Previously, we covered Why HyperAutomation is Imperative for the Modern SMB, followed by 3 Essentials for a HyperAutomation Framework. Then, we dove into Accounts Payable Automation. While hyperautomation can bring huge benefits, there is a learning curve involved in finding, implementing, and mastering the necessary tools. In an SMB, our IT staff is already stretched thin. It can be challenging to find the time for research, training, and trial-and-error proof of concepts. It’s also challenging to simultaneously wrap your head around the business processes you’re trying to automate. That is why it is important to bring in an experienced hyperautomation partner.
Finding the Right Partner
As the CIO of a mid-market manufacturing company, I had a realization early in my career. I determined that I will never be able to hire enough IT employees needed to cover the wide range of technologies used by the organization. From phone systems, mobile devices, and networking to cloud, cyber-security, analytics, and process automation, it doesn’t make financial sense to hire and maintain that level of knowledge and expertise in-house.
My IT organization only starts with the full-time and contract employees that provide the core team. Those few individuals must be highly capable, flexible, creative thinkers. They must be able to see the big picture and work closely with the other departments of the company. Also, they must be able to manage and delegate responsibilities to third-party partners whenever needed.
We rely heavily on partner organizations to supplement our IT team. From the partner organizations, we gain highly trained consultants, engineers, developers, analysts, and support staff. They provide support within their specific area of expertise.
Our cyber-security partners have an operations center that is manned 24/7, 365 days a year. They use a range of cutting-edge tools and systems to proactively alert us to threats before they become a problem. Similarly, we have partners for EDI, ERP, backup and disaster recovery, web development, and cloud infrastructure.
Finding the best partners in those areas can be challenging. But, once you integrate the right partner, it’s clear that you couldn’t achieve this level of technological advances by hiring individuals onto your team.
Qualities to Look for in a HyperAutomation Partner
Business Experience, Not Just Technical Expertise
As your company begins to automate processes, it’s important to take the time to carefully examine the manual processes first. If a process has inherent flaws, then you don’t want to simply automate the exact same process. While this might still speed things up, perpetuating bad processes through automation is not recommended. Instead, take the time to smooth out those processes before you ever attempt to automate them.
A good automation partner can help with this step. They can lead ideation sessions, perform use case studies, and prepare workflow diagrams. This results in the most efficient, scalable automated processes. This takes some time and requires a partner with considerable experience in understanding and automating business processes. The partner should not simply be technically adept at installing and implementing automation software.
Technical expertise is necessary. However, it must be accompanied by knowledge of standard business practices. It also requires an ability to listen and understand those business processes unique to your company.
Their Platform and Framework
Most process automation partners focus on delivering solutions using a particular automation framework. An important aspect of choosing the right partner is understanding how the tools and technologies that they are experts in fit your company and your technology stack. For instance, certain automation frameworks might have predefined integrations for your ERP system, HR system, or productivity applications. If your company is using legacy on-premises applications, the connectivity needs will be different than if all your applications are cloud-based.
You also want to know how easy the software is to use. Will you and your users be able to automate some processes without any help? Or does the system require skilled technical resources to add any process or make even small changes to existing workflows? This is where you must evaluate both the partner and the technology solution they advocate.
Once you and the partner have automated one or more processes, what does the relationship with the partner look like? Are they more focused on implementation projects, where they get you up and running, then move on to the next project? Or do they offer ongoing support?
In my company, we like to use partners that teach us how to be self-sufficient. We work together on the initial implementation. We understand as much as we can about how to do things. Then, we start trying to do things in-house. In most cases, we still need support to do this.
For some systems, we might not have enough in-house resources available to take over the maintenance. In that case, we want the partner to provide ongoing managed services to handle all the needs of that system going forward. It is important to find out what support model the partner can provide before you ever begin a project with them. Make sure that the level of technical and business expertise of the support team is just as capable as the initial project implementation team.
Of course, we must consider pricing when selecting a hyperautomation partner. There are many different pricing models presented by different partners. The underlying automation technology will require licensing. That cost might be passed on directly to you, where you own the license. You may already have licenses for some of the technology. For example, Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes licensing for Power Flow and Power Automate, if you are automating processes directly in that ERP application.
The partner may present pricing which is based on actual usage. For example, this could include the number of processes automated or the number of underlying documents processed per month. This is common for cloud-based solutions. The underlying technology may be hidden and packaged as a managed solution.
Finally, some partners will offer a value-based pricing model. With this model, they work with you to determine metrics. These metrics may involve cost savings or reduced resource usage. They may base the price on meeting those targets.
Ultimately, the selection of a hyperautomation partner will depend greatly on how well they can meet the specific needs of your SMB company. Pay close attention to their ability to understand your business needs and your user community. Make sure they’re able to work well with your business users to determine use cases and optimize the processes as you are automating them. Find out what technology they promote and determine if it will fit well with your existing systems. Understand the ongoing support model and the pricing model. Then, choose the hyperautomation partner that best fits all those needs.