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Become a champion of your industry

Services and Competencies for a business in a changing world

Become a champion of your industry Services and Competencies for a business in a changing world

Become a champion of your industry

Services and Competencies for a business in a changing world

Become a champion of your industry Services and Competencies for a business in a changing world
Automation

 

Today's business world is experiencing a strong demand for change, and companies react very differently to this shift. In recent years, many of them have already taken steps to remain sustainably competitive and are facing the current situation in a different way than those where change is not yet part of the everyday business.

 

After all, everyone must face up to the challenges and react with individually adapted measures. These changes force companies to take different aspects into consideration. Besides efficiency and cost, also speed, quality, reduction of complexity and impact on business model are equally important.

 

These aspects have also been considered and developed in the past, but previous approaches are only partly sufficient in the present. New working methods and approaches are being developed - e.g. agile project
management, lean management, green production, automation or industry consolidation.

 

The HDP set itself the goal to support customers in their development, especially in the field of automation. We view automation on different levels, adapted to the customer situation. Automation includes "simple" robotic desktop automation, robotic process automation (RPA), cognitive process automation or automation with weak or general artificial intelligence (AI).

 

We consider automation as a whole and place it in the context of the customer. In automation, there is no "magic cure", but a customer-specific approach is required to ensure not only medium and long-term success, but at the same time the achievement of current goals and targets. We are since many years experienced in consulting concerning changes and transformations, the introduction of new technologies and innovations as well as the development and implementation of various strategies and this give us the self-confidence to be a reliable partner for the introduction of automation and its further radical development.

 

 

Automation of Processes and Tasks

 

As already mentioned, there are different approaches to automation. The following figure shows a comparison of the main types - RPA and AI.

 

Experience has shown that script-based (RPA) tools can achieve a maximum level of automation in the entire IT operation of up to 30 percent, which is not insignificant compared to the smaller budget required. However, as soon as an individual application, complex IT environment or new technology has to be supported, this method reaches its limits. Even if the last application release only changed a minor detail in the system, the entry condition will no longer fit, so the script cannot work properly. It must be completely revised.

 

This means that in defined standard processes the necessary knowledge is precisely coded and cannot be easily recombined or combined with various sources and experiences in order to be able to serve situations flexibly and in line with changing conditions. Such automation processes, which are designed for economies of scale, lack the necessary intelligence to apply existing knowledge flexibly and to consider what has been learned in future solutions. This leads to an IT operation trying to maintain such existing systems and standards for as long as possible in order to amortize the investment in standardization.

 

Knowledge-based solutions take a different approach. Instead of concentrating on maintaining fixed sequences, they rather focus on the correct use of expertise. The tool works like an independent colleague. Like the human employee in a team, the knowledge-based automation software must also undergo a learning process in advance. For this purpose, the experts in the specialist areas collect their know-how in modular modules and store it in a knowledge pool.

 

In this way, the tool learns from the experts, understands and combines. In daily operation the automation software dynamically compiles a complete sequence of actions from the knowledge building blocks in order to complete a task assigned to it. Thus, the software tool is also able to react to spontaneous events. If it cannot find a solution, it specifically asks for new expert knowledge by documenting the process and passing it on to a human colleague. A knowledge-based solution administrates the entire technology stack - from the operating system to the individual application - and integrates itself into the existing system landscape, even in complex, non-standardized environments.

 

The objective in an automation project should therefore be to achieve this flexibility so that there can be a proper reaction on different input parameters or process variants.

 

As a result, the digitalization of existing processes is playing an increasingly important role in the course of digital transformation. In particular, the opportunity to reduce costs and free up capacity offers enormous opportunities. However, the entry into process automation is often not easy, as the selection of suitable processes often proves to be a challenge.

 

 

Process and Potential Evaluation

 

Selection of Automation Processes

Basically, processes with a high volume and a standardized execution are in focus of automation. In addition, it should be ensured that the sequence of these processes does not change frequently, as larger changes can result in further adjustments.

 

High processing efficiency means low costs, few errors and a high degree of standardization. For this reason, when selecting the processes to be automated, a focus should be placed on processes with a high volume and a comparatively long cycle time. In addition, the susceptibility to errors due to a high proportion of manual steps also plays a major role in the selection.

 

Process Evaluation using Criteria Catalogue or Process Mining

Our approach to automation solutions assumes that every company has and lives processes that involve time, human and financial resources.

 

In dialogue with our customers, we work out the goals that they want to pursue for automation and support them in considering the necessary strategic aspects. However, we do not forget that it is important to achieve initial successes fast, to carry out meaningful tests early on in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the automation measures. The gained knowledge will be anchored in the automation strategy.

