Tackling Automation Overload with Value Mapping

Analysis helps manufacturers get a grip on which processes are being used, which are delivering business value, and which are losing money.

Value mapping allows organizations to identify where there is waste and redundancy in their automations.

By Tony Higgins, Chief Product Officer, Blueprint Software Systems

Manufacturers are experiencing automation overload. Believing automation represented a clear-cut saver in terms of both cost and time, many manufacturers automated everything they could, often with very little understanding about the actual work being done and the business processes they had been using.

While that rushed approach to automation did yield initial benefits and returns for some companies, it also led to a number of worrying consequences. These included poor design practices, automating the wrong processes, failing to optimize processes before automating them, and not aligning processes to high-level business objectives. Perhaps worst of all, many organizations allowed process knowledge to walk out the door due to employee turnover and their own lack of commitment to documentation, standardization, and governance.

Sadly, the mad-dash to automate means that today many manufacturers have little understanding of their automation estates. They don’t know what they have or how much money and effort they’re wasting on maintenance, which processes are redundant, and which automations are off-task and, therefore, not delivering meaningful value.

There is hope, though. While those organizations that rushed to automate can’t change the past, they can change the future by undertaking a value mapping exercise. A comprehensive assessment and analysis which allows companies to get a grip on what processes they are currently using, which ones are delivering the business value that was expected, and which are losing money – typically through rising maintenance and support costs that outweigh any increases in efficiency they might be producing – value mapping can help manufacturers to realize a number of key benefits, including the following.

Reducing automation’s total cost of ownership: Value mapping allows organizations to identify where there is waste and redundancy in their automations. Doing so will help to lower maintenance costs and operational expenses, especially when paying by the automation. It can also be instrumental in helping to determine if re-platforming the automation estate to a newer, better performing robotic process automation (RPA) platform would allow for a significant reduction in licensing fees.

Removing redundancies in automation estates and processes to reduce costs: On average, 20-30 percent of most organization’s automation estates are redundant. To put that in terms of dollars, if a manufacturer is spending $1 million annually to run its automation estates, $200,000-$300,000 of it are likely being wasted on redundancies. Value mapping can help companies identify where those redundancies are and, just as importantly, how they can be removed.

Addressing unnecessarily complex automations: Complexity increases the risk of outages and drives up maintenance costs. Despite those obvious downsides, a lot of automated processes tend to be unnecessarily complex. That is precisely where value mapping comes in. Value mapping not only identifies what automations are overly complex, but also makes recommendations as to how they can be simplified and optimized in order to mitigate risk and lower operational expenses.

Discovering whether re-platforming makes sense financially and operationally: Conducting a value map assessment allows an organization to identify how much of its automation estate can be ported over to a new RPA tool without involving a costly, labor-intensive manual effort. With this information in hand, manufacturers can be in a better position to know exactly what re-platforming will mean in terms of both time and money.

Providing insight on individual automations: Without value mapping, the only way to really understand what an individual automation does is by deciphering its code – always a difficult and time-consuming task. Value mapping, however, handles this tedious, time-consuming task, while providing best-practice recommendations for those automations being examined. This, in turn, enables improvement and further reduction of complexity, risk, and future maintenance issues.

Understanding the entire automation estate: Because so many automation initiatives are siloed in either different lines of business running parallel automation programs or multiple RPA tools in use, many organizations don’t have a concrete grip on all of the automated processes they have in production. And without knowing what you have, it’s impossible to know which automated processes are delivering the business value that was expected and which are losing money. Value mapping finally provides the kind of holistic view of the entire automation estate that enables manufacturers to make informed decisions with respect to automation optimization, reuse, and retirement.

This is essential when you consider that about three-quarters of all process improvement doesn’t involve any automation. Take, for example, a process where automation can decrease execution time by 80 percent. While that may sound like a positive move on the face of it, the return on automating that process would be negligible if there are only 10 inputs per day  because the output remains essentially the same regardless of whether it is executed manually or by a bot.

That is precisely why value mapping and process analysis is so integral to automation. There would be no other way of knowing information such as the above example illustrates without mapping and analyzing that process first. Manufacturers simply can’t determine the best process improvement strategy, whether that means automation or some other option, without first determining what processes they have and how those processes are being used.  

Tony Higgins Blueprint Software Systems, Industry TodayTony Higgins

Tony Higgins is the Chief Product Officer at Blueprint Software Systems and is responsible for the vision and evolution of Blueprint’s Business Transformation Platform, a powerful solution that helps large enterprises understand how work is getting done today, so that they can improve it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Tony has a broad base of software delivery skills and experience ranging from start-ups to global enterprises, and is passionate about building technology that helps organizations consolidate all of their process information in one place, allowing them to optimize and automate their business processes. For more information, visit https://www.blueprintsys.com/

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