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If you’re exploring automation for your HR department to better improve efficiency of recruiting and retaining talent, you’ve probably noticed there are many new technologies and software out there to facilitate your transformation. But which one is right for your HR department? The answer is there’s no right or wrong answer, it simply depends on your requirements. Whatever solution you choose, you’ll need to consider the impact of these factors in your decision.

Continuous improvement

The ability to continuously adapt your software to your processes as your business changes is essential in the digital age. The wave of technologies available is no doubt as a consequence of the acceleration of digital innovation, which shows no signs of ever slowing down. As a result, you’ll need a continuous improvement plan and mindset.

The importance of employee experience

Another factor to consider when exploring software options is the need to deliver exceptional employee experiences. Your employees have been exposed to slick consumer experiences in their home lives and now demand the same thing at work. Apps which require very little training and have a seamless experience across devices and channels are now the new normal. Inevitably, it’s up to your organisation to recreate the same experience within a work environment to remain competitive as an employer.

To achieve this great employee experience is not easy, but it’s achievable. Optimising your internal processes to improve efficiency will be critical. The question posed is how do you do this when digital acceleration and disruption threaten to dominate your long-term strategy?

Future proofing your digital journey

One thing is clear, the need to future proof is key to riding out the digital transformation storm. You’ll need to implement software that won’t become a legacy burden, needing to be re-architected with each new innovation or change. Ultimately, you’ll need applications which will allow you to constantly build upon to successfully manage your talent management processes proactively.

Employee experience blog In the past, systems have been designed to reduce the burden on HR staff, self-service portals for example, but the reality is this managed process, along with the management of other HR systems, has still required heavy input from people to make the systems work jointly. Therefore, the automation software you choose will not only need to guarantee continuous improvement in its output, it will need to maintain what you likely set out to achieve in the first place – to reduce human effort.

In the blog post on employee experience we started to talk about the various types of technologies and the value in doing your research upfront, due to the various considerations which can impact your decision around choice of software.

Let’s recap these considerations.

-Can your current HR system handle some of the automation? If so, do the out-of-the-box processes fit your existing processes?

-Will you have the resources and capabilities to develop a solution yourself or will you need a service provider?

-Who will be responsible for the design and development of the transformation?

-Will you need to involve your IT department?

It’s important to note the majority of your existing HR systems will probably have some sort of workflow capability. They will likely allow you to automate tasks with a simple two step approval process at the very least. This could be, for example, holiday requests, over-time approval, new recruit requests, timesheets and training requests etc. However, if you’re looking to automate bigger, more complex processes like the entire recruitment or onboarding process, you’ll need to invest in software which will let you connect your legacy systems together. This software will also need to accommodate the automation of escalation, alerts and the ability to deal with multiple step processes.

Moving on, let’s delve into the pros and cons of three common types of digital process automation technologies so you can decide which one is right for you.

Business Process Management Software (BPMS)

BPMS was originally founded on a business theory – an entire organisation could be viewed as a collection of interrelated processes which could be refined over time, increasing operational efficiency and management oversight.  Based on this, this kind of platform is designed to automate, monitor, measure and improve processes at an organisational level.

Like any piece of software, BPM has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at what these are.

Pros

Quality and consistency – BPMS allows for improved quality and consistency, as well as cost saving. This allows your HR team to focus on strategic delivery rather than manual administrative tasks.

Risk management – Integrated efficient and effective business processes at an organisational level help improve risk management.

Continuous improvement – Some BPMS has the ability to manage updates of automated processes mid-execution enabling continuous improvement and minimisation of the risk of loss of data.

Compliance – The reliability of a BPMS guarantees 100% compliance with legislation which is essential for corporate governance.

Cons

Time constraints – Building complex processes can take months, even years, during which time the process can evolve and potentially render the software no longer fit for purpose.

Maintenance – BPMS initiatives require broad buy-in and organisation wide commitment – not just to embark on the journey, but to vigilantly maintain efforts over time.

Stakeholder alignment – Many processes often span multiple operational groups within an organisation and it can be difficult to get all stakeholders on the same page.

Lack of resource – Most BPMS requires heavy involvement from the IT function, specifically technical developers who build processes from scratch. Lack of internal resource and capacity can cause delays.

Low-code application development

Low-code platforms rely on a visual application development technique for web and mobile using a graphic interface. This approach increases productivity and delivery time of applications because it doesn’t require heavy involvement from ‘code’ specialists who are undoubtedly sparse within the IT arena.

Low-code applications have gained much traction in recent years as they are able to achieve speed and value in an accelerated digital age. The emergence of the citizen developer (non-developer, business individual) also reduces the pressure on the IT function to rapidly supply automation and software while retaining control of governance and security.

So, what are the pros and cons to using low code platforms?

Pros

Time saving – With pressures of digital transformation and process automation weighing heavily on HR leaders, timing is critical. One of the main advantages of low-code platforms is speed – the ability to get to production faster often minimising multi-year projects to just a few months, maybe even weeks.

Citizen developer friendly – Low-code software enables process owners, business analysts and other non-developers to develop applications themselves, with minimal input from technical IT resources; ensuring applications fit their own best practices rather than having to change to fit applications designed for different processes.

