Are You Getting the Most from Your Digital Workforce?


Working as a Customer Success Director for SS&C Blue Prism means that I live and breathe Intelligent Automation in my day-to-day role. I have the pleasure of working closely with many of our customers. I see some organizations thrive and succeed, and I meet other organizations that are struggling on their journey.

Success starts with defining what it looks like. It is very clear that the business case for Intelligent Automation improves exponentially when you scale your automation program, provided that you solve the right problems and run the program in a cost-effective way.

We see gaps in ambition at all stages of maturity. Many organizations don’t even have a vision or defined targets, and if you settle for a mediocre result, that is normally where You end up. So what does success look like for the best?

Many of our customers who have been running automation programs for some years have achieved a return on investment(ROI) between 10 and 20 times. (Each invested dollar gives You 10-20 dollars back). Strangely enough, not all organizations measure ROI.

The one Automation metric that most organizations measure is “Hours back to business”. It does not say a lot in itself, but if you put it in relation to the number of employees in your organization it enables you to benchmark with other organizations, and also between different departments in your organization.

What does good look like? We have a customer where 25% of the work is executed by the Digital Workforce. That’s truly transformative in their organization.

We also see organizations where they achieve even higher numbers of “work completed by the Digital Workers” in one or two departments where they have focused heavily on making those automation first departments. We have seen finance and procurement departments where around 50% of the work is completed by Digital Workers.

If you believe in the theory that what is measured gets done, and you have a culture of healthy competition, I suggest you initiate competition between different units in the organization on the percentage of work done by the Digital Workforce.

When talking about measurement, most organizations fail to measure and report the biggest benefits of automation.

Measuring success can be complex. Commonly among organizations that are using automation, “Hours back to business” is the only success metric considered. Often further benefits such as risk mitigation and compliance are forgotten along with potential cost avoidance, reduction in reputational damage through human error and revenue generation.

And the employee experience – the war for talent is more real than ever, and our experience shows that people are happier when they get to use their full capacity at work, as opposed to spending time on laborious and mundane administration tasks.

Are you measuring employee satisfaction before and after automation? If not, we highly recommend this. When discussing with employees, their satisfaction and mental well-being in the workplace is vital to them. Using digital workers to help reduce peak workloads this will only improve employee satisfaction and reinforce organizational buy-in. This is an area worth calculating and reporting on.

So how does the digital workforce help your customers? If you are already calculating hours back to business, why not calculate and report on hours back to the customer? A very important aspect is time saved by faster processes and no errors or rework, which also benefits the business as a whole, as well as employee experience. Sustainability is rightfully on top of the agenda for most organizations nowadays. Are you calculating and reporting the impact the digital workforce can have on sustainability? From small things like saving paper and office space to reducing carbon emissions by using Intelligent Automation for smarter routing of transports or better usage of stock and material.

In summary, your digital workforce probably delivers more business benefits than you consider or are calculating and reporting on.

Return on Investment also incurs costs. As automation done correctly brings many advantages, is relatively easy to get started and often brings high savings; it seems quite tempting for organizations just to get going. But without planning for quality and cost-efficiency. By overlooking the quality and costs, this will come back and bite you after a period of time automating. The promise is to be quick, agile and cost-efficient, but you end with expensive operations and maintenance that will eat up the benefits you have worked for.

To understand if you are cost-efficient compared to other organizations, I suggest you look at performance indicators like hours saved in relation to the number of people working in your automation program and hours saved per digital worker license. The highest performing organizations I have experienced have savings of approx. 10 FTEs per person through automation, and the same number for saved FTEs per license – 10. That is extremely efficient but certainly relevant to the organization’s needs and process.

To reach that level of efficiency, you need to put a lot of effort into your methodology. You need to look at automating the automation work, have a great collaboration between the business departments, IT and the Automation team. You should also look into automating as much as possible of the automation work itself. It goes without saying, but re-usability is key here. The more reusability, the shorter development time and, therefore, more delivery speed. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that re-usability is relevant to developing automation. Re-usability also comes to play in the Design Foundation. For example, documentation of processes can be highly modular and reusable.

Another important cost driver to look out for is the quality of the automation. A good way to look at this is to measure the success rate for the estate of automation. If you have a success rate below 93 %, you should consider working to increase this. Best in class here is to have an average success rate of around 98%. Post-implementation trend analysis and continuous improvement will enable you to achieve higher success rates.

And all of this goes back to what you want to achieve with your automation program and how you measure and drive your workforce. If you, for example, focus on the volume of automations, you are at risk of implementing automations with a low return on investment. And if you measure your developers on the volume of automations implemented, you need to ensure that your development methodology and process enforce a strong sense of quality, as their biggest drive will be to create many automations rather than focus on quality deliveries.

Finally, I just again would like to encourage you all, whether new to intelligent automation or if you have been automating for some time, to focus a lot on Return on Investment and on your why, aligned to your vision. What problems do you want to solve, and what do you want to achieve as an organization?