Four Most Common Challenges with Automation Technologies

As insurance organizations travel down their digital transformation path, many find common obstacles standing in their way. These challenges can significantly delay or impede the success of your digital journey, and are worth addressing as potential roadblocks. 

Here are five of the most common challenges in automation technology implementations and some key points to consider in your strategy to effectively prepare and overcome these obstacles.
1. Pace of transition 
2. Automation anxiety
3. Evolving responsibilities and organizational impact
4. Global consistency with local adoption

Pace of transition
Automation projects are extremely short and fast-paced. These projects are typically 12 weeks in duration – compared to traditional software implementations that can typically last two years. Organizations need to understand the pace of the change and dedicate resources to manage that change. If an organization is going to dedicate internal resources, managers should ensure the regular workload of those individuals is being allocated elsewhere to avoid burnout. If using an external consultant to manage the change, dedicate a liaison to ensure your cultural needs are met. 

Automation anxiety
Change always brings a certain amount of anxiety to the employees in an organization, but automation brings some additional anxiety that can be mitigated through effective communication. Many employees fear losing their job or having their job become something rote and of low value. 

Most companies will find that though an automation technology, such as a Robotic Process Automation (RPA), that automating tasks previously performed by a person does not make that person obsolete in the organization. Instead, companies find those employees are now free to complete higher value tasks or can be reskilled to do higher value work. Communicating this early on in the process of a digital transformation project is key. 

Giving people a sense of what the company plans to do with their jobs will give them the confidence needed to stay with the company. Even if the organization does not have a clear understanding of what the employee will be doing, messaging their importance to the organization and the desire for them to be deployed to higher-value work will help keep morale high during the transition. This redeployment of employees should be celebrated: the organization receives a better return on the employee’s time, and the employee receives a higher value experience.

Removing the fear of replacement and some of the uncertainty of transition will ultimately increase the retention of key employees – both those directly impacted and those in other areas. Employees not directly impacted may see uncertainty in their future if messaging is not directed to all employees. A lack of communication can open the door for high performing employees choosing to leave for what they perceive to be more stable positions.

Evolving responsibilities and organizational impact
As the business processes get automated the roles and responsibilities of people will change. This evolution causes an organizational impact that is sometimes fragmented if not managed appropriately. But how are employees and their supervisors to know who is responsible and accountable for what? Documentation of new processes is essential. That documentation should succinctly incorporate responsibilities and information on who is accountable for the results of those processes. Though some organizations may automate a business process that is only affects one functional area, most automation projects will impact more than one business team, and in order to be both effective and efficient in managing this change a strong communication and change management strategy must be deployed. We need to communicate the current process clearly to the impacted employees and document for easy reference. Any changes to the process during the project implementation or following the implementation need to be communicated and updated in documentation. Universal and centralized documentation is essential to ensuring all involved are working from the same updated process. Within the communication and documentation, calling out roles and responsibilities for the steps within the process will help to clarify new responsibilities. 

Communicating intentions before, during and after an automation project will help employees understand why processes are changing or tasks are being handled in certain ways, what their new roles and responsibilities are, and how the overall organization is democratizing automation.

Global consistency with local adoption
As we look through business processes across an organization, having a standardized, well-documented process is key in achieving efficiencies, adoption and scalability. Some processes require customization due to external factors, such as vendors, regions, geographies, product or service lines and other components.

By establishing an automation center of excellence (COE), organizations can achieve automation goals with a globally consistent and best practice-based approach. The COE educates cross-functional teams about how automation is being implemented at their organization and how it impacts the team’s specific needs. The COE also provides tools, templates, and project management resources for rapid adoption and scalability.

Conclusion
Planning, communicating, documentation, consistent checkpoints and revisions to plans and communications are key components to overcoming roadblocks in the digital transformation journey. By creating a culture of innovation and approaching the automation project as an ongoing evolution with as much transparency as possible for those affected, directly and indirectly, will help your organization to complete the journey together, as a cohesive unit.

Author information
Daniel Buttke, CPA, Partner in the insurance practice
Claudio Garcia, MBA, Director of Enterprise Transformation Services
Waqqas Mahmood, MBA, PMP, P.E., Director of Advanced Technology & Innovation