The role automation plays in the shared services maturity scale

Automation technology is playing an increasingly larger role as companies form shared services operations and grow in maturity. As they develop to serve a larger number of users, the benefits of implementing centralized automated services increase substantially, independent of those organizations’ maturity levels.

However, implementing automation is critical at every stage, and can be the key to future growth. Therefore, companies that begin planning for the future early will be better poised to ensure long-term success.

To optimize for growth and efficiency, business leaders need to choose the correct solutions at each stage of the maturity cycle. This can be challenging for smaller organizations, as it is often difficult to strike the right balance between short and long-term goals. Larger organizations may also struggle with getting the most out of what they currently have, as major investments may be too costly due to their size and inertia.

First, we’ll look at how younger, smaller companies can set successful strategies.

Choosing early-stage solutions

It is important for growing companies to examine their long-term goals in order to effectively balance initial costs with future needs to ensure continuous improvement. This can relate to multiple choices companies must make when implementing automation technologies.

Cloud-based solutions often make the most sense for a rapidly expanding company that wants to minimize its initial investment while staying flexible. These solutions are generally easy to get up and running quickly, with minimal IT staff and infrastructure required.

They also often provide greater security for those organizations that have minimal resources to invest in extensive protection measures.

However, investing in an on-premises deployment might ease transition headaches at a later maturity stage. As the user count increases, the costs of investing in IT infrastructure often become lower compared to recurring costs. Choosing the right long-term solution early on can reduce costs and increase efficiency over the long-term.

The challenge is that predicting this is difficult.

For this reason, many companies choose to implement a hybrid approach, building out some on-premises infrastructure while still utilizing cloud-based services. Fortunately, some providers offer both options. By implementing a single-vendor, hybrid approach, companies can start with on-premises automation and move later to cloud-based automation without a change in vendors. This allows organizations to adjust execution to meet business and technology strategies while preserving features and functionality that end users have come to depend on.

Optimizing mature organizations

For larger, more mature companies, as IT departments grow into maturity with highly centralized services that meet the demands of a large range of business groups, it can become difficult to effectively implement new automation technologies. Legacy systems and processes, technical debt and a diverse set of end-user needs can make it a challenge to choose and deploy solutions cost effectively.

IT leaders must consider integration with existing systems, the costs of upgrading or replacing infrastructure and software, and whether end users will actually use a new solution. This requires significant preparation to optimize the deployment to meet business and IT needs while leveraging pre-existing resources.

It also requires effective change management strategies to smooth the transition and ensure high adoption rates among end-users.

One way to prepare for the future and mitigate change is to seek an automation platform with multiple capabilities beyond automating a single process. Deploying process automation that can serve the entire enterprise – rather than assembling many single-purpose, niche products – helps minimize the total cost of ownership and limits training and change management issues while also reducing IT’s maintenance and upgrade burden.

It also keeps data out of silos and minimizes IT sprawl.

Ultimately, implementing automation technology at any maturity stage requires due diligence, expertise and organizational will. There is no universal solution. Every company’s requirements and final deployment will look different.

Partnering with a trusted automation expert can help your organization get on the right track, choose solutions that meet business needs and minimize long-term costs. Not only that, by freeing employees from low-skill, repetitive tasks, you free them to do more creative, high-skilled activities, like focusing on delivering excellent service to your customers.

After all, the true test of successful automation is how your customers respond to it.

Michelle Beal is the business systems analyst supervisor at Gleaner Life Insurance Society. She has been with Gleaner Life for 20 years, starting on the business side of operations and moving into an IT role as the system administrator, shortly after the organization implemented OnBase in 2002. While the number of systems she and her team oversee has grown tremendously over the years, OnBase remains her favorite. Michelle currently serves as the Vice President of the Insurance VOGUE (Vertical OnBase Group of User Experts).

Michelle Beal

Michelle Beal is the business systems analyst supervisor at Gleaner Life Insurance Society. She has been with Gleaner Life for 20 years, starting on the business side of operations and... read more about: Michelle Beal