My company, Macrosoft, has a growing line of business supporting our mid-sized clients in building process automation applications, utilizing mainly the Microsoft Power Automate suite of tools. 
When we start our work with a new client, the focus of the business case we work with the client to put together to justify the investment usually centers on the dollars that can be saved via the automation application. That is, the automation of processes will lead to significant dollar cost savings which is undoubtedly a prime factor to consider.
But what I find most interesting and compelling is that once automation processes start to take hold in a company, there is a whole other dimension of benefits that accrue to the company besides the direct dollar benefits outlined in the business case.
These are often hard to quantify but, in my opinion, often play a significant impact on a company and its employees and customers and can in themselves change and improve the future trajectory of a company.
And that is my topic for this byline note.
1. Order from chaos
Let’s face it, most companies have at least some parts of their business where certain processes and data flows are disconnected and disjointed, with lots of unnecessary manual inputs. For example, messy processes: going from laptop spreadsheets to python scripts on various servers, to the web to extract and update information, to different UIs for business users to manually update information during the flow, and to startup and monitor the various process steps.
Yes, these complex processes can become bottlenecks that lead to lost time and revenue (which will be captured in the business case), perhaps more importantly, they will also inevitably lead to employee morale and customer satisfaction issues.
In other words, a messy and unproductive set of processes and data flows probably grew up over an extended period and is now very difficult for business people in your company to navigate and fully understand. Generally, this also leads to suboptimal performance and regular falls in dealing with the company’s clients.
That is the perfect arena for a showcase application of process automation. Surely, a good implementation of process automation in this area of a company’s business will lead to a concise dollar payback period. However, I believe, the positive impact of process automation will have on both employees and customers.
Employees will no longer be chasing their tails through a set of segmented, disjointed processes and data flows, often having to manually input lots of data already in the system, and in that process, there are higher chances of making humane mistakes. This is not a positive and edifying environment for employees to work, spending much of their time fighting fires. The benefits include fewer falls and higher compliance to quality and on-time delivery of services and products on the customer side.
Thus, there will be improvements in efficiency and control spread to every facet of this process area – from increased productivity and compliance to better customer experience and market performance.
2. Single point of process management
Another less tangible, but highly important benefit of implementing MS Power Automate across various business processes within your company is that it provides a single point of process management, a single dashboard for managing all the scripts and data flows. This benefit is related to my discussion in point #1 above, but I highlight it separately here as it provides the gateway for a company to broaden and deepen automation activities across a much large set of processes within a company.
Business teams and managers will be able to check on the status of all ongoing work easily and regularly within the processes covered by the automation platform. They will be able to track and compare current versus prior performance easily through the data charts available within the dashboard.
I believe this to be a major benefit to employee morale, giving workers and managers alike much greater time to devote to higher value-added and more engaging tasks, including:
- Seek and implement new process steps to further automate and improve overall cadence throughout the company, thus providing the momentum for the company to become markedly more digital and automated when going forward.
- Spend much more time on understanding how current processes can be streamlined to lead to better revenue-generating products and services, which in turn, lead to higher customer satisfaction.
- Make sure that the current automation processes can handle new releases of products and services by the company.
- Provide the company’s leadership team with clear metrics and KPIs that are tracked over time and show ongoing improvements over time.
Thus, there can be significant consolidation and synchronization of processes within MS Power Automate and it will be easy to maintain and update all these processes within the centralized location. Microsoft Power Automate will provide a single site to organize and manage these complete processes in a single orchestration for instance.
3. Standardization of business processes
One of the inevitable positive outcomes of implementing MS Power Automate successfully within a set of company processes is the standardization of those business processes. Business teams will gain a much better firsthand of all the activities, the status of all operations, and an understanding of what needs to be done next.
Here are some of the things I have in mind for this benefit, and again these things are generally not easy to quantify in a dollar sense for including the business case:
- Essentially there should be no/minimal team re-inputting of data already in the automation system, all that should be eliminated through the automation process.
- The automation system will create a high-quality data store of all time-stamped data activities for use in process mining purposes.
- There will be a minimization of errors since all processes are thoroughly tested before rollout to production.
- If there are outlier process steps still lurking through the various processes, for example, a missed order that needs to be handled manually and urgently because of a fall somewhere in the process, this will be apparent from the Power Automate dashboard, and then the good news is that it can be fixed.
- So over time, it is reasonable to expect most/all outlier processes will be eliminated. This will save personnel time and costs, and it will also lead to much greater employee satisfaction in their jobs and customer satisfaction levels.
