that vague buzzword into an everyday reality.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.