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Demystifying Hyperautomation: An Expert's Take
BP3's, Steve Terry, shares his thoughts on the buzz about hyperautomation and the importance of using a process lens when embarking on an automation journey.
I recently read an article on hyperautomation in TechFunnel (How Will Hyperautomation Transform Business Processes in 2023?) and I was struck by how widespread the term has become since Gartner first coined it in 2019. This got me thinking about how many articles have been published on the topic since then.
Not knowing how to find the actual answer, I turned to ChatGPT. While I won’t be winning an award for the most amusing prompt, the reply did confirm my instincts - an incredible amount has been written on the topic.
According to Chat GPT, “In the past year alone, there have been over 5,000 articles written about hyperautomation across various media outlets. These articles range from general overviews of what hyperautomation is and why businesses should be using it, to more specific topics such as best practices for implementing hyperautomation solutions or case studies on businesses that have successfully implemented hyperautomation strategies.”
At its core, hyperautomation is a framework for tackling process automation by using a disciplined, cross-functional approach to identifying what processes to automate, selecting the appropriate technologies, creating agility through the reuse of automated processes and enhancing capabilities with AI/ML.
Having worked in the technology sector for more years than I care to admit, I’ve seen my share of analyst frameworks and technology buzzwords. Some stick while others fail to gain traction or quickly fade away. I reckon a combination of factors explain why hyperautomation achieved traction, including that it came at a time of:
- Global economic trends creating significant pressure on both business and IT leaders to accelerate and scale end-to-end business processes that drive productivity and enable innovation; AND
- Rapid evolution in the technologies available to support process automation. As AI and machine learning have matured, cloud and microservices architectures have to come to life, and powerful platforms for robotic process automation, process orchestration, business process management and automated process discovery have been developed, it's safe to say that the "art of the possible" continues to expand.
TechFunnel's article, and much of the hyperautomation coverage, highlights the potentially impressive results of a successful automation program. While articles touting game-changing results ranging from “20% reductions in operational costs'' to “30% improvements in process speed” can be interesting, these pieces often lack clear guidance on how to achieve success.
At BP3, we believe success starts by looking through a process lens to understand how your business really works. This may sound intuitive, but it is a step we see too many skip in a rush to apply technology within existing business operations. The result? Under-realization of the hoped-for value or, at worst, a complete project failure.
Let’s take an example from my time working with supply chain execution systems: the introduction of mobile terminals with barcode scanning. This revolutionary technology eliminated the need for paper-based pick slips with manual mark-ups and delayed entry. That said, it was not possible to see real-time inventory levels. From a labor-savings perspective, this only solved one problem: time spent on data entry after orders were picked. Was the technology worth the investment? At the time, no. However, when properly carried out, the technology shift enabled multiple process changes that, in aggregate, became a huge competitive advantage for organizations that realized the total value of the technology shift.
The emergence of mobile terminals shifted order fulfillment on its axis. Order Pickers could now:
- Update inventory levels in real-time
- Ensure timely replenishment from back-stock
- Guarantee the correct products were picked
- Push a rush order to the top of the queue
… thus yielding fewer returns, lower inventory costs, an increase in customer satisfaction, and other measurable benefits that pushed the company forward.
Often times, you’ll find you need to implement multiple changes concurrently to maximize the benefits. In my prior supply chain execution scenario, the mobile terminals required a variety of software capabilities to be deployed simultaneously in order to drive the greatest business value. This is an example of the value of addressing the end-to-end process rather than just a key link or two in the chain.
In an effort to understand how to drive the maximum benefit from one or more new or improved technologies, it’s essential to start with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Identifying these measurables can aid you in examining the business processes affecting those KPIs - allowing you to see where technology changes could be applied - and ultimately drilling down into the details of what technologies and process changes are essential.
While hyperautomation has become a popular term recently, its true worth resides in reminding us of the importance of scrutinizing processes and pinpointing places where tech can increase performance and enable innovation. Organizations that approach process automation in this way will be more likely to achieve headline-worthy results.
Curious for even more on hyperautomation? Check out some recent thoughts from one of our software partners, Camunda, on how a process orchestration platform, like Camunda 8, can be used to automate and monitor complex business processes.