The secret to a successful automation rollout

It’s time to embrace automation. You’ve chosen your software, and now it’s time for you to conduct your automation rollout.

Automation represents a disruptive change — one that will ultimately improve productivity and efficiency. But that big change can have some of your team feeling reservations. Plus, a heavy-handed approach can make for a rocky rollout.  

So, where do you start? How do you ensure a successful automation rollout?

Before everything: perform an impact analysis

The core aspect of a successful automation rollout is to minimise the disruption it causes everyone involved. To do that, you need to map out exactly who the change will impact, and how those impacts will manifest.

So, before everything, be sure to perform an impact analysis.

Start by making a list of everyone that will use the automation tool. This list should include entire departments, individual team members and external stakeholders. Also add anyone that the use of automation may affect.

Then, consider how the automation rollout will impact each entity on your list.

Automation disruption: common issues

So, what sort of things might you think about when writing your impact analysis for your automation rollout? Here are some of the common effects of implementing automation.

•       Internal impact (Employees)

It’s inevitable that automation will change the daily workload for team members. Think about the differences that it will make — what are the new tasks that each employee will need to do?  As well as considering the disruption, make sure to write down the positives of the change. For example, a reduction of admin work and smoother workflows.  

Then, consider how these changes will affect the different departments. This impact could look like delays or extra time needed to get everything started, for example.

Outside of the changes to workload, you should also consider the impact of automation on team morale. A successful automation rollout means doing all you can to reduce automation anxiety.

•       External impact (Customers/stakeholders)

The impact of an automation rollout isn’t always restricted to your internal teams and processes, either.

So, you should also consider how automation will impact those outside of your inner workings. That is, your stakeholders, or your customers. Could the introduction of automation mean changes to the service that you provide your customers?

For example, perhaps they’ll now receive automated emails. Or some of the processes that you’ll automate will indirectly affect them.

Mitigating the disruption of your automation rollout

The next step to a successful automation rollout is to consider how you’ll mitigate any perceived negative effects.

•       Communication

Don’t keep your automation rollout plans a secret. It’s imperative that you communicate with your team. Be sure to promote the benefits that each team member you speak to will enjoy.

For example, you’re discussing automating daily admin tasks. Explain how this will translate into more engaging work and increased productivity for them.

Communicate how automation will slot into the workplace. Reassure that it’s not there to replace anyone. In this way, communication is your biggest weapon against automation anxiety.

•       Support

Not everyone is tech-savvy. Some team members will need more hand-holding than others during an automation rollout.

This translates to the need for training and support when introducing newly-automated processes. This training should make sure individuals understand how they need to adapt, and how the automation works.

It’s helpful to appoint a change agent or team leaders for your departments. This is a person that team members can come to with new questions or issues that crop up as they adjust to having automated processes.

•       A steady, measured approach

A successful automation rollout isn’t one that’s rushed. Rather, it involves building up your automated processes over time. Doing so allows the mapping of every workflow and process intended for automation. This, in turn, helps you ensure that the processes you automate are not broken or flawed — and so will automate successfully.

This measured approach also provides an ample opportunity for communication. Teams can explain how a process gets completed, and where the inefficiencies lie. Working with affected employees this way highlights that their opinions and work are valued.

Conducting your automation rollout

With plans in place to manage the impact of the automation rollout, the next step is to decide what to automate, and to automate it.

•       Where to start

A good starting point is high-frequency, low-skill tasks. These are the kind of processes that lend themselves to being broken up into step-by-step rules. (For example, tedious manual data entry.) As such, they’re among the easiest to automate.

Automating these tasks also serves to help demonstrate the way that you will use automation to benefit your team. By automating these repetitive tasks, you ease your team into the idea of sharing their workload with automation software.

•       Building up

The next step of your automation rollout should be to automate repetitive processes within longer workflows.

Again, this means working closely with your team members to see how automation can support their high-value work.

•       Slow expansion

As the use of automation settles into your workplace, more opportunities to automate will become available. Work with teams to automate more processes. (And to simplify complex workflows with automated processes.)

Look to improve and reinvent inefficient processes and workflows. Communicate with your teams and departments to identify new areas where automation could prove useful.

Common pitfalls

A successful automation rollout, then, involves ongoing communication and a measured approach. But it also means avoiding a few pitfalls.

One such pitfall is to conduct your automation rollout with the goal of replacing humans. Doing so fuels automation anxiety amongst those you don’t replace — and that hurts morale. Plus, automation cannot do everything a human can do.

This brings us to the next pitfall: automating everything. Trying to automate everything increases costs. It adds unnecessary complications. And, crucially, it creates more work, rather than boosting productivity.

Another common automation rollout pitfall is trying to automate broken processes. It’s automation, not automagic, and it cannot fix processes that don’t work. It will only do what you tell it. So, you must tell it how to do the right things.  

A successful automation rollout

There are plenty of important practices when it comes to your automation rollout. A measured, steady approach is the best way to iron out any kinks and ensure a smooth deployment.

But the biggest secret to a successful automation rollout is simple. Communication. Work together with your teams, because ultimately, they’re the ones that will make the best use of your automation software.

Useful links

Why we should embrace automation disruption

ELI5: What is a change agent?

The top 5 automation pitfalls to avoid