Top-performing companies always strive to sharpen their competitive edge. Over the years, organizations have found many ways to get the most from their people and technology. Investment in enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms peaked in the 1990s. Today ERP provides businesses with a broad view of core business processes and remains at the heart of most corporate IT. Nevertheless, the enormous investment in ERP still requires significant amounts of costly and time-consuming effort in the back office for support.
In an effort to reduce these costs, companies initially looked to IT outsourcing for greater efficiency. This helped, but most companies that outsourced their IT soon realized that, although it addressed some cost issues, it also created new ones.
Next, companies looked to shared services to provide improved service at a lower cost. Organizations worldwide centralized the delivery of common services across several business units. Shared services centers helped, but, on their own, they didn’t build sustainable, expandable efficiency. The manual effort was still there. It just relocated. And the costs kept creeping up.
Finally, business process outsourcing (BPO) emerged as another way for companies to outsource discreet processes. Like more traditional outsourcing and shared services, BPO was designed to reduce costs by relocating these activities to centralized, lower-cost resources. Once again, companies achieved some great results, but it just wasn’t enough.
What’s the formula?
So how can companies eliminate the risky and expensive manual effort required to get the most from both their ERP enterprise and the people who support it? The only way to sustainably reduce the cost of human effort and simultaneously improve process consistency and quality is through automation.
According to Gartner, by 2016, 75 percent of large enterprises will have more than four diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolio. That’s because automation provides the speed and control companies need for all their most important processes — at a considerable cost savings. Whether it’s with outsourced tasks, in shared-services centers or within the four walls of a company, automated processes guarantee a level of quality, consistency and accuracy that is impossible through manual human effort alone. Automation also eliminates costly, repetitive manual tasks across the board.
But many enterprises have some concerns about automation. While most understand that automated processes are faster, more reliable and produce accurate results, many corporate and IT leaders still wonder about the potential complexity and challenges of automating repeatable processes across the enterprise. They worry that automation will increase hardware costs and lock them into inflexible processes. While these concerns are worth considering, innovation and technology have already paved the way for automation.
Cloud automation innovation
The days of automation relying on complex hardware and rigid rules are over. Today there’s a way for businesses to gain the benefits of outsourced services combined with automation delivered in a new and flexible way — through the cloud.
It has been a few years now since the cloud entered common speech among IT and business professionals. Since then, cloud computing has grown in every industry as a way for companies to easily access infrastructure, platforms and software applications over a network — particularly through the Internet. Cloud computing realizes the dream of making information technology fast, available and adaptable. Through cloud computing, Internet giants like Amazon provide agile, efficient service with virtually no interruptions — using a fraction of the resources required without cloud technology.
Companies report tremendous success — and significant cost savings — with cloud solutions. Most of this success can be traced back to cloud-based solutions’ unique ability to provide ready availability and ease of implementation wherever needed. With the cloud, applications and information are as close and as easy to access as the Internet. Now imagine that kind of ease in enabling automation throughout the enterprise. It’s available right now.
In fact, many leading companies use cloud-based automation services to run and coordinate processes between multiple locations, with partners and across platforms. Automation services provided through the cloud enable users to both apply and control process automation anywhere, anytime. This is a game-changer for automation.
Rather than just accessing applications, infrastructure or data, business and IT professionals can now use automation as a cloud service. Automation like this is like having a remote control for all of your business processes. It’s also easy to implement, change and expand. When the flexibility of the cloud is combined with service delivery and automation, process efficiency and effectiveness multiplies. Cloud services can be delivered whenever and wherever they’re required, aligning costs of operation with actual use.
Whether companies choose to insource or outsource their processes, organizations must coordinate and execute their repeatable processes through as much automation as possible to stay ahead. Implemented correctly throughout the enterprise, process automation significantly reduces the cost of doing business while improving service delivery.
It’s the key to finally realizing the full ROI of corporate ERP investments, too. Using the cloud to implement automation makes it faster and easier to automate anywhere in your enterprise. It’s the next step in making the core enterprise of every business run with the greatest accuracy, reliability and cost efficiency.
Dennis Walsh is president of Redwood Software, Inc. With more than 20 years’ experience in software and computer services, he previously held executive and management positions at SiteLite Corporation, IBM, Ross Systems, Inc., and Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP). At Redwood, he has successfully solved some of the industry’s most challenging IT and business automation issues for organizations including Apple, Amgen, Cintas, The Dow Chemical Company, Eli Lilly, Toyota and others to deliver enterprise-wide automation.