Buyer Beware: Your Vendors Might Not be Prepared for The Automation Journey

According to Tim Norton, vendors should be standing up and guiding clients through the process of automation adoption, not selling them a shiny end-goal.

automation buyer beware

With all the buzz surrounding automation, it’s all too easy to get lost in the hype and jump right in without knowing 100% what you’re getting into, when, in fact, vendors should be standing up and guiding clients through the process of automation adoption.

It’s important to look for vendors that have a plan for automation, and can help guide you from where you are now to that final goal. Your vendors may very well be the sort of partner that can get you there, but you have to engage with them differently to ensure a smooth transition.

Here are a few things to consider to confirm that you’re ready to go down the automation path, and that your vendor is up to the task of guiding you down it.

What is Automation?

Automation is effectively an add-on opportunity to any environment of process, procedures, or function within an organization. Let’s assume there is a definable end-game for any organization looking to automate some part or parts of their function.

Automation sure seems like a good thing, doesn’t it? The idea that some pre-defined tasks, otherwise done manually, can now be done with automation exudes potential benefits. Knowing that more tasks can be done in the same amount of time and, in all likelihood, with higher accuracy should produce enhanced business benefit. The idea that I may be able to reduce my operating costs seem inevitable.

How do I get ready?

All those benefits notwithstanding, is automation within reach? If so, how long will it take and which items or tasks within my business should I look to automate? Can I automate parts of processes? What sort of integration activities would I need to establish to tie automated processes to existing systems or tasks left behind? What software or bots could I use to do the automation and dare I say, is there any way to automate automation?

It is likely that these and other questions will emerge from your various constituents whether they be management pushing the automation initiative, or finance looking to benefit quantifiably, or perhaps the users in your organization that may be impacted by automation. Regardless of whether this automation strategy will originate within IT or BPO, it is likely you may not be in the best position to answer all of these questions yourself.

Who can help me?

Doing your own diligence and legwork can be one solution for sure. Often times, you can discover vendors who can describe the end goal and even show you how great it will be for your business. They can articulate all the wonderful benefits of automation or how easy the robots are to install and configure. But that all seems a bit out of reach to many, as the automation roadmap may be in its infancy. The maturity of the enterprise may not be fully positioned to implement automation. The budgets may not accept the timing of initial costs followed by downstream benefit over a certain timeframe. Simply put, the true value of the end goal will be found in the journey, not by rushing full steam to the destination.

Assuming your strategy requires, or at least suggests, leaning toward solicitation of outside help, what sort of vendors should you look at and what sort of expectations should you have of them?

It is easy to find vendors that spend much of their time describing the benefits of automation and convincing you that they can help. There may also be vendors that you already have in place that are content with the work they perform for you today, willing to milk the cash cow until it runs dry. If you consider both of those as the two outsides of an Oreo cookie, I want a vendor that can take me through the journey of the white center of the cookie. I want a vendor that can understand where I am today, and what level of maturity I am executing in, offering guidance on what parts of my environment we should target for automation as a baseline.

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Of top of that, I want the same vendor to help me explore options and execute the journey from there to the end goal. Hopefully, one or more of your current vendors will be able to align to this, but in some cases you may not even know how ready they are. Such vendors need a vision and strategy of their own to position themselves properly. They must be able to help define where you are, provide influence, and offer a roadmap to build out the journey, while also understanding exactly where you want to land with your final automation solutions.

Trying to do this on your own runs the risk of missing out on tools, techniques, and methodologies that are emerging by the day in the industry. Aligning with one of the aforementioned vendors who are not prepared for this journey with their product and service offerings will add time and complexity to the equation and will likely fall short of an optimum solution. A vendor only able to see the end-game may also not effectively help you get there.

Help may be closer than you think

The good news is that many vendors are understanding this and building their strategy and execution to meet the needs of any client in any stage of maturity. Many of these vendors are those you already use. You just have to ask for this much wider scope and engagement.

Many vendors are building the automation mindset and the development of tools and services, but the ones you want are those that have not forgotten the work they are doing for you today and are ready to capitalize on the domain knowledge they have to assist you in building out your automation strategy.

When you ask your existing vendors about automation, listen carefully as to whether they are describing the ideal outcome or whether they are waiting on your lead so they can follow, because these are not the vendors you want. Look for the ones that want to optimize their experience and knowledge of your organization and industry to help assess where you are and help influence the journey where you want to be.

The good news is, I think they are out there, they are ready, and they may be closer than you think.

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