East Africa: Agility Through Automation - Getting Things to Work for Themselves

Digital automation is very effective but often fails to deliver. As a result, many reach for robotic process automation - even though they already have automation capabilities in their environments.

Thousands of hours are spent on back-office processes or manual desk tasks. These are routine and repeatable, yet require some level of expertise, but the humans who oversee them could be doing better things, hence the allure of automation. It's about spending full-time hours engaged in more productive activities, thus increasing efficiency, performance and revenue.

Failure to deliver

Digital automation is very appealing, unfortunately, it struggles to meet its promises.

"Many automation projects are not living up to expectations," said Sipho Mogapi, MD of Lubanzi ICT Consulting. "They start well, but then delivery slows down and only exists in isolated pockets."

Digital automation projects struggle for many of the same reasons associated with other technology projects, such as poor buy-in and resistance from silos. But the demand for automation efficiencies has not gone away. This is pushing a lot of interest in robotic process automation.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a novel solution to automation problems. RPA systems can be trained to interact with an application just as a user would. It literally automates the actions a human would be performing. Unfortunately, RPA cannot fix all automation problems.

"There is a lot of interest in RPA and it has its place, but it's too hyped. Many companies are not leveraging on what they have already automated, using the tools for test automation, because they are too invested in what RPA promises. They are not leveraging the capabilities that are already possible with their existing automated tests."

Real automation value

Businesses with modern digital systems to their environments can access automation capabilities, but how can they do so and improve automation's poor delivery record?

"You have to start from the top down," Mogapi explained. "There needs to be a group strategy and automation has to be adopted at a group level. If you do not have that, it is a challenge. There are too many silos in delivering software development projects. At the project level, automation can still be adopted and achieve great results. The problem comes when teams need to integrate to deliver those solutions."

He gave a few reasons to why automation fails:

Expectations that an automated process will be the same as the original process after changes in the system, not thinking about maintenance;

Expectations that technology, not people, will cause change;

Lack of strategy in implementing automation;

Management holding unrealistic expectations.

Automation is not about replacing like for like, it changes the organisation and should be expanded iteratively. Dedicated focus and the personal touch are what deliver successful automation. This is why a specialist provider makes a significant difference, supported by the services and frameworks of large backers.

Lubanzi uses its agility as an SMME to give the dedicated attention needed for automation to take root. At the same time, it can deliver these services at an enterprise level and for large customers. By leveraging Micro Focus solutions though Axiz's SMME programme, Lubanzi combines the personal touch with best-of-breed solutions.

Axiz has developed an SMME programme through which smaller solution providers can access the services and support to implement Micro Focus services and products. This includes a SITA Framework Agreement that gives SMMEs access to and capacity for public sector projects without undergoing a tender process. The programme also accelerates SMME delivery of any size private sector customer, arming Axiz and Micro Focus' partners with the right skills, insights and support systems to focus on what they do best.

The promises made by digital automation are true and many of those capabilities are already inside current systems. Unlocking these is not a question of buying the hottest new technologies, but selecting a partner who can invest the time and focus required. This starts to deliver the true value of digital automation and helps lead companies towards their transformation into modern enterprises.

Do you have a story that you think would interest our readers?

torial@cio.co.ke

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