There are now increasingly mixed feelings about business process automation, and rightly so. While initially benefits lived up to initial hype (implementations achieve 30% to 200% ROI in the short term, reports McKinsey), mature projects are more disillusioned and typically run into a slew of challenges, particularly scaling. Traditional approaches to automation like RPA or points solutions for Business Process Management run into roadblocks around scalability, adaptability, and ease of use as automation comes of age. The number of companies scaling RPA is growing at snail’s pace, found Deloitte, with just 4% of companies successfully moving into implementations involving 50+ bots. According to another report by IDG and Appian, automation was only “somewhat effective” (at best) for 65% of business users.
As your company gears up for a speedy recovery post-COVID-19 – taking advantage of a bullish market – can you afford to be held back by stumbling automation projects?
What Are Your Options
Over the last few years, RPA has emerged as almost an industry default for automation.
Nearly 1 in 3 companies use robotic process automation (RPA) technology, despite its numerous shortfalls. RPA-based process automations are mostly inflexible, with additional configurations needed for any change or extension to the system. You have to put in a lot of development efforts, and even when using low code platforms, there is significant effort duplication.
For example, if an RPA-automated invoicing process runs into an exception, it has to be manually configured into the script or even require individual processing into your ERP.
As an enhancement to this, enterprises can choose hyperautomation that uses intelligent, cognitive technologies like AI-based process mining, machine learning algorithms, optical character recognition, etc., to make automations more intuitive and, well, more automated. Gartner named hyperautomation among the top ten strategic technology trends for last year, anticipating its widespread potential.
But hyperautomation is far from reaching maturity. Unless you are a massive organization with a dedicated RPA budget to throw at promising experiments, hyperautomation remains out of reach, barring a few one-off projects.
A much more common approach to automating business processes is through SaaS-based point solutions.
Point solutions introduce a significant degree of automation without most business leaders even realizing it – for instance, a simple scheduling feature on email, automated “nudges” for communication follow-ups, or a copywriting tool automatically checking documents against a style guide. In the wake of COVID-19, point solutions have exploded in popularity as employees/individual business units choose their favorite automation aids without always facing IT intervention.
But for the organization, this means mounting shadow IT, the risk of fragmentation, and growing dependency on external providers to support dynamic business processes.
What Point Solutions Get Right (and What They Do Not)
There is definitely an argument to be made for SaaS-based point solutions. They are turnkey, easy to use, and – on the surface – involve minimal investments. It was only a matter of time before the “app-ification” of digital activity in the consumer world percolated into business processes, helped by a massive boom in B2B SaaS solutions.
However, point solutions’ biggest USP is their ready-to-use nature, which inherently makes them inflexible. As they target the widest possible user segment (without cognizance of the specific business use case), it is impossible to configure their automation capabilities as per your precise requirements. Or, if deeper configurations are available, you need an in-house expert with knowledge of that particular point solution.
As your business – and process map – evolves, you will find yourself reaching out to SaaS providers repeatedly to introduce the necessary features. In the long-term, this is an unsustainable model.
HyperApps vs. Point Solutions for Business Processes
In addition to the three commonly discussed options (RPA, hyperautomation, and point solutions), companies can also consider the HyperApps approach when automating business processes. HyperApps combines the simplicity of low code with the power of intelligent automation and the cost convenience of SaaS to provide an automation solution that truly empowers your business users.
Here’s a simple example: As part of a new regulatory requirement, you must report all invoices in a specific currency and upload them into a e-invoicing portal. In the point solution scenario, the enterprise will have to rely on the SaaS vendor to enable this change and, many times, will charge an extra fee for that feature. But with a HyperApp framework, the enterprise can configure that change themselves on the platform and make it available not just for a function, but roll it out across the enterprise.
Unlike point solutions, you can scale HyperApps to any volume of invoices (as per our example – it is applicable to virtually any business process) and integrate with new/existing workflows.
Further, HyperApps bring in the flexibility you need in a dynamic business environment. Adapting your automations to new process requirements is made simple via a point and click interface, while integrations are available natively for use by business stakeholders, with little or no intervention from IT.
This could be a game-changer for companies as they enter a new era of digital transformation post-COVID-19.
Strengthening Your Ramparts on the Road to Recovery
As companies gear up for what could be the world’s steepest recovery period to date, digitalization could either cripple growth or push it to new heights.
It is estimated that process automation and an even greater reliance on digital channels will be vital. For example, the number of public sector organizations citing automation as a top 3 priority grew from 23% pre-COVID to 35% in the post-COVID period. HyperApps enable predictable wins in the short term, low effort overheads and greater democratization in the mid-term, and radical advantages in the long term – addressing the challenges of using point solutions for automating business processes.
There’s something to be said for doing the right thing, the right way. The benefits of process automation are undeniable, especially in a new contactless and low-touch world. HyperApps help companies strike the right balance, achieving immediate targets and paving the way for more opportunities.