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Distinguishing between personal and business workflow automations

As automation has an increasing influence on enterprises – C-level executives are prioritizing it on their radars. There is a significant division right in the middle of the automation ballgame, one that AICoreSpot will be investigating in this blog in detail. When we bring up the topic of automation, a select few amongst us are referring to personal automation, that is, automation from the perspective of individuals. And yet others are making references to enterprise workflow automation – encompassing several departments and functions, typically within the context of the back office. 

Both varieties of automation are vital to a 100% automated business, but the discussion has become somewhat complicated. Concentrating on one variant restricts the scope with regards to our thought process on automation. The rhetoric needs to be redefined to refer more holistically with regards to how automation can be a key driver behind digital transformation. 

What led us to the current scenario? 

There has to be a reason that the conversation has faced a certain trajectory over the course of its evolution. Mainly due to confirmation bias. Analysts, reporters, and vendors have a tendency to be experts or serve one portion of the market more than the other, so the conversation tends to confirm their inherent biases. What distinguishes them, as well as how they function in conjunction, is the foundation of this blog post. 

Automation of work 

Something useful for us when we contemplate on this matter is the long-tail distribution phenomenon.  

On one side of the discussion, a majority of the enterprise workflow automations are chosen by a Center of Excellence (CoE) in a top-down fashion. They happen consistently, and their automation has a considerable impact. For instance, automations such as closing books in accountancy, or patient administration in the healthcare domain. These fall under the short-tail of automation ideology. 

On the other side of the discussion, there is a broad area of automations that are inherently personal, and have reduced scope at individual level – for example, a CFA carrying out research on a particular organization, producing reports everyday with information from an assortment of systems. When these are taken cumulatively, these personal automations in totality, consist of a much bigger volume of work that occurs on an everyday basis. This, is the long tail of automation avenues.  

Personal automation is concerned with your labor force selecting activities for automation on the basis of their individualized requirements. Cumulatively speaking, long tail activities make up a large percentage share of automation opportunities and avenues. 

Contrasting personal and business workflow automations 

It might be useful to understand the traits of the two variants of automation, following which we will explore each variant in richer detail.  

Traits Individual task automation Enterprise workflow automation 
Scope Personal workflows Workflows that encompass units and systems 
Scale No limitations Hundreds to thousands 
Initiator Center of Excellence (CoE) or citizen devs Center of Excellence 
Dev. Process/utilities Low code – to pro dev. Tool sets Low code – to pro dev. Tool sets 
Bot variety Attended Attended/Unattended 
Governance Central, by the CoE Central, by the CoE 
Location User device or web browser Enterprise application stack 
Discovery Task mining, staff suggestions, and staff-developed Process mining, task mining, and staff suggestions 
Results Improved individual productivity, improved staff and client satisfaction, avenues to learn new skills, better fit of work to human strong points Enhanced compliance and reduced error rates, enhanced efficiency, improved capacity, optimized resources, cost reduction, improved staff and client satisfaction 


Enterprise workflow automation 

Let’s investigate business-scale workflow automations in more detail. It’s useful to know that the modern organization is moving towards being a series of digital workflows. At its foundation, these workflows are often information shifting across applications. Earlier, we observed the scenarios of accountancy and patient administration but there are invariably thousands of these ongoing processes occurring frequently within the organization. 

As these processes are not subject to constant modifications, logic dictates that these variants of workflows have already undergone programmatic automation. However, they have not. The frameworks are disjointed and the conventional strategy to their integration is via classic development projects; this proves to be too expensive for a majority of workflows. So, individuals look to fill in the gaps. 

Let’s observe a use case to obtain better insight. An insurance claims process consists of a 10-step procedure, and it’s completely manually driven. Through the application of automation to the procedures it hones in the process to a concise five steps, with the machine taking up three of those. Also, one can improve the capacity with similar amounts of individuals. This gives staff the time to take up more work and manage the more complicated, dynamic, and people-oriented types of activities with enhanced attention to detail. Additionally, the workflow is less susceptible to errors and has a greater degree of resilience in the wake of evolving business scenarios – largely mitigating risks n the business. 

Use Case: Insurance claims process 

Automation streamlines organization at a basic level. This is an inherent feature. This is digital transformation in action. 

