Process automation: key to greater operational efficiency

The monotonous repetitive tasks in front of a computer can become a serious obstacle to the success of any company, especially if they demotivate the person who executes them. However, today technological evolution offers simple, but powerful tools that transform this weakness into a valuable development opportunity.

One of the essential principles of efficiency lies in the ability to execute tasks in an agile and active way, permanently focusing on the achievement of objectives. Even when these involve the constant execution of repetitive actions.

Consider, for example, the case of an IT professional, who must execute commands and analyze system resources throughout the day, turning his hours in front of the computer into a tedious and not very challenging workday.

How can we ensure that this activity does not lose effectiveness and efficiency, due to the monotonous repetition of the same processes, day after day? Most importantly, how can we prevent those actions translated them into errors of omission or carelessness? The answer is simple: by automating the process using new digital tools.

It is not about reinventing the wheel, or using “space technology”. With the right tools in place, we can easily apply the process automation, delivering significant benefits for the overall efficiency of the organization.

MAIN BENEFITS

Both the specialized press and opinion leaders in the IT world agree that process automation allows companies to achieve significant advances in five key areas: cost reduction, increased productivity, greater availability, high reliability and maximum performance.

Analyze each of them in detail:

1. Cost reduction

Today, every business or organization faces sustained global pressure to increase its profitability. Consequently, the main way to face this challenge is to reduce operating costs, but without a negative impact on the entire company.

The best alternative to take this step without harmful side effects is to implement automation software. This allows the optimization of daily work, as well as the satisfaction of the client or end user, simultaneously reducing operating costs associated with the misuse of resources and assets.

An option not only necessary, but also logical, considering the high cost of continuing to employ operations personnel in routine tasks, not very challenging, with a high demotivation rate, and a greater risk of failure. In fact, recent estimates show that these variables can represent up to 71% of a company’s total operating cost.

2. Increased productivity

This is a parameter of as much or greater importance than the previous one, because as the technological needs of an organization grow, the need to maintain its productive rhythm also increases, without falling into the problem of mechanization.

It is a high risk, because the proliferation of desktop productivity software, or new equipment and technologies for the various areas of the company, overload the work of IT professionals, forcing them to carry out more daily tasks. And many of them are, indeed, monotonous and routine.

Similarly, as people more use computers, they put more demands on and overload the IT system. All of which contributes to dropping productivity, simply because IT staff cannot handle these multiple sources of potential problems.

Process automation can solve these issues in a number of ways. For example, a task scheduling software optimizes performance by automating the review of equipment and the tasks that they perform, without a technician having to do that task in the field every moment. Besides, it prevents computers from being idle between task breaks.

These advantages not only save time and money, by eliminating dead lapses, but also minimize operator intervention. In fact, in some cases it is even possible to reduce many hours of the entire process, which allows processing a greater number of operations in less time, significantly improving the use of the entire system.

For example, once the job schedule is established, the automation software executes the respective commands with more precision and in the correct sequence. This eliminates the mistakes that the operator can make in all routine tasks.

In addition, allows a more accurately plan in order to the completion of the work. At the same time, provide the possibility of conducting “what if…” analyze.  This also make possible apply positive changes to the programming.

3. Availability

Businesses are becoming more and more dependent on computers. And it is not just a cliché expression. On a daily basis, practically all business is carried out through online systems such as, for example, issuing purchase orders, reservations, payments, assembly instructions, dispatch guides, and a large number of other operations.

Consequently, if, for some reason, the computer equipment fails or is not available, then the business collapses, as has happened, for example, with the recent computer attacks suffered by large banking institutions in our country.

If before it was possible to tolerate that computers were not available for a few hours, today, with the enormous volume of operations hosted on servers and in the cloud, interrupting a single critical system in this chain (purchase orders, payments or dispatch guides, just to name a few), even for a few minutes, represents millions of dollars in losses. Not counting the irreparable damage to the reputation of a company.

This encourages IT departments to have high availability of operations among their essential objectives. In fact, the current ideal efficiency standard is that offered by Tier IV Data Centers, known as the “4 nines” (99.99%) of availability or “continuous availability”.

In other words, a company cannot afford a single second of loss in its operational continuity, and, at this point, the automation of operations is a high-value support.

Take, for example, a simple case. If a disk drive fails, and the professionals in charge had not performed the respective backup (because they “forgot” to perform a routine task), the company would face a very high crisis-situation. On the other hand, process automation enables the constant and uninterrupted backup of all critical information, either on own servers or in the cloud. This ensures greater protection against potential disasters, such as loss of disks, or unforeseen damage to the system, caused by human error.