 

The starting point for the tests as well as for the long-term success is the selection of the right process to be automated. For this there is a multitude of procedure and analysis tools, structure plans and templates, how this can be done. Based on the discussions with the customer and the creation of a process candidate list, these process candidates are evaluated based on a defined criteria catalogue.

 

This criteria catalogue is a tool that guarantees through our project experience and constant development that we work together goal-oriented and efficiently.

Another common way to evaluate process candidates is to use a separate process mining tool. This allows internal system processes to be read out and documented. This is also particularly useful if internal system processes are not further known in the organization, but "when they are simply lived".

Based on the results, we create a customer-specific proposal for possible priorities, approaches, technologies, pilots and implementations.

 

Potential Assessment and Business Case

Once the list of potential processes is available, it is time to define the next steps. This includes assessing the potential of automating the process and defining the necessary frame conditions. Based on our project experience, we also have an HDP standard procedure in place.

The potential of the automation proposals is examined according to 3 areas - business benefit, best automation method, effort for implementation. For the evaluation of the business benefit, discussions are held with various parties involved and affected as well as clear and valid arguments are sought which speak for or against automation.

Based on the knowledge of the process and the discussions with those affected, even the most promising technology can be determined. In order to do this, it must be clear what progress the company has already made in the field of automation, what experience and skills are available, are all the departments affected by automation able to keep up with the changes, etc.

Once this stage is completed and analyzed, a complete business case is created and documented will be prepared for the selected potential process candidate(s). On the basis of the results, the customer can decide how he wants to develop automation further.

Some customers prefer a small pilot, others make intensive proof-of-concepts or proof-of-values, and still others choose an implementation with a partner.

 

 

Proof of Concept (PoC)/Proof of Value (PoV)

 

The PoC/PoV is often the next step when it comes to the exact evaluation of the automation benefits after the situation analysis. It is advisable to implement this test in a clear project structure and to schedule it for a period of no more than 4 to 6 weeks. The fast pace of today's business environment requires a timely response, so "classic" project periods of 3 to 6 months do not make sense. Our experience as management consultants shows that independent support helps employees not to be distracted by many daily and interesting activities or opportunities, while at the same time maintaining competent leadership and technical content for the task at hand.

 

Planning PoC/PoV

The actual PoC/PoV is a limitation to a selected process or area of activity that covers all aspects of a potential later implementation. In addition to the test of the automation variant, this also includes the system-technical integration.

The planning of the PoC/PoV must include all stakeholders involved, but it must also be clear from the beginning that the focus is on the essentials and not on the very last detail in all areas.

The scope and extent of the systems and persons involved must be clearly defined and coordinated with the business units so that the resources are available in the necessary amount during the project period. If this is not feasible, substitute resources must be identified or, if necessary, the scope of the PoC/PoV needs to be changed. The further procedure is guided by standard project management; depending on the content of the project and competence, a classic or an agile procedure can be used.

 

Set up and Integration

With all these activities, the aim is to integrate automatisms in IT systems - which do not necessarily (only) must lie within the authority of the IT organization - that reduce manual activities and decisions to a minimum. Therefore, the affected system landscape must be defined and evaluated as to whether it is possible to use automation within the system or whether third-party systems are required to take over processing. Then it must be clarified what the necessary interface should look like and which standards can already be used.

 

Creating Scripting, Knowledge Items and Bots

Once all preliminary work and considerations have been completed, the actual automation is created, depending on the automation technology selected. This can be scripting and programming or the creation of bots or knowledge items for the use in artificial intelligence.

All technologies have the claim to adopt defined workflows or decisions of employees. To be able to do this, employees must share their competence. This is the really critical point in many projects - if employees are not actively and willingly involved due to future concerns, the entire project is at risk. Targeted change management in the company can counteract this. Here, too, the HDP has project experience and can contribute the necessary activities.

 

Conducting the PoC/PoV

During PoC/PoV, the concepts are realized, and the results are compared with the expectations and goals defined in advance. In some cases, adjustments and details are necessary in order to optimize the performance of the automation and to provide a basis for decision-making. It is then the task of IT and business management to decide on the further procedure and the implementation of automation in everyday life.

 

 

Implementation Automation

 

The decision to drive automation company-wide and to implement it on the basis of experience and knowledge should be a decision that is actively supported by decision-makers at all levels. It is advisable to implement such a decision through an appropriate company-wide or department-wide program. Often, it is only the sum of the individual automation projects that justifies introducing more cost-intensive tools and tackling greater effects on the organization.