4. A company can combine multiple business processes with a Power Automate solution. This leads to higher productivity throughout the company, not just for a single isolated process.
The goal of process automation is to ultimately envelop a broad array of a company’s business processes. And keep in mind – all these processes can be handled within a single instance of Microsoft Power Automate.
Then, when 10-20 processes are encompassed within the automation platform, a company will see the true lasting benefits of automation, especially those intangible benefits that I am talking about in this paper. There will be no turning back at that point – the time and cost benefits will be compelling and so will the benefits I am talking about in this paper.
Yes, implementing a single showcase application is an excellent way to start, to build positive momentum within a new company but that should be followed up quickly by a series of additional automation implementations within other business processes.
In our work with clients, we review a broad subset of the client’s current business processes, and, working with the client’s business teams, we prioritize the importance and benefits of automation of each of them. On average, we would expect to convert 6-10 separate business applications within the first year of the initiative.
The real power of MS Power Automate is in its orchestration capabilities which allow a single instance of the system to monitor, track and manage a whole series of processes under the one control center. Think of that benefit – managing and controlling a good part of a company’s processes from a single integrated dashboard. Tracking and monitoring the digital data from each activity step within each process, gaining an unparalleled view of the company’s operational performance, and seeing where improvements can and need to be made to gain further advantage.
5. Power Automate provides a centralized process audit trail
An automation process’s phase (activity step) is always recorded in an audit trail. That is a key feature of the Microsoft Power Automate system. As a result, a cornucopia of quality data will be available for business teams and managers to monitor and track the performance of each process step.
Saliently, the process data store allows a centralized audit trail of all processes and operations covered by the automation platform. This allows the company to engage in audit studies for internal audit and financial purposes and outside regulatory or client needs.
I believe this is a tremendous added benefit of process automation that is generally not included or discussed in business cases. Such control improves process accuracy and reliability and provides the company with auditable records of each specific business workflow. These records are easily retrievable as the need should arise – for example, replying to customers’ inquiries or demonstrating to auditors the performance quality of the processes covered by the automation system, both at the aggregate process level as well as for each process activity.
6. Ensure compliance and security
Another key benefit of implementing process automation is in the areas of process compliance and security. Automation is not simply about defining a set of rules for routine tasks, it also includes setting up security and compliance measures.
Once implemented, Power Automate will provide all the event-based data on each specific process step and the overall process. With that data, a company can ensure that the actual process events going on every day comply with the engineering blueprints, and if there are outlier process events, these can target and fixed until the overall process complies fully with the engineering view of the process.
Also, as part of the Power Automation implementation, we can identify security gaps, and address and close them. For example, if process steps take data to an unsecured laptop, that will be corrected during implementation. Many other such security gaps may exist within a current business process.
So, increasing security levels is one of the critical considerations we concentrate on while undertaking a process automation project. In my view, this is another key benefit of doing process automation, it is crucial that a company and/or its implementation vendor not overlook this part of the project while implementing process automation, that is the perfect time to evaluate and fix security gaps in any process steps.
7. Being able to easily scale operations to higher throughput volumes
So now assume a company has successfully implemented process automation across many of its processes. In that case, scaling operations to higher throughput volumes will be a piece of cake!
Having process automation already in place allows a company to run much more efficiently in the present, but perhaps equally important it will enable the company to scale to much higher throughput volumes easily and quickly. As the organizations acquire more customers, they will need to run some/most of their business processes more efficiently and faster, and these features are out of the box with RPA tools such as Microsoft Power Automate.
8. Opening the door to digital transformation
Finally, once process automation is implemented through a significant part of a company’s processes, this facilitates the company’s move toward digital transformation. Process automation provides the backbone of real-time digital data for monitoring and managing the company’s processes.
This turn allows the company to move aggressively towards its full digital transformation, where it applies, throughout its business, digital technologies to create new/improved business processes to meet changing business and market requirements. That is the underlying basis of process automation.
While the largest companies have major programs to implement process automation throughout their organizations and gain all the benefits and capabilities I have discussed above, that is less in the case for mid-sized companies. Macrosoft is here to support mid-sized companies to ensure they can also gain these benefits and position themselves to win in the future race to digital transformation.
 In addition to Power Automate, the Microsoft suite of tools includes Power BI; Power Apps; Power Chat; and Power Pages (just recently added). We utilize all these tools as needed in our process automation line of business.
 In some cases, we have found the time and resources allocated to outlier processes are a very large part of over costs, and their elimination will lead to major cost and time reductions.
By G.N. Shah | August 4th, 2022 | Process Automation