In a networked environment, process automation also has direct benefits for centralized management. In these cases, remote software allows, for example, that a single operator can monitor the entire network through a central console. This ensures faster detection and resolution of problems caused by eventual failures in critical functions.

4. Reliability

Along with increased productivity and efficiency, reliability is the great star among the many improvements provided by adequate process automation. In fact, its status as the “cornerstone” of any IT Unit prevents confusion or chaos in the systems, and the corresponding multiplication of users dissatisfied with the service.

The difficulty in guaranteeing this high level of trust lies precisely in the fact that IT professionals today work in an environment that requires very advanced skills (such as mastering complex operating systems to analyze and solve problems as they arise). However, at the same time, they have to work on a scenario of routine and demotivating actions (such as pressing controls and loading paper).

This translates into a high probability of making mistakes and, consequently, less confidence in their actions. On the contrary, automated processes ensure that these routine jobs are not forgotten, or run out of time, that the data entered is correct, and perform any additional special necessary processing.

We can achieve more decisive advantage if we apply automation process in networks of multiple, geographically dispersed systems, with communication problems, integrated processing of local area networks and multiple connected equipment, where the probability of error grows exponentially.

In this specific environment, operations automation software is not only necessary, but also essential, thanks to the fact that it allows managing complex tasks in a dynamic and intelligent way. In this way, critical functions of the company, such as releasing jobs, making backup copies, and ensuring communications, among others, achieve much more reliably. With this, the risk of errors is minimal, and operations personnel are free from carrying out tedious, boring and manual tasks.

5. Performance

Technological advances search for faster services and reducing costs. However, the current demanding work translates, paradoxically, into a strong overload that, in general, exceeds the IT capacity of companies.

Correcting this deficiency requires strong resources, but not all organizations have the budget to update their hardware or systems. Faced with such a dilemma, the best option is to tune and reconfigure the system for better performance.

This, however, requires highly qualified personnel who are generally not available 24 hours a day. Moreover, if the system is reconfigured to face new workloads, the progressive daily increase of the same difficult tasks, makes that these configurations very soon stop being optimal.

We can solve all these problems in a fast, timely and efficient way, by means of automation software, which has the capacity to increase the performance of the systems, whenever the demands of production require it.

MAIN OBSTACLES

Despite the multiple benefits of process automation, such as increased productivity, reliability, availability, performance, and reduced operating costs, implementation is not always easy. In fact, to reach the goal, we must travel a complex path, which generally involves overcoming various traps and obstacles.

The curious thing is that the companies themselves cannot agree on the reasons for delaying this necessary technological evolution. The most common responses are lack of budget, time, programming experience, or personnel.

Beyond the diversity of reasons or causes, in general terms the obstacles to delaying or not applying process automation stablish two main categories: cost and people.

A. COSTS

The availability and reliability that automation offers should be more than convincing arguments to proceed with its implementation and justify its cost. However, it should not be forgotten that, as the project progresses, additional cost factors may come into play (new equipment, more staff, infrastructure expansion, etc.)

Nevertheless, the focus is not only the greater expense that this can mean, but the general improvement in the operation of the company, and the best service that will provide to the end users. Therefore, as the quality of service is optimize, thanks to automation software, the costs associated with it will also reduce.

This also means adopting a professional-level solution, always thought with a long-term strategic mindset. Applying in-house developed automation solutions for immediate purposes may offer momentary successes, but their scope will be too limited. In addition, these types of systems will often fail, due to maintenance and the need to apply constant improvements, to maintain and expand the project.

The key is to follow the right path from the beginning. In other words, opt for enterprise-grade automation software that effectively aligns with the long-term strategic goals of the company.

B. PEOPLE

As process automation becomes an essential reality for the business environment, its application has had to face growing concern and, at times, resistance, from numerous system operators who see it as a “direct threat” to their respective jobs.

Therefore, it is also necessary to have a clear strategy to handle the concerns of the personnel and thus achieve their adherence to the project.

The key, at this point along the way, lies in modifying the role of the collaborator, giving them new responsibilities, such as operations analysis, technical supervision of networks, or the role of PC administrator, among other possible options.

Likewise, the management of the company must consciously assume that the automation of processes provides the valuable opportunity to create and deliver new skills to the staff in line with the challenges of Digital Transformation.

A challenge that goes hand in hand with the need to contribute to the development and improvement of human talent, so that all employees join this project with enthusiasm, motivation and a sense of commitment.

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