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Articulating a Holistic Business Case for Hyper Automation

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

This post is not about quoting the umpteen number of mundane formulae which one would have come across while deriving automation cases for identified opportunities. However, the intent here is to push ourselves beyond the obvious levers - FTE Reduction, Hours Savings, Productivity Gains etc.

Articulating a viable business case the key outcome expected from the Discovery stage of the end to end life cycle. While mature organizations have already started appreciating the data driven approaches (aka Process Mining and Task Mining) to be more accurate, there are still some gaps which one needs to explore with basic poking techniques (similar to 5 Why's)

During one of my consulting engagement, I came across a typical RPA use-case which involved populating a vendor scorecard on a 3rd party web portal after a project was completed by the sub contractor. This involved capturing details around whether the project was completely timely, quality standards etc. As one might imagine it was not a voluminous activity. Also there was a lack of discipline in maintaining live data on the 3rd party portal. Hence, the obvious business case was not significant (as per the obvious levers)

Without being biased with the natural parameters (FTE, Volume etc.), effort was made to understand the downstream impact of not having accurate, real time data on the Vendor Portal. That's when we heard there has been occurrences when the most suitable vendor was not selected for the new projects (because the ongoing issues/ quality / completion status etc. were not reported on the portal) and due to which a number of projects are undergoing losses/slippages and there were tangible dollar values associated to them(in 1000's of dollars) .

Bottom line, in order to get to finalizing the business case, it is vital to get to the downstream impact of the use-cases involved.

While it depends on use-case to use-case, questions which are required to be answered to quantify these benefits could be:

a) What is the negative/ positive impact of capturing incorrect information / not capturing information at all (like in the use-case above, where the business case would be the sum of all losses from incorrectly picked sub contractor)

b) What is the cost of re-work (if required)

c) What is the cost of late detection of error : More often than not, by the time the error was detected, business would have already incurred significant losses

d) What happens if I park this automation use-case for next 6 months (Opportunity Cost): This becomes key while also prioritizing the use-cases since the delayed start of an automation project would mean the identified benefits would be realized late too.

e) How can the cost of use-case be avoided (Cost Avoidance): These are scenarios where the organization can reap the benefits of automation by not having to indulge in investing on sub-contractors / huge licensing costs etc. to maintain business continuity

f) How many users are impacted (Multiplier Effect): The use-cases identified in one department is most likely to have a distant cousin in other departments. Hence, it is important to provide a holistic view of the benefit the use-case would provide to the organization as a whole (rather than being myopic)

Often the Automation CoEs make a great effort to capture the soft benefits from automation (customer satisfaction, employee morale etc.) but the differentiating CoEs are the ones which take the next step to quantify these soft benefits. While the questions above might be the first step towards articulating some of the tangibles, but more of then not, asking the very obvious questions do the trick !!

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