User Experience Is Crucial When Implementing Business Automation
Emily Newton is an industrial and tech journalist who's passionate about how technology is revolutionizing each sector. She's an experienced editor and enjoys her role as Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized.
It's a common misconception that most forms of automation completely replace or offset manual laborers. It does indeed introduce a host of benefits like improved efficiency and output and lower costs, but most modern systems are designed to work alongside human counterparts. In other words, they make the job easier, faster and safer, with humans there to support the entire process.
When you implement a business automation process, one of the most important aspects is evaluating user experience. Sadly, it tends to be overlooked.
A report from Zapier details worker sentiment about automation, specifically how it supports their roles. Nearly one-third say they're not convinced automation is useful, and 10% feel it's overly difficult to find time to learn the new skills required. Most of that can be attributed to the user experience and how people interact with the systems.
Automation Is Here
Before diving into why the user experience is so crucial, it's important to point out that this is not tomorrow's problem. Automation is not coming or on the horizon — it's already here, and in a big way. Even before the pandemic, about one-third of all companies worldwide had fully automated at least one function. Despite that, only 61% of respondents say their companies have met automated targets, achieving success.
The findings also suggest that “more companies are pursuing automation now than two years ago,” lending credence to the claim that automation is being implemented far and wide. These systems and technologies are already being used in the real world, which means customers and employees alike are interacting with them. There's no question whether or not you should implement a business automation process within your operation — it's become necessary to remain competitive.
What's more, any business automation process involves a bevy of engineering strategies and technologies to empower its operation, including IoT, machine learning, AI, big data, cloud computing and advanced analytics. It touches upon everything from product development and manufacturing to inventory management.
Implementing a Business Automation Process: Why You Must Evaluate User Experience
The uniting factor with business automation is that it will always interact with humans in some way. That means it needs to be built for people's understanding and interactivity.
You must always evaluate user experience data to ensure it's working as intended and that it's making processes more efficient and simpler rather than muddying the waters.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are two excellent examples of automation implemented intelligently. They make it more convenient to interact with smart home devices and carry out various activities. However, they are not perfect. It can be frustrating to ask them to do something, and the response is incorrect or unrecognized.
Now imagine if that keeps happening every time you try to use the device. That's precisely what happens with some smart home platforms. They get bad reviews, people don't buy the products or customers just generally end up dissatisfied.
The same experiences can be applied to any business automation process. If the automation is not making the work process faster, more efficient, and more convenient for your users, there's no reason to have it in place unless you can significantly improve that system.
Automate for People, Not Processes
You should automate for people within your business and operation, not processes. You may have heard the term before, and there's a good reason for it.
Companies often introduce or implement a business automation process to speed things up without considering those behind the scenes. The problem is that this can backfire and produce little to no ROI. Collecting that feedback from employees and updating the system to make their work lives easier is the way to go.
There are different forms of business automation, like customer service chatbots and tools versus physical automation within a warehouse. Smart shelving makes order picking and inventory management faster and easier. Another example is dock automation, which has several benefits, like improved safety, lower energy costs and a boost in throughput.
While it may seem like these forms of automation are different, it's still important to automate for people, not processes. In other words, the goal is to improve interactions and experiences for those using the system.
What Makes a Good User Experience?
Automation may improve a business operation or process, enriching employee and customer experiences along with it. However, that's only if and when it's implemented effectively. There are several things at play that contribute to a well-designed system. They all relate to the user experience:
- Transparency: The users relying most on the system should understand how it works and why it's there. This relates to transparency, or rather understanding and knowing as much as possible about a particular process.
- Predictability: Users must also know what the system will do, or rather they should be able to predict the outcome. This is one of the more challenging facets of automation to implement, but it's worth the investment.
- Adaptability: Generally, automation is put together and maintained by an IT support team with limited access for others. That can't happen because there will be times where users need to personalize what's happening. They should be able to adapt the system to meet their needs, so giving them the appropriate controls is extremely important.
- Feedback: The system can be optimized over time with the appropriate feedback and commentary. Are the users running into any difficulties when interacting with the network? What is the true level of automation — low vs. high? Should more complex tasks be implemented, or would that affect the UX negatively?
How to Implement Business Automation the Right Way
Your business automation process is about more than the systems or technologies involved. It's about how well it's serving the people using and interacting with the platform: employees. If the automated systems you implement are not making their job easier, you need to go back to the drawing board or move on completely.
Automation exists to make processes simpler, faster, safer and less expensive, but it should never be done at the expense of the average user experience. The systems should be transparent, predictable and adaptable for those interacting with them, and there must be a channel for collecting feedback and using those insights to improve deployment.
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