Like for PoC/PoV, analyses must be carried out to set priorities in the program, identify the right levers and clearly define the best automation solutions and procedures for the processes and the overall context.

Once this is done, the technical implementation can start, but the employee is an often-underestimated factor in the automation implementation. It is therefore important to actively involve the employees in the automation projects from the very beginning. Automation can only be carried out successfully with the support of specialists. In addition, the know-how of the specialists is required in order to optimally configure the automation tools.

 

Besides to technical parts of the program, organizational change management plays an important role. Here, too, we as HDP have already proven our competence as a partner for companies in the past and in automation projects.

 

 

Operation

 

If the amount of automation activities is constantly increasing, it is necessary to think about its optimal operation. In PoC/PoV and implementations it has become clear that it is recommended to use automation platforms rather than many individual and independent solutions. After all, all this needs to be supported, developed and managed.

 

Operation of the Automation Platform

The layer model dominates IT operations today. Different responsibilities are defined for the different IT layers. Smooth, trouble-free operation can hardly be guaranteed in this way. Therefore, new structures must be created - also using adequate management solutions and procedures such as DevOps.

All changes in IT operations must take place in the context of current developments. Some things have to be realized fast; others have to be consistent and long lasting.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the operation of IT infrastructures are the separate responsibilities for the individual system layers. Although each application requires services from almost all layers, different teams, often even different vendors, are responsible for each layer.

In the event of malfunctions and errors and subsequent search for the cause, this division inevitably leads to difficulties; it becomes even more problematic and time-consuming if external providers are also involved.

Change management is particularly important for the use of the automation platform, which is increasingly provided as a cloud service (SaaS). Only when it realizes that process changes have a direct connection to already automated processes it is possible to adapt them in advance in order to avoid interruptions.

 

Building a Competence Center Automation

Nowadays, it has become widely accepted that automation (and especially in connection with artificial intelligence) is no more than a purely technical topic. Despite the large range of tools available and the corresponding investments, it has not yet been possible to meet all expectations of automation in all its aspects. The decisive approach to optimization is a Competence Center (CC) organization, which follows the guiding principle of reflecting the integrative character of the automation solution through an integrating CC organization across department boundaries.

 

Two aspects help to get started quickly:

-          Cooperation with the business department, whose IT affinity is being promoted by the trend topic of digitization through a limited number of interfaces.

-          Low organizational hurdles and a higher flexibility to provide optimal access to a new technology with many unknowns.

HDP can design and implement such a Competence Center as an organizational unit or as a group within existing structures.

Operation and competence are essential prerequisites for the successful use of automation. The speed at which technologies and innovations are developed is much faster today than it was a few years ago. As already mentioned before, a company has to follow this development. This requires a continuous improvement process.

 

Continuous Improvement Process

The term Continuous Improvement Process or the abbreviation CIP summarizes all measures that are suitable to improve products, services, processes and individual activities in a company. These measures mostly refer to the employees' mindset, which must constantly check where and how the work can be improved.

This is not only about improving the implemented automation systems, but also about constantly finding new, alternative solutions for tasks so that fewer process steps and/or systems are required. In this way, an AI-supported automation process is subject to a continuous improvement process, too.

 

 

Organizational Considerations for Automation

 

As mentioned before multiple times, automation has not only technical but also organizational effects, which has to be considered for a successful implementation.

 

Personnel Requirements Planning

 

The digitization and automation of processes and individual work steps always raises questions about personnel management and personnel planning. These include questions such as:

-          Do the company's employees have the skills to meet the challenges of digitization?

-          Will the department need the same number of employees in the future?

-          Are new personnel requirements emerging from the growing use of RPA and artificial intelligence?

HDP is the experienced partner for answering these and other arising questions in order to carry out with a client a personnel requirement planning.

The personnel requirement planning determines how many and which employees are needed in the company, when and in which function, and which qualifications employees have today and must have in the future. The personnel requirement planning considers a quantitative and a qualitative determination of the personnel requirement.

The quantitative determination of personnel requirements identifies how many employees will be needed in the future to achieve the company's goals. Internal and external factors such as corporate strategy, age structure and economic developments are considered.

In the qualitative determination of personnel requirements it is assessed which qualifications the existing employees currently have and which qualifications the employees must have in the future in order to effectively occupy the required positions in the company.

After combining and evaluating the results of the quantitative and qualitative personnel requirements analysis, the gross and net personnel requirements are determined. As a result, a target picture of the future organization is created, and a tailor-made catalogue of personnel measures is derived.

