Published: December 02, 2020 – Author: Scott Teeple

You put in an enhancement request that would significantly improve you and your teams’ ability to be more efficient, but it would seem that the request went into the great, black abyss—wherever that may be. Or perhaps you put in an enhancement request and were told “no” because it would be too costly to implement. It didn’t provide enough value for the entire business, and that the request couldn’t be prioritized over other business needs.

Admittedly, it is frustrating because you know the value the enhancement would bring to your team and free your team up to do the strategic work.  So you come up with some alternative solutions.

You could hire a bright-eyed intern to manually enter data from a spreadsheet into your tool of choice so that your more senior team members don’t have to. Or you could bring on a permanent headcount to help lighten the workload.

Don’t get me wrong, interns are necessary, and they are tremendously helpful to your team, and the experience helps build their skills, but in this case, they will not solve the problem. We have also seen enterprises adding permanent headcount to fix the problem. Adding unnecessary headcount causes departmental costs to swell, and when workloads shift, these people are either underutilized—or worse—they get let go.

As you can see, both the “solutions” I’ve mentioned are just bandaids for a much bigger issue. It isn’t any particular person’s fault that the enhancement requests cannot be completed, but this story repeats itself each day in enterprises throughout the world.

These declined, or “lost,” enhancement requests are often referred to as the long tail of automation. The “long tail” was first introduced in Wired by Chris Anderson back in 2004, when he applied the term to the entertainment industry and the ability to get millions of more hits by targeting niche markets and leveraging algorithms to get more recommendations, but the term’s been applied to a lot of different software use cases since then.

The long tails typically aren’t the biggest, highest-visible enhancements, but they are great candidates to help expand your intelligent automation (IA) program. They are extremely low-hanging fruit because the business owners have already identified their problems through their enhancement requests. Your low hanging fruit is where you can drive near-immediate value. The business has already been “solving” the long tail through shadow IT or adding unnecessary headcount, but now it is time to solve the problem with IA.

When you find your organization sitting on a plethora of system enhancement but with a limited budget or resources, intelligent automation is the answer.  Combining the expertise in IT and the business know-how with the process owners, you begin to achieve true transformation for the entire organization. There are some best practices when it comes to automation, but a good rule of thumb is tasks that are repetitive and predictable are great candidates for automation. Nighttime data inputs processing and batch processing are also potential automation candidates.

Other examples of automatable processes include:

  1. Retrieving and disseminating reports
  2. Mail merging and faxing a merge
  3. Processing downloads or reports into one report
  4. Removing duplicate enterprise or typing information a second time
  5. Most processes involving data entry

Don’t ignore the growing backlog of enhancement or the long tail of automation. Use it as a way to leverage innovative thinking and technologies to fuel your intelligent automation program.