According to McKinsey & Company, the pandemic transformed business, forever. The speed at which organisations adopted digital and transformed technology accelerated by as much as seven years.

Digital whiplash as companies leapt towards technologies that would ensure their relevance in a world suddenly gone online, a world defined by connectivity, collaboration and digital competition.

However, this digital transformation needs to make the most out of existing systems and solutions.

According to Gerrit de Villers, presales and product manager at Inovo, digital investment has to consider carefully integrating specialised applications to ensure every part of digital transformation is intelligently managed.

“Companies want both new and old systems to be well integrated and to play well together” he adds. “This typically doesn’t happen. So, the goal must be to use the best applications for the task at hand, while ensuring that these specialist applications effectively share information between themselves. This allows the business to start small, and build outwards to save costs and move at pace while remaining digitally relevant.”

The sudden move to online has widened the customer service and sales gaps for many companies. There is a disconnect in the journey from sale to implementation and often customers go through several processes to make implementation a reality.

This is made even more complex when third parties are involved – the business has limited line of sight around customer information and interactions. It has become increasingly important to find ways of combining and collecting information from multiple channels so you can automate and improve customer experiences.

To achieve automation excellence the organisation should consider the following four steps:

Leverage what you know

Companies need tools that allow them to automate workflows, integrate channels and remove silos. They also don’t want to waste the time and effort already invested into the platforms already in place, especially if they perform well.

To fully realise the value-add of automation, ensure that automation capabilities complement both IT and the business user, ensuring that these valuable resources work together seamlessly.

Whatever platform the business uses to automate must support IT and business. It should also make the best possible use of skills and resources, platforms, and people.

Enable the use of speciality apps, software, IT users and business users as every one of these boxes is a tick towards sustainable business transformation.

Enable business users

Provide business users with the tools they need to build workflows on an IT supported platform so they can collaborate effectively and focus on what’s important to them. Refine the internal and external customer journey in incremental steps that allows for existing technology investments to work with the new investments to deliver a holistic platform and system.

This can be achieved by investing into a very specific backend platform that helps to build workflows intelligently, and incrementally. There’s no need to implement an extensive ERP solution right from the outset – the building blocks are already in the team, in the company. The business needs to rearrange and connect these building blocks so they can be used more efficiently.

Rethink, not just automate

“Business process automation (BPA) is not just eliminating manual process, it is revamping and re-evaluating existing processes using the tools at your disposal,” says de Villers. “It is an opportunity to optimise old processes that are no longer relevant, and to integrate legacy systems and activities into the rest of the business.

“It is also about embedding agility by selecting business critical applications that fulfil specialist functions and linking them to workflows and business processes intelligently, ensuring scale and flexibility. Most importantly, however, it is about starting small with single use cases that deliver big benefits.”

Achieve value, at speed

Strategic and incremental approaches allow for any business to achieve significant gains in bite-sized, manageable steps. Automating systems should be slow and strategically scaled, adding data and functionality to customer journeys as systems and approaches evolve.

This approach allows the organisation to bypass unnecessary complexity while consistently proving the value at speed. It also creates visibility and will inevitably lead to a better understanding of what areas of the business need to be improved and how better to engage with the customer.

However, success does require buy-in from all stakeholders across the business as that will ensure the real value of any investment is fully realised.

“This approach to automation and customer engagement refines how the business approaches the user journey and ongoing visibility,” concludes de Villers. “It provides access to fresh and relevant data that can be invaluable in understanding customer behaviour, and it will allow the organisation to create more optimised experiences. Digital transformation may have been rushed in 2020, but 2021 is all about ensuring that it is refined and relevant.”