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Design Thinking-led Business Process Automation

By: Siddharth Wadehra, QuickReach Head of Research

With AI and digital transformation still dominating the conversation among business and technology leaders, the number of companies looking to automate various aspects of their operations is on the rise. However, despite the accelerated corporate adoption of automation technology, success remains mysteriously elusive. As per Deloitte, 87% of companies believe that digital will disrupt the industry, but only 44% are prepared for digital disruption. What’s more staggering is the fact that a large majority of digital transformation initiatives often fail. In fact, a report suggests that a staggering 70% of all digital transformation initiatives fail. With all the benefits that automation and digital transformation technologies bring, one often wonders why is it that a large majority of companies report the expected returns falling short of their initial expectations.   

Based on our experience of consulting for companies across different industries, these apparent failures can be attributed to a couple of reasons. Way too many organizations fail to take into consideration how automating certain process steps internally or externally (with customers or third-party partners) will affect other stakeholders in the value chain, introducing inefficiencies and reducing the value delivered. Secondly, most companies get into automation with a belief that these solutions are intended just to eliminate work. This myopic view often leads to basic efficiency improvements that only yield an incremental and temporary advantage in terms of cost-savings. 

We believe that companies should approach automation differently. Instead of isolated and efficiency-focused process fixes that are easily replicated by competitors, companies should use automation to enhance customer experiences. This shift towards customer-centricity offers a more durable differentiation in the market. To do this, design thinking principles must be incorporated in the overall technology strategy, bringing the end-to-end customer journey front and center. Taking this different view would allow companies to identify and implement improvements that really matter, resulting in a more profound impact on the company and its customers.

Most early automation efforts often focus on repetitive and non-value added tasks in a bid to have quick wins from enhanced efficiency and cost savings. While this may seem relatively simple, it takes quite some time to get it right. Complex interoperable systems, poor quality data, and isolated legacy infrastructure are some of the additional challenges which magnify the effort, time, and, ultimately, the cost of going paperless.

Successful automation of business processes needs to stem from a mindset that focuses on customer experience because this allows companies to view automation as a strategic tool and not just as a means to reduce costs. These organizations tend to focus on maximizing total returns from automation as they are more likely to take an ecosystem view rather than just as a means of cost-savings. This also lets them anticipate stakeholder dependencies and avoid any missteps or rework. 

Applying design thinking to automation initiatives

To identify the customer pain-points that automation can address and places where human engagement is a critical step in incorporating design thinking into an automation project. This starts by mapping out the sequence of activities a customer takes throughout its lifecycle, including interactions they may have with your company. Adding automation tools to the interactions among the customers, internal processes, and systems is what turns an automation initiative from a band-aid solution into a holistic and strategic one.

Here are some pointers on how design thinking-led automation is done: 

Mapping the end-to-end customer journey

Mapping the customer journey could be an eye-opener for the entire company. Understanding what the customer has to go through to settle payments or return a product or open an account, or simply make an inquiry can reveal the moments that make customers love or hate your brand. A number of companies try and leverage insights from customer data to understand various aspects of the customer journey. Data lying in isolated systems might often not give the complete picture of the customer experience and what's worse is the rapidly evolving customer preferences that might render the data obsolete in no time. This is why conducting in-depth customer research is important before mapping the customer journey.

This would help the team zero in on the right combination of human- and system-led interactions which could help inject new value into the business. 

Crafting an operational blueprint

This next step involves a deeper dive into the customer journey, looking inside the organization to see the various activities and tools that are involved to deliver the baseline customer experience.

This blueprint would help draft the playbook of key transitions or handoffs with various stakeholders in the ecosystem and put in place an escalation matrix. It would help get the various interrelated parts through technology touchpoints. The typical output from an operational blueprint exercise would help redeploy capacity and manage the tasks more efficiently. An example of an operational initiative might be adopting analytics more efficiently such that the call center agents might sound less scripted or deploying RPA for the various data integration tasks. 

Seeping automation across multiple layers of the enterprise

A spectrum of automation tools - from RPA, built-in-workflows, low code platforms, integration platforms to intelligent business process management or iBPM tools - should be applied across the enterprise based on the operational blueprint drafted. This methodical approach to have automation as a strategic lever would help the organization with its basic and aspirational technology needs.

While some companies might prefer custom-based solutions to tailor to their exact process needs, cloud-based automation platforms often make the automation projects cheaper, faster, and less complex. Quicker test-and-learn cycles could help in comprehending the feasibility with expected return-on-investment benefits. 

Getting culture and change management right

Achieving a long-term impact from automation would need to have the executive management of the company invest significantly in automation. Companies need to identify the impacted employees, customers, and processes, and collaborate with team members to roll out a changed management plan for them right from inception. 

Design Thinking in Automation- The QuickReach Way

Keeping the importance of design thinking in an automation suite, QuickReach boasts of an Experience Studio that helps digital transformation teams map their customer journey and the various prominent pain-points in it which they could aim to tackle. 

The QuickReach Experience Studio is a design and orchestration tool that helps companies maximize their returns from automation efforts. It helps teams map the entire customer journey to focus on significant pain-points. It then peels back operational layers before determining how best the company could look to optimize processes. By bringing this holistic approach to automation, the QR Design Studio helps companies realize greater returns on their automation investment. 

To experience the QR Design Studio and how it might aid your automation efforts, get in touch with one of the members of our Customer Success team here


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