Welcome to the latest in our Automation Journey series, where we map out the road to automation nirvana, shine a light on common misconceptions, and spell out what it takes to ensure success. If you’re keen for a refresher, the first two articles in the series can be found here:
- Part 1 - a high level outline of what the entire process should look like, from start to finish
- Part 2 - a deep dive into the first step in the journey – ‘Identifying the process to automate’
Today, we move on to the next phase:
Step two: Researching options
By now, you’ve asked (and answered) those difficult early questions. You know which manual process makes good business sense to automate, and so it’s time to look at your software options and vendors.
Keeping in mind that specific process you’ve chosen to automate, begin your search by asking:
I. Is there a product designed for this purpose? Are there several you can compare?
There are definite advantages to choosing a purpose-built solution that solves exactly the problem you have. Don’t underestimate the efficiencies of a vendor who intimately understands your business's problem inside and out.
Conversely, a generalist ‘jack of all trades’ may be what your organisation (thinks it) is looking for. If so, it pays to ensure this vendor’s ancillary services are features you’re likely to actually use. And be realistic - otherwise it’s sunk cost.
If in doubt, come back to Find out why the process needs to be automated.
II. How do the different solutions compare BEYOND pricing, contract terms, training/support?
- Are others in your industry using any of these vendors?
- Are they happy? Is it a successful partnership?
- It’s imperative that you speak with peers and trusted colleagues about their own experiences with the type of automation software you’re considering.
- Ask the vendor for references – not just in the form of publicly available case studies, but actual contact details for real people, willing to tell their story.
- To what level does the vendor promote user autonomy / self-service options, or control access to simple backend maintenance?
- The more data you have access to, the easier (and cheaper) it will be to scale later.
- Having to rely on your vendor for simple admin will inevitably slow you down. The object of automation is always to scale, whether now or at some point in the future.
III. True cost - Compare not just the upfront financial outlay, but the ongoing subscription fees.
- How does each vendor stack up, and how do the figures change as your business GROWS? For example, Lucy does not impose limits or charges per Trading Partner, while other vendors do structure their fees this way, making it costly to expand the automation.
- Will scaling send you bankrupt? Or will it improve your ROI?
IV. How well does the vendor understand your business and its systems?Do they integrate to your ERP (and do they do it in-house)? Outsourced integration means you have someone between you and the people who ‘get’ your single source of truth. Buyer beware.
V. What does the implementation phase look like?
- Get some upfront quotes on implementation complexity, cost, and timeframe. The faster you’re up and running, the quicker you start to reap the benefits of automation.
- Ideally, implementation should be quoted in terms of weeks, not months.
Once it becomes apparent there are more than just dollars at stake, you’ll no doubt evaluate your automation options through a whole new lens.
Whilst on face value, price is an important consideration, once you dig into the terms, conditions, and services on offer, it becomes clear that metrics other than dollars do matter.
Look for a solution that ticks the boxes you care about. One happy Lucy customer recently exclaimed, “There’s nothing not to like. It’s simple to implement and use, plus the billing model is very transparent and easy to understand – there are no hidden fees or costs. Easy to implement, super fast return for effort.”
In our next instalment, we'll move on to Step 3: Calculating ROI. It's an important part of the evaluation process, and more nuanced than you might expect.
Until then, if you're ready to research automation options for your business, be sure to speak with one of our experts!