Automation: One of the keys to becoming a digital enterprise

In today's customer-centric business environment, automation is seen to be one of the keys to delivering superior service, says Jaco Viljoen, agile consultant, IndigoCube.

Jaco Viljoen, agile consultant, IndigoCube.

Jaco Viljoen, agile consultant, IndigoCube.

I have previously explored why and how the principles of lean-agile software development influence the way businesses work when they aspire to be digital. Something of the same nature is evident when we consider automation – again, the principles changing software development influence how the overall business process architecture is structured and realised.

Automation is a hot topic because it offers the promise of optimising what humans don't do well: repetitive tasks. Human shortcomings in this area are behind many of the poor customer experiences we have all suffered that destroy brand loyalty.

Take the common example of buying a new cellphone only to be told: "Sorry, we only have stock of white – there was a rush on these phones yesterday," even though you ordered a black one. The store clearly relied on a human clerk to match what phones were on order with available stock who allowed pre-ordered phones to be sold. Humans do this poorly. Software does it well.

The problem with this business process is that it was only partly automated. Doubtless the contract activation triggered an automatic order delivered to the shop. But it appears the stock-holding system was disconnected from the customer management system, so the item on the shelf was not automatically flagged as taken.

Automating each of these discrete processes obviously yields benefit, but islands of automation, partly automated processes, must connect because it is the human intervention that breaks processes and results in poor customer service.

IT departments have always confronted this challenge as they struggle to deploy solutions quickly and accurately. That led to the DevOps movement, which aims to connect development process to operations.

There are many tools, such as CA Automic, that can bridge the gaps between existing automation islands to create completely automated processes. Complete automation maximises the benefits of previous automation investments to fully digitalise companies to perfectly repeat essential tasks with the minimum of mistakes. And that releases humans to focus on their strengths: creative thinking and problem solving.