How to Balance Employee Engagement and Digital Disruption with Robotic Process Automation
The search for efficiency in business is never-ending. Arguably, it shouldn’t end; efficiencies make more opportunity, create more wealth, and offer more value to the world. Unfortunately, though, the ruthless pursuit of business efficiency often came at the expense of the worker. Efficiency was seen as antithetical to employee support or engagement, as we’ve seen in the initial history of what is now known as business process outsourcing (BPO).
Technological innovation — automation in particular — brings with it a new arsenal in the battle for efficiency, but this time employees and businesses are aligned. Employees are tired of tedious, ongoing, repetitive work that is necessary to the business but mind-numbing. On the other side, companies want to up-skill their people so they can move up the value chain, providing higher-paying brain-work to clients.
We have an opportunity to do better with automation, but the current system is broken. A new solution that takes into account both business needs and employee desires is necessary. While the tide of automation is unyielding, the process does not need to have the same negative externalities that previous outsourcing strategies produced. Instead, we can learn from our past mistakes to design a new future that works for companies and for people.
Every business has processes that make it run, from HR and finance on the backend to sales, product, and customer service on the frontend.
As businesses grow, these processes scale in complexity. In the early days of the 20th century, businesses tried to ‘locally outsource’ the issues, moving certain parts of the business to low-cost cities within your countries (for example, moving a sales office to Kansas City but keeping your headquarters in New York City).
When that strategy was maxed out, companies looked to “near-shore,” keeping processes geographically close but in a different country, for example, Mexico for a US-based company. With the growth of globalization, low-cost outsourcing became preferable, and many outsourcing companies, including giants like Accenture or Tata, grew rapidly in India, China, and more.
With the complexity of outsourcing came the rise of management consulting. Advisory firms offer outsourcing strategy, meaning they will help you figure out what you need and liaise with the builders and maintenance teams — all for a very expensive price tag. This again helped with some efficiency but was only useful for massive enterprise firms who could afford the consulting retainers. And it still didn’t address the problem of employee disengagement.
While the evolution of outsourcing reduced costs for large enterprises, it created a myriad of other problems, including:
- Lack of company control: Once outsourced, it is difficult to identify small issues and quickly address them. Further, frequent employee turnover at BPO companies leads to poor metrics and quality control, further limiting company oversight.
- Lack of scalability: Each outsourcing project required working with multiple different companies and stakeholders and needed custom implementations, making scale all but impossible.
- Lack of employee engagement: Employees at large companies feel their jobs are being threatened. Employees at outsourcing firms are tired of doing monotonous work and want more meaningful work.
- Leaving mid-market and SMBs behind: If you couldn’t afford high-priced consultants, you lose much of the opportunity in modern outsourcing. On the flip side, outsourcing companies typically want large contracts, meaning they’ve typically shied away from working with SMBs that don’t have multi-million dollar budgets.
Now, these outsourcing firms are looking to automation. This caused the proliferation of multiple horizontally-integrated specialists, including strategists, automation software developers, integrators, and maintenance teams.
The real costs of current solutions
The current mentality of trying to use automation to remove humans results in a fragmented process of multiple stakeholders at different levels. Costs can easily reach $2,000,000 — $3,000,000 annually for an automation program, largely due to high initial set up and fixed costs.
A company would need to develop about 50 automations to make the return worth it. This inherently excludes mid-market and SMB companies, most of whom only need between three to ten automations to add noticeable efficiency to their operations. Since mid-market companies employ an estimated 60 million people across Canada and the United States alone, this inability to take part in automation adds serious risk to our economy.
A human-focused approach to automation
While about 50 percent of tasks can be completely automated and 80 percent of tasks can be partially automated, these tasks don’t necessarily make up the totality of an individual’s job. That means that many automations coming into a company will, at some level, work with and for humans.
Robots are great at routine, mundane tasks. Humans are great at critical thinking and assessing context. This is a powerful coupling — if solutions are built for this end.
Based on our research and assessment of the problems in the market, a human-focused automation solution must be / offer:
Lifecycle focus and support
Solutions have to provide all necessary products and services in the journey to make that value promise a reality.
A new solution must make it possible to affordably start at any size and ‘pay as you grow.’
A human-focused solution is controllable by the human in charge to do more or less depending on company needs.
Automation must communicate with humans about the tasks it will complete, any issues that arise during attempted completion, and letting humans know when a certain task is complete.
A new solution must offer a single point of contact, an ease of getting set up, and ongoing support and communication.
A new paradigm
When mid-market companies take on an automation project, they want results as quickly as possible.
That’s exactly how we built Roots.
Our product encompasses the entire automation process:
- Lifecycle focus: We consult with you to identify your automation needs and scale
- Set up and training included: We build, set up, host, and train the automation for you, using co-created specifications
- Ongoing support and improvements: We manage the ongoing maintenance so you only have to connect with one team. Further, our technology continually learns, meaning your quality of service gets even more efficient over time.
- Ready for any scale: At any moment after that, we can scale to whatever size you need — with any future automations leveraging both their own learning and the learnings of all other automations you have in your organization.
- Convenience and control: Our technology continually learns with every interaction and we provide a full overview of the workflows and KPIs developed during setup. And when things go wrong, our system doesn’t interrupt your other workflows and immediately notifies you so you can address the issue.
If you were to build your own automation project using a mix of consultants, BPO companies, and internal teams, you could easily hit $500,000 in setup costs and then millions after that for maintenance and growth.
By designing our system to focus on the entire lifecycle, we were able to find massive efficiencies and cost savings, which we pass onto our users. That means you can start an automation project with Roots Automation for $4,000 per month — not $2–3 million.
How do we get to such a drastically low number while providing a complete offering? We designed it with our customer’s needs in mind.
Our infrastructure and software costs are spread across multiple customers, meaning you don’t have to pay for capacity or capabilities you don’t use. Further, we focused our company around the value we provide — successful automations — and make sure we do everything in our power to deliver that value