It’s important to measure any business activity against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and automation programs are no different. In fact, because of the outlay involved with implementing intelligent automation and the challenges of scaling it, identifying the specifics of success is critical to putting together a business case and ensuring continued buy-in.
A survey of automation leaders from companies that are already well into their RPA journey, conducted by research consultancy Teknowlogy in partnership with Thoughtonomy, has revealed 6 KPIs that these companies are measuring their automation activity against.
1. PRODUCTIVITY / OUTPUT INCREASE
In the survey, companies in 4 out of 7 industries cited an increase in productivity as their primary measure of success. Productivity can be measured as both the new levels of output from the human employees who previously actioned the process, and the output from the automation bots who are now completing the process.
Each of these types of productivity should be measured in a different way. Human productivity is more qualitative – what are your employees doing with the time they have gained back from automating manual tasks? Are they using it differently? Are they meeting new targets or adding additional value to the team?
Automation productivity can be measured in the output of the bots. For example, you can measure against targets set out before deployment with actual time of process completion. See this example from client ESNEFT on how they have measured the hours taken back by using intelligent automation. Targets for this KPI should be reviewed regularly within the first few months against actual performance.
2. COST REDUCTION
Reducing business costs is a primary reason why companies use process automation. Cost savings can be realised in a number of ways, which may result in several separate KPIs to measure.
Automation can free up budget that has been allocated to resources needed to perform a process. In financial compliance for example, companies spend millions on resource to ensure that they are able to meet legislative requirements such as Know your Customer or Money Laundering. Process automation can reduce the need to hire additional headcount, and if the company is using a SaaS platform such as Thoughtonomy, there will also be cost savings on things like infrastructure and user licences.
Savings can also be made from eliminating the need to integrate or upgrade existing systems that are slowing down a process. In the NHS for example, data is entered into multiple legacy systems, but rather than spend money on new systems or on consolidating systems, an intelligent digital worker can simply do the job of transferring data using the existing systems in the manner a human employee would.
Companies that have deployed intelligent automation within customer services also see cost savings in different ways. For example, chatbots reduce the cost of phone calls into the operators because they’re able to handle common customer queries from digital devices.
3. IMPROVING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
Customer experience can be a much simpler KPI to measure. Doing so means putting in place feedback channels to collect satisfaction measures and comparing them against pre-automation feedback. Online reviews are a good barometer to measure satisfaction by.
While many companies may see this as a soft measure of success, customer satisfaction can also be translated into customer retention. How many customers are you retaining post-automation compared with pre-automation?
4. IMPROVED BUSINESS OUTCOMES
In the survey, companies in 6 out of 7 industries cited improving business outcomes in their top 3 automation goals. The interpretation of this is fairly subjective, so as a KPI it needs some measurable structure.
Consider your overall business goals, and the departments in which you are planning to implement process automation to define what successful ‘outcomes’ are for your company. They might include passing a compliance audit or improving customer retention numbers. An outcome could even be something as yet unknown, such as creating a service using automation that did not exist before.
5. SPEED OF TIME TO MARKET
While this goal was considered less important in the Teknowlogy survey as an early indicator of success, it becomes more important as a KPI further into a company’s automation journey. Why? Because maintaining a consistent, fast timeframe is what enables a business to scale its automation.
A fast speed to market indicates having reached the point where employees are well trained on creating and implementing a new process, the Center of Excellence is doing its job, there is buy-in from key stakeholders, and there’s a blueprint of sorts available to all departments within a company for automating their own processes.
A dip in speed to market can indicate issues that need to be addressed within this framework and ensures that this can be done swiftly with minimal impact on an automation program.
6. UNLOCKING EMPLOYEE POTENTIAL
One of the primary reasons to automate processes within a business is that doing so unlocks the potential of employees who are held back by spending time on unskilled manual tasks. Another is that it reduces the number of new employees that are needed in order to service the workload.
To measure the number of hours gained back by an employee or team which no longer has to perform a task or set of tasks it’s important to understand how long a process takes when done manually in order to measure the saving. This should be done for the process as a whole and at an individual employee level. Doing this exercise often reveals aspects of a process that weren’t fully understood, which can also be valuable when reviewing working processes as a whole.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR INVESTMENT
Process automation – whether done through a SaaS self-service platform like Thoughtonomy or through providers like Blue Prism – is an investment. As well as the cost of the service there is inevitable investment of time and resource, particularly during the discovery and early implementation phases of a project.
Therefore, it’s important to measure the right KPIs in order to understand what kind of return you’re getting for that investment. If intelligent automation is on your agenda, you can strengthen your business case by identifying measures of success early and setting a benchmark for those KPIs. By understanding where you are now, you can visualise where your business should be with process automation on your side.
Download the full research report: Taking Automation to the Next Level: Scaling RPA from the Tactical to the Strategic
If RPA or Intelligent Automation is on your agenda but you’re not sure how to get things moving, have a chat with us about how we could get you up and running quickly on our SaaS platform.
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