 

The following outcomes result from the personnel requirements planning:

-          Quantitative overview of the actual headcount of the company

-          Quantitative overview of the target workforce in the planning phase

-          Analysis of the qualifications of the actual workforce

-          Identification of the personnel qualifications required in the future

-          Target picture of the future organization 

-          Catalogue of personnel measures

These results are used to identify necessary changes in the tasks and fields of activity of the affected departments and to determine and document the required capacities for each task. Existing job descriptions are, if necessary, adapted or new ones defined. A comparison of the actual status with the target status potentially shows how many and which changes a company needs in terms of personnel. The next step is to derive measures.

 

Identification of Qualification Gaps

These measures relate, among other things, to the identification of the qualifications of the actual headcount as well as the future qualifications of the employees required. As a competent partner, the HDP can also accompany and ensure the correct and complete identification of the qualification gaps and derive the required measures.

In order to determine the qualifications of the actual workforce, the existing job descriptions are reviewed, and interviews/surveys are conducted using valid methods to verify employee qualifications. The required target qualifications result from the planned target organization and the identified qualification requirements during the personnel requirement planning. Qualification gaps are then evaluated and documented.

In addition to the analysis of the qualification gaps, an analysis of the company-wide high potentials should be prepared as well as measures for the talent management of the company derived.

In addition to the change concepts, this can also lead to well-founded information about the strengths and weaknesses of the employees, including a statement regarding further development or a recruitment recommendation. However, it should be paid attention to the legal conditions of these activities, as well as to include HR and if necessary, also the work council from the start, in order to avoid conflicts and manage violations in the later period. The HDP can also be a competent partner in this regard.

The identified gaps must now be precisely addressed and closed. To this end, training and further training measures must be developed and implemented for existing employees, employee relocations are to be planned and, possibly, separation measures have to be initiated.

For unoccupied positions, vacancy notices should be reviewed and, where appropriate, adapted or replaced by new ones. A hiring plan for the period of change has to be prepared together with the HR managers.

 

Concept for Demand-Oriented Employee Training

The HDP and its qualified education and qualification partners can provide support here and create a tailor-made training concept, accompany the subsequent implementation and carry out the further training of
employees.

The identified qualification gaps should be examined more closely in order to develop a further training concept for employees. It is necessary to group together related and complementary qualifications so that they can be mapped primarily to in-house or for common training courses.

The employees to be trained are grouped (if necessary, with the support of our partners from the education sector) according to their learning type in order to define for and with the client the most suitable training procedure for them. Then a planning horizon for the training measures should be defined by the management and the HR department so that the appropriate training units, courses or trainings can be selected from the training portfolio of the company or the external training partners.

The resulting training program, which accompanies the automation process, is then discussed, documented and implemented among those who are impacted.

 

Implementation of Education and Training Concepts

In order to ensure learning success and to transfer it into everyday working life, a variety of proven learning methods should be offered and applied. These include blended learning, web-based training, e-learning, but also face-to-face methods such as frontal teaching and coaching.

The selection of the right methods depends on the training plan, but also on experience and cultural aspects - online, on-site in the company or externally with an education partner are potential options.

It is important that HR actively supports the training phase, publishes regular information about the changes implemented and planned, and offers the opportunity for individual and group discussions.

The learning progress of the employees and the success of the further training measures should be recorded and documented transparently for the employee.

The HDP has recognized and excellent partners in the education sector and can support clients in implementing their education and training concept in a targeted and efficient manner.

 

 

Conclusion Automation

 

The focus of business process automation is on shifting daily tasks to a machine so that experts have more time to focus on valuable and challenging issues that can help the business move forward. At the same time, operating costs are reduced and quality increases significantly due to the reduction of manual work. Before
implementing an appropriate solution, it is important to carefully consider which areas it should cover. If, for
example, only the operating system is to be managed, the introduction of a script-based solution may be enough. If, however, the area of application lies in a heterogeneous, individualized system environment, the implementation of a knowledge-based automation method may be necessary. In this way, system operation achieves the necessary independence and flexibility to obtain a sustainable economic advantage for the company and to actively support differentiation in the market.

The simultaneous support of the change process regarding the employees and the ensuring of their inclusion and (further) development is one of the biggest critical success factors.

HDP can advise in all necessary steps, contribute know-how, support in the implementation, or successfully
implement the entire automation process together with the client.

Talk to us, we would like to accompany you on the exciting path of digitization and Automation.