Lean methodology – Low-code development uses a lean approach in the design and execution of software development, enabling a quick prototyping-user approval testing-continuous improvement cycle. This means you can go live with an application covering a small part of the requirements and scale progressively. Low-coding is also beneficial to those needing to continuously and rapidly evolve applications over time.

Enables innovation – The ease and speed with which cross-functional applications can be prototyped and tested enables the re-invention of processes which is often demanded by omni-channel communication requirements and digital transformation. Rather than just automating the old processes – Low-code enables the testing of new ways of delivering HR services.

Governance, security and compliance – Low-code platforms ensure your organisation’s overall security measures and governance policies comply via a central control centre which has an overview of all applications in development and deployment. Implemented well, Low-code platforms can bring “shadow IT” under control, which eliminates the worry of non-compliance for your ‘HR citizen developer’.

Cons

Goes against traditional mindset – The introduction of the lean method used in low-code development tests the traditional approach of building and deploying applications. It’s ultimately a new way of thinking and working. As a result, it may be difficult to root this new mindset across the business and IT. On the other hand, digital disruption will inevitably force all organisations to work this way eventually. This agile approach will be the new normal so it’s worth implementing it now.

Constraints for developers – When professional developers do get involved, they may feel constrained using a low-code platform which has been specifically designed for citizen developers. They could potentially experience frustration with a platform which forces them to do things in a different way than they’re used to.

Fear of losing control – Allowing process owners to develop their own applications may be something your IT department will be uncomfortable with and they may need convincing.

Not all citizen developers can use low-code – Although low-code platforms allow citizen developers to build applications, these individuals need to be more than just computer literate. They will need to understand the overall picture of database functionality, complex spreadsheets, basic concepts of business rules etc. Perhaps most importantly though, they need to comprehend the current process in great detail and have the ability to translate the requirements to transform them into an intuitive application. This in itself can be a complex process.

Mastering a good employee experience through automation and software is critical to staying competitive and retaining talent. However, the increased demand to streamline processes, not just in HR, but organisation wide, has put huge pressure on the IT function and in turn has created a backlog. Leveraging low-code platforms, now and in the future to alleviate this challenge is the perfect option. Nevertheless, it must be noted to be successful in your implementation you will need to work collaboratively with both HR and IT delivery teams to embed a holistic solution.

Robotic process automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation is a form of business process automation technology using software robots to automate highly repetitive tasks. Essentially, robots interact with various applications the way a human would, i.e. via user interfaces.

Pros

Increased efficiency – RPA has the ability to automate high-volume, standardised and routine tasks, achieving increased efficiency and time saving.

Elimination of human error – When RPA is used, the risk of human error is completely eliminated, resulting in better accuracy.

Reduced talent turnover – When employees no longer have to spend their days doing mundane tasks, job satisfaction rises, leading to better retention.

Connected systems – RPAs interact with applications the way a human would by using standard use interfaces therefore, they are ideal when wanting to automate access to legacy systems or cloud-based systems where no ‘door’ (i.e. web services or application programming interface [API] integration [The ability to connect different systems together] is available.

Extracted data capabilities – RPA has strong screen capture capabilities to extract data from graphical user interfaces, webpages and other documentation. From an HR perspective, RPA is beneficial when extracting relevant keywords from one system to input into another, for example when entering personal details in various systems or doing security checks online.

Cons

Lack of decision-making capability – RPA doesn’t have any cognitive abilities and therefore can’t automate evaluations or judgements. It will not comprehend complex tasks, business rules or adjustments within a multi-faceted process.

Inability to automate complex processes – RPA should be used with caution if you plan to automate complex processes including integrating numerous application platforms and/or systems as this can lead to increased automation effort, coding and associated costs.

Ongoing management – Applications requiring constant updates have the potential to break RPA bots resulting in high maintenance efforts and costs.

Cost – RPA can be costly to implement in comparison with other types of process automation.

Change management – RPA often automates the existing process rather than changing it. Staff will likely see their workload being reduced and may worry as to the stability of their employment. The word “robot” in itself will inevitably cause some people to think robots will take over human jobs. As a result, there can be a stigma associated with RPA, even though there is evidence to show it will simply support and enable humans to perform more value-added tasks such as increased interactions with employees and managers, for example.

Using RPA has the potential to change the way your HR team works, for the better. Taking the mundane tasks away from your team will increase satisfaction and retention. RPA also presents an opportunity to optimise many aspects of talent management and improve employee experience overall.

However, it is worth noting that RPA can only fulfil task automation. It can’t handle complex decision making, integration and development of overall HR processes. As a result, it’s recommended you use RPA in conjunction with other types of automation to achieve transformation objectives.

Here, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of three digital process automation technologies to help you decide which option is best for you: BPMS, Low-code applications and RPA.

Perhaps the greatest takeaway, whichever software you choose, is the need to future-proof. This is critical to ensuring it doesn’t become redundant or worse, a burden on your HR team as requirements change in this ever-changing digital landscape.

Read more about storm-proofing your digital transformation white paper and learn about the characteristics of future-proof low-code apps including architecture, manageability and scalability.

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