The anatomy of automation
Automation comes in many forms. From reengineering poor processes to adopting state of the art tooling and any combination thereof. Yet there are still numerous enterprise processes which remain manual today, and as a result, drain employee productivity. Here are five pain processes we should kill via automation once and for all.
1. Employee onboarding
If you’re not measuring employee time to productivity (TTP) you should be. Staff are one of the most expensive resources in the company, and the return on investment is upside down when employees are new. This is because employees must learn archaic manual processes, laboriously request access to specific applications, and fumble with access permissions to crucial files and folders.
While it may take employees some time to learn the ropes in a new enterprise, IT departments can expedite time to productivity by reducing these friction-laden processes. Automating SaaS provisioning is one major step in the right direction. This can be achieved through native identity and access management connectors such as Okta Lifecycle Management or with application integration platforms such as SnapLogic.
Getting employees rapid access to apps, permissions, and email distribution list is a true productivity win. Moreover, the same technologies may be reused to automatically deprovision existing employees to ensure solid security and compliance.
2. Non-disclosure agreements
Believe it or not, many legal teams are still trading Microsoft Word documents around via email, and NDAs are one of the most common document types shuffled about. Requests for NDAs should be 100% self-service. For NDAs which require no redlines, the entire process can be automated.
3. Password resets
One of the most common IT help desk request types is the password reset. Free up your human IT support staff by delegating password resets to a secure, automated process. Any combination of answering security questions to providing something you have (a token) or something you are (a fingerprint) can increase the security of such processes. Additionally, the password reset experience can be guided by a bot conveniently loaded into the enterprise chat solution such as Microsoft Teams or Slack. These apps are likely already installed on the user’s phone, which provides a crucial lifeline to credential management when users are locked out of laptops and email.
4. Assisted knowledge search
Becoming productive within an enterprise often requires perusing various intranet pages, reviewing existing roadmaps, and of course conducting face-to-face conversations with veteran staffers who spout coveted tribal knowledge like a magical waterfall.
From project code names to corporate-specific acronyms, many of these tidbits of tribal knowledge can be codified into a knowledge base. Of course, such KBs have been around for years, but they’re yet another repository to be kept up to date; often in manual fashion.
Chatbots and other intelligent agents can be “wired” into these KBs so that information can be discovered across multiple channels such as email, chat, help desks, and so on. Moreover, bots can curate and even contribute new knowledge to these KBs, making them more useful and accessible at the same time.
5. Invoice processing
Another time-consuming and highly manual process accounts payable teams deal with today is invoice processing. Vendors and service providers will email unstructured invoices (usually as PDF attachments) to a generic corporate mailbox such as firstname.lastname@example.org. From there, armies of AP processors swarm on the inbound invoices and manually match the invoice to a vendor, purchase order, and so forth. In addition to being extremely labor intensive, using email as a channel for business transactions is inherently dangerous given email can be easily spoofed. This can lead to scams such as re-routing payments to hacker-controlled bank accounts.
While solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA) can alleviate immediate manual process pain points associated with parsing invoices, a better approach is to require vendors to input structured data from the get-go. This can be achieved by using a vendor management portal which requires strong authentication, matching invoices to purchase orders with adequate funds, and workflows to ensure timely approvals and escalations as needed.