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Setting Project Priorities for Intelligent Automation


In the new world of Intelligent Automation, with innovative solutions to automate routine tasks that require accessing multiple systems and applications, having a clear process for identifying priorities has never been more important.  Because your list of available opportunities will likely number in the hundreds or more, determining what to focus on first and why, with decision rules that can be clearly communicated and understood by diverse customer bases, is critical to successfully leveraging these latest breakthrough technologies.  While an “it doesn’t matter, let’s just get started” approach might work for a pilot, long-term success requires good fundamentals for opportunity sizing and project management.

Company Experience

A recent PeercastTM discussion in our Intelligent Automation research area featured a large global manufacturing company with over $50B in annual revenue and more than 100,000 employees worldwide, discussing their approach to identifying and prioritizing opportunities for automation. 

The first approach attempted was to have each organization brainstorm to identify opportunities.  The idea was to identify the parts of an employee’s day-to-day activities that were the most painful, with suggestions for what should be done differently.  While an interesting exercise, this approach yielded a huge number of ideas that were too low-level, where you would need a significant number of different ideas and projects to reach annual goals for improvements in efficiency. 

The final approach selected was to use three techniques in combination.  These included 1) an innovation survey to understand employee perceptions of where opportunities are, and 2) a formal “heat map” to measure, in a structured and objective way, individual work processes in order to identify each group’s biggest pain points, and finally, 3) a headcount survey to understand the resources required for each major process step identified on the heat map.   The combination of these three elements was used to identify the highest impact opportunities.

iPollingTM Results Review

Peeriosity’s iPollingTM was used to provide supporting data with Peeriosity members providing insights to the major process areas in Shared Services that were first selected to test RPA/AI technology, with an assessment for the primary reasons that process area was selected.  The results indicated that for their Intelligent Automation Proof of Concept, 39% selected Order-to-Cash first, with 22% selecting Purchase-to-Pay, 17% selecting Record-to-Report, and 11% selecting multiple processes simultaneously.    

iPolling: major process area in shared services did you select to to test the page | Setting Project Priorities

When considering the primary reasons they chose a particular process, 72% indicated that the potential impact of being automated (38%), and the level of complexity of the process selected (34%) were the most important reasons.  For Intelligent Automation, these two reasons often go hand in hand, since a process with low complexity that also takes a lot of effort to complete is typically the “sweet spot” for automation.

iPolling: primary reason you chose the specific process | Setting Project Priorities

Here are some of the added comments from members:

  • We went for a simple high-impact process.
  • Each BPO supplier implemented RPA simultaneously and independently of one another in the areas of Order-to-Cash, Record-to-Report, and Source-to-Pay. BPO suppliers chose candidate RPA processes based on process simplicity, standardization, and repetition that yield the largest FTE savings on our account. Two years later, as part of the RPA as a Service POC, we implemented RPA in the areas of Hire-to-Retire, Order-to-Cash, and Marketing Services.
  • The payment desk was recommended by our implementation partner after the discovery of several processes based on certain criteria, like impact and complexity.
  • Chose to focus on AP Invoice Processing based on current efforts and the need to automate the ad hoc processing.
  • Focused on Collections, Credit, and AR processes. Evaluated for automation fit to identify the top 10 processes.
  • This was a process to download movement data from a customer portal, reformat it, and enter it into SAP in the form of indirect sales documents.
  • Have used it extensively in our A/P process.

Closing Summary

With an initial investment to get started that is low compared with many other technology projects, when it comes to determining your first Intelligent Automation project just “getting started” might be a compelling option.  However, because so many processes can benefit from these new technologies, having a defined and rigorous process for setting priorities and managing project implementations is critical to ensuring long-term success and high levels of customer satisfaction.

What process area did your company select first for its Intelligent Automaton proof of concept?  How was it selected?  Have you modified your approach to prioritizing opportunities to be able to best leverage new Intelligent Automation technologies?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?


“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility of all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.

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