How to Achieve Operational Focus through Automation

1.19.17 By Deb Ferber


Show of hands. Who likes to be recognized for their work?

Recognition makes us feel all gooey inside, both when we're the recipient, and when we place the spotlight on others. I love to recognize my team for the work they do.

It’s even better when a customer gets there first. They’ll mention a major cost-saving benefit and I’ll bring up the person on my team responsible for the idea and vision.

Then we’ll delve into the data and how it reveals a process improvement by fifteen or thirty percent, or when it helps solve problems the customer didn’t even know to look for.

I work with a team who gets recognized a lot for discovering efficiency opportunities and implementing automation, and it’s awesome.


Automation Enables You to Focus

In a previous post, we discussed the importance of improving customer-facing processes for the benefit of speed and reliability. Organizations will accomplish more and improve customer experiences at the same time.  

Automation enables you to focus on your value while work gets done more efficiently and more consistently. 


Twenty years ago, if you wanted to call someone while driving on the highway, you would take the following steps:

  1. Pull off of the highway and locate a payphone
  2. Park
  3. Make your way to said phone
  4. Insert change (or find a place nearby to make change)
  5. Finally place your call


If the person you called wasn't available, tough. You’d leave a message. If there was someone already using the phone, you'd wait.

I experienced this on Father's Day, 1996. I had to pull off the highway, stop at a McDonald's to get change, and then find a payphone to call my dad.

Today, all you have to do is access your built-in Bluetooth connection, say who you want to call, and you’re good to go.

You don’t even have to think about the logistics of calling someone. Your environment is setup to do it for you. Instead, you can focus on the tasks at hand.



Remember these? Photo credit: LA Times


The Same Goes for Business Process Improvement

It often feels like you never have time to do ‘X.’ You wish you could do more of ‘X’. With automation, you get to focus on ‘X’, and end up with better results because of it.

‘X,’ by the way, is your differentiator.


“But what about our people?” is the question I most often hear.


Automation Empowers People

It’s natural to be concerned about your team. The last thing you’d want is to risk their careers.

Process automation (at least the types that we implement) does not replace jobs. It enhances them.

Let’s use Amazon as an example. If they want to automate warehouse inventory checks, and have a person who checks inventory levels, he can now conduct more quality checks on packages as they go out the door.

He doesn’t lose his job. He gets to focus on the company’s differentiator, which is service excellence. It improves his work experience as he takes on a more meaningful role, and adds value to the operation.


4X Process Consolidation: A Real Example

I’m going to dig up a project from a while back where we introduced automation. The customer is a Fortune 25 pharmacy benefits organization.

In this scenario, service representatives were responsible for outreach, manually calling customers to remind them to refill prescriptions and set up a shipment.

We accelerated fulfillment through automation and reduced the risk of error by developing a tool to automatically dial customers at the appropriate time.

Patients received consistent reminders of prescription refills, and the company representatives, spending less time attempting to contact individuals, became more available for customer service. The entire process was more dependable and less wasteful.

There was no question to greenlight the project upfront. The organization realized the potential benefits for customers and staff, as well as a major cost saving.

When you have data, you have most of your problem solved already.

We measured the number of times a service rep had to manually attempt to reach a patient to set up a shipment. We then predicted how many contact attempts could be avoided with automation.

Armed with data, we could show the project benefit.

Before the automation, it took multiple outreaches, sometimes up to four or five, to get a live answer on the phone. The automated system enabled service reps to engage with customers without any manual outreach.


Using Business Process Improvement as a Roadmap for Digital Transformation

Automation is part of business process improvement (BPI). When considering a major system or tech upgrade, try BPI first. That way, you’re not starting with an old application and ten-step process that involves four systems. You start with a revised application. It’s focused with optimized processes and automation already built in, and has all steps in the same location. 


Imagine now, bringing your systems together for a single purpose. A manager calls up any information under a single category. With unified processes, companies end up with a clear path to transform their technology.

Once you’ve established a relationship with a process automation partner, they become familiar with your systems and processes and can go right to the data. You have an extra set of eyes to independently discover ways to improve. 

We’ve helped companies realize tens of millions of dollars in cost savings before transformation even kicks in. Learn how you can get started with BPI here.



Deb Ferber Bio 1.jpg



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