Starting your automation journey can be an exciting and trying time for your organization. Like any new project or product being introduced and invested in, you want to ensure you are getting your money’s worth and that the organization is on board. With automation being a bit newer than your typical software engineering implementations, ensuring your automation journey starts on the right foot is even more critical.
Below, we will highlight four key change management strategies that will help ensure you have a successful process automation implementation and keep the journey and momentum moving forward. While they all have some overlap, focusing on each of these individual pieces is crucial:
Let’s dig in!
You hear this all the time; communication is key! When it comes to launching a new product or project, there is never too much communication that can be done. Leadership and individual contributors alike want to make sure they are a part of this journey if it will impact them and/or their team. Frustrations can arise when someone feels out of the loop.
Once you decide to invest in process automation is when you should start letting people know. Whether it is recurring status meetings, weekly email updates, or monthly presentations, make sure anyone that is or could be impacted is kept up to date along the way.
Process automation is also newer and unknown to many people, so doing some education is also an excellent way to communicate with your organization. There is no harm in doing a process automation 101 session to show people what it is, what it can do, and what value it can bring. The more you can communicate, the better!
2. Leadership Buy-In
People follow their leaders. If they see their leaders not supporting something or investing their time in it, then why should they? Your leadership team must be bought into the idea of automating processes in order for others to be bought in. There is the common misconception that automating processes will take employee’s jobs. Showing leadership the value of automating processes, and explaining why this misconception is just not true, will allow them to be excited about it and relay those values to their teams. A few of those values include taking away the repetitive and mundane tasks that people do not like to do, allowing processes to get done more quickly, and allowing your team to focus on more value-add and challenging tasks for the organization. Without leadership’s support, you cannot get the support of the rest of the organization.
3. Business Buy-In
Having leadership’s buy-in is only half the battle. To successfully introduce process automation into your organization, you need to have the buy-in from the business since it will be the processes they are doin today that you are automating. You want to make sure you involve them early to start off on the right foot. No one likes surprises, and if you wait until the automation is about to go live to let them know a process will be automated, they probably will not be too happy. Bring them in while you review and analyze the process, allow them to express any questions, concerns, or feedback, and show them progress along the way. The more involved they are, the more they feel valued and the more likely they will be bought in.
As mentioned above, keeping the business involved throughout the development process by showing progress is a great way to not only get the business excited about what is coming, but also to make them feel like they are involved in the journey. Fortunately, most automations can be watched on your computer screen at some point in the process. Being able to show the business how the automation is running, where it clicks, what it is typing, and where data is coming from, will help earn their trust that the automation can perform the automation. Again, because process automation is newer and unknown to some people, being able to physically see what is going to happen is a great way to get your team on board.
4. User Acceptance Testing
It is crucial to thoroughly test your process automation before you let it loose in production. You want to ensure that you are getting the same outputs from the automation you would get from the manual process. While the developer can monitor and test the functionality of the testing or utilize automated testing, get the business involved here! Have them perform the steps, if any, that will involve human interaction, and validate the results and outputs provided by the automation. No one knows the process better than the person that was doing the process manually! Use that to your advantage.
A lot of the automations involve processes submitting some piece(s) of data that could impact the bottom line. This is where testing in phases can also help ease the business’ mind. Have a phase where the automation performs all the actions but does not submit anything. Then take it a step further in the next phase with the automation submitting the data. This should help ensure satisfaction and comfortability.
Having the business and process owner(s) involved in testing also helps build trust. Just like watching the automation and seeing progress, if they can see that the results are the same while the automation is running versus not running but done much faster, they will begin to feel more comfortable allowing it to take over the process and work.
In conclusion, change management is one of the most important aspects of a successful automation implementation. It is not enough to define success as getting your process automated. You need to communicate with all those affected, get buy-in from both the business and leadership, and utilize the process owner(s) for testing. This will help you build comfort, excitement, and trust in your organization. Once you figure out what successful change management means for you, the sky is the limit for automation! People will begin bringing ideas of processes to automate, ones they would not have before because of the fear that automating it would take their job away. Now, they will see the potential of being able to focus on more challenging and value-add tasks and want to automate as much of their repetitive and tedious work as possible!