Don’t Let Your Automation Investment Go to Waste

By ImageSource Team on March 27, 2023

A dysfunctional business process became an operational bottleneck and you saw the potential for automation to boost efficiency, speed outcomes, and free staff time. So you gathered requirements, identified a promising solution, and made the investment. But now your staff haven’t adopted the solution, or they’re not making use of its full functionality. You’re just not seeing the ROI you expected.

It happens to the best-run organizations – a lot of investment in time and capital is made for a system to be underutilized or worse, mothballed.

But why? And what can you do about it?

Common Reasons Process Automation Doesn’t Lead to Expected Improvement

There are several common pitfalls when it comes to process automation projects. Here are some that we see often:

  • The Initial Requirements Were Off Target – It’s possible that the requirements you gathered didn’t include all the relevant perspectives, weren’t fully vetted, or weren’t prioritized correctly. This leads to a system that addresses some of the pain points but not all of them. Even if the project was implemented perfectly, staff with unmet needs will turn to workarounds or avoid the system altogether.

    Key lesson: Speak with all stakeholders to make sure the requirements are comprehensive.
  • The System Never Met Initial Requirements – We often see issues arise when technology options drive the discovery process, or when the necessary time and/or budget isn’t allocated to meet the actual requirements. A sunk cost fallacy kicks in and an insufficient system is deployed ­– though it will never get used.

    Key lesson: Nail the requirements first, and then turn to technology.
  • The Champion Leaves the Project – The loss of a project champion often impacts the priority status of an in-progress technology initiative. Facing competing agendas within an organization, an incoming leader may hit pause to survey the landscape – and might ultimately decide to change course. Ultimately a project cannot depend on one key player to get it over the line.

    Key lesson: Establish early-stage buy-in from stakeholders throughout the organization to ensure commitment.
  • The Vision Changes During the Project – When the original concept changes, the project scope usually follows. This can lead to the same outcome as incomplete requirements: a system that forces workarounds and ultimately becomes underutilized.

    Key lesson: Adhere to the scope of a project throughout its duration, and make adaptations only after assessing the implemented solution’s effectiveness.
  • Rollout Doesn’t Get its Due – Low user adoption can and will break a process-improvement project that gets everything else right. Don’t underestimate your staff’s fear of change or their attachment to an older way of doing things. Your organization must be deliberate about introducing new solutions thoughtfully, with the human experience at the heart of the rollout.

    Key lesson: Develop a user training plan from the beginning with significant input from those important stakeholders.

Getting the Most out of Your Process Automation Initiatives

The issues above share a common thread – they are all project planning and organizational issues that don’t involve technology at all. So, what can you do to rescue an investment that took a wrong turn?

A faltering process automation project doesn’t have to be a failed one. The reality is that you may have invested in a solid technology – or the building blocks of one ­– that can still solve your business problem. Three keywords can help you navigate from failure to success: Evaluate, Enhance, and Partner.

  • Evaluate – This is a little bit like going back to square one. Resurvey all the users who contributed requirements at the project start. If there’s anyone you overlooked, bring them in. Were the original pain points solved by the process automation? If so, what was the barrier to solution adoption? If not, how would an ideal solution function differently?
  • Enhance – You don’t have to resign yourself to taking a loss on your automation investment. Many times, we see the foundation of a good solution that can be made perfect with affordable enhancements. Look for modular options that integrate with your current tech stack while smoothing out the remaining stumbling blocks. Improvements in workflows, process visibility, and accessibility can all make your existing solution more attractive to vital end users.
  • Partner – Shift from a product mentality to a partnership mindset. Off-the-shelf software is designed to serve basic problems for a large pool of users – but might not be the right fit if your business problems are more complex. The right partner can turn vision into reality with proven methodologies to keep your project on track and on schedule. Select one with the expertise to design and implement the tailored adjustments that will finally help you achieve solution adoption and, ultimately, ROI.

At ImageSource, we have 30 years of process innovation experience helping organizations design, implement, and revitalize solutions. Do you need to rescue a process automation initiative gone wrong? We can get your project back on track and help you maximize your existing technology investment. Contact us!


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