The X and Y of Automation

Image credit: iStockphoto/DeanDrobot

Organizations pondering the value of automation implementations should construct two axes, with “risk” as the x-axis and strategic value on the vertical or y-axis.

It is the advice of Minwoo Yim, customer success and delivery lead at Australian compliance and RegTech startup Checkbox. He spoke last week in a webinar entitled “Achieving Your 2021 Strategy Using Automation.”

“Plotting where you are on this axis is often a great exercise when you are thinking of automation,” said Yim.

“In the top right-hand corner of the grid, for example, you have in-house focused work, such as a major purchase agreement, and there the strategic value of automation is high, but so is the risk,” she said.

“On the bottom left, in comparison, you have low-value work which is repetitive and can be automated and made self-service, and this takes automation away and shifts the cost from the HR side to the technology side,” she added.

Automation reasons

Yim outlined four strategic reasons why, in his experience, organizations looked to automate: minimizing cost, minimizing risk, increasing digitalization, and improving the customer experience and service.

He went on to give some examples of each of these four strategies. But one overarching theme was that manual processes and human intervention created what he called an “interface cost” of friction which resulted in lost time, efficiency, created costs, and often reduced outcomes and efficiency.

“I always like to say that the more people in different teams who are involved in a process, the higher the level of complexity in making sure that everyone is on the same page,” said Yim.

He gave the example of a Checkbox client, a large Australian pension fund, which, even though they had a defined procurement policy, was rarely followed through.

“They were actually getting to the stage where they would follow the policy to a certain point, and then they would defer to their team members and colleagues to make procurement decisions,” he said.

“In the grand scheme, this was not good for minimizing risk. So, what they did was use automation to digitize the operation of the procurement policy so that risk was minimized, so this is an example where automation technology can be used to institutionalize the process and standardize and reduce deviance risk.”

Friction worsens security

Another example Yim gave was in data breaches, where a large finance company noticed that although breaches were being flagged, “friction between all the interfaces” in the organization was manual and was creating a longer process.


“So, they used automation to digitize their whole data breach reporting process,” he said.

“It is now all centralized, and it ropes in relevant stakeholders, and small incidents can be self-served, and the technology reduces overall organizational risk by making the incident flagging process more seamless.”

Seamless documentation

A further example related to the third priority of strategic digitalization involved a large hospitality company in Australia.

The company used many paper-based forms and manual processes, which resulted from the high number of reporting activities that needed to be performed daily.

These forms were filled out on the floor by staff, often with paper and pen, scanned, sent by email, and then printed out and stored as hard copies.

“You could tell that the number of manual processes was creating a burden for the personnel in their work,” said Yim.

Automation was used to transform those paper-based activities to digital, creating a seamless flow of documents and one version of the truth for the whole business.

Peeling off the layers

Yim’s final example was of a large telco client aiming to reduce friction in the interaction between the legal team and the various business units they served.

There was, he said, an “invisible administration layer” in the back and forth between the legal team and their clients, the business units.

Automation then delivered a self-service solution that was accessible on a 24/7 basis.

So, instead of someone in the business unit emailing or calling the legal team to understand where a particular agreement was at, the technology was able to deliver a transparent view of where the work was in the process of completion.

It reduced the back and forth between the legal team and the business units and brought the business user into the journey to improve visibility. The added benefit is a faster turnaround.

“The delta between what your clients expect in terms of service and velocity and what you can provide becomes evident when the complexity of the work increases,” said Yim.

“So, automation can be used to close that delta and to make it more enjoyable and improve the experience for end clients.”

Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends, and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/DeanDrobot