With regards to business workflow automation, it is extremely critical that you collaborate with an ‘automation first’ vendor with in-depth know-how and prowess in the technology. McKinsey’s estimations: “Approximately 6/10ths of vocation have at least 3/10ths of their tasks that are apt for automation.” When dealing with that scale and depth, you needed a dedicated partner who has their moves down. 

Additionally, you require a vendor with a comprehensive network who can give you the tech knowledge and connect you with partners who have industry and geographic knowledge. 

Enterprise workflow automations are usually the first ones an organization tackles as the advantages it provides are so overt. 

But if organizations wind up concentrating on only the short tail, they’re apt to pick up the low hanging fruit and stop shortly after. However, a ton of work still resides at the individual level, and that’s our next stop for large scale in the automation program. 

Personal/individual automation 

What this concept implies is the adoption of a machine for every individual within the organization. It consists of assisting staff members to complete their work by supplementing them with a machine to which the mundane/monotonous activities are outsourced to. Organizations can develop and distribute individual automations to staff members or provide them with the capability to develop a personal automation to tackle unique activities themselves. If we go back to the long-tail of automation, these individual automations, cumulatively make up a considerable scale and drivers of large-scale ROI. 

The most typical variants of individual automations assist staff members with work that comes under five primary categories: planning, research, administration of information, individual productivity, and initiating action.  

These can have quite a degree of variance, according to the specific industry and role. For instance, in an insurance organization, an underwriter could leverage individual automation to collect information from 3rd party systems to evaluate risk. A relationship manager at the same company can establish an individual automation system to authenticate and reconcile information in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. An insurance claims officer can function with a machine to promptly initiate action to solve a client incident. 

With machines at their behest, individuals can get their work done much quicker and have their time back to concentrate on the activities that they perform better than these robots (managing complexity, making associations, handling abstractions) Staff can outsource work to machines, or they can collaborate with these robots. Staff can also establish event-driven automations so machines are on the lookout for things that occur on the desktop. When an event takes place, for instance, a staff member logs on to a system and initiates some kind of action, machines immediately get to working. There are various way in which individuals can function with machines to augment their every day functions. The outcome is enhanced levels of productivity, improved staff engagement, and reduction in error percentages. 

Maintaining an efficient machine for every person program at scale needs training, management, and proper governance. In deployments of individual automation that are lacking in structure, automation sprawl is an inherent risk. The 2019 Blissfully SaaS Trends Report indicates that organizations utilize 137 unique SaaS apps on average – a 3/10ths appreciation from 3 years ago. Personal automation which is lacking in governance has the same impact around the automation program. Therefore, it’s a critical matter that when you begin enabling individual automations, you should ensure that the relevant governance utilities are rolled out simultaneously. 


The final factor to contemplate in comprehending the two variants of automation is it is not adequate to be great at personal automation or business workflow automation. Organizations have to perform both well. 

The fully automated enterprise is one where the automation platform not just facilitates each variant, but additionally bridges the gap and smoothly links them to enhance their advantages. 

This approach which takes into account the sum of the parts, has advantages that surpass the more universal advantages of reduced systems, improved skills transference, and more obvious support lines during application to automation. It enhances results across the cumulative automation lifecycle. To provide some examples that facilitate illustrative understanding: 

  • A perspective encompassing both business workflows and personal automation is an invaluable resource for identifying subsequent automation targets. 
  • During implementation, one can bridge the final mile between enterprise workflows and individual efficiency by facilitating people to swiftly automate their unique individual activities that are ultimately required to feed new business workflows. 
  • Governing the possible distribution of these automations has its basis on value and risk. If they can match the value to others, the automations can be distributed or even undergo integration into upcoming revisions of an enterprise workflow. Alternatively, you can make sure that individually deployed automations remain as such – accessible only to the author, but featuring centralization with regards to auditing when required. 
  • Widely speaking, it is simple to obtain a singular view of each user’s interaction with each workflow, filling in color to all of the above. 

The option between enterprise workflow automation and personal automation isn’t one you should be required to make. Leading organizations realize that with a holistic automation vision that takes into account the sum of its parts, you can rapidly obtain the transformative advantages of automation that encompass end user productivity and business ROI. 


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