The Different Types of Automation, Their Capabilities, and Their Limitations

Automation is just a really broad way of saying that a robot or a computer program is doing something for us.

But over the years, automation's capabilities have grown, from automotive factory floors, all the way into the search recommendations in your Amazon account.

In the business world, what started as a simple software integration capability has grown into a fully-fledged workflow automation that emulates every click and keystroke that a human makes.

The result is that when we talk about automation, what we're really referring to is a spectrum of solutions, ranging from the code-less and single step, to the high-code and multistep with variables.

So where do your needs fall on the automation spectrum?

To understand what's possible with automation, you first need to understand the buckets that automation falls into.

Tiers of Automation Development

To find the best automation solution for your needs, whether it is in finance, legal, medical, or sales, you need to first identify what kind of load your software will need to bear. But automation, like many solutions, comes in a variety of complexities, and what you need will vary depending on your internally available resources and process requirements.

No-Code Solutions

Pros:

Simple, easy to set up

Low cost/investment

Fast, easy changes to processes

No dedicated staff necessary

Cons:

Usually limited to one step

No monitoring

Very little customization

Not ideal for variable outcomes

Example:

Updating a lead spreadsheet every time a contact form is submitted.

No-code solutions are the most barebones option. Many platforms that offer no-code automation use “drag and drop” programming. These are great for simple, single-step processes. No-code solutions often don’t require a software developer to create the tool, meaning anyone can start automating their workflow with a few clicks. Because of the simplicity of the automation design, it also means no-code solutions are very limited in the actions they can perform. Variable outcome or multi-step automations will almost always exceed the capabilities of no-code automation tools.

Low-Code Solutions

Pros:

Might save you money?

More customization options     

Increased automation complexity

Cons:

Dedicated technical staff required

Not ideal for non-technical users

Changing/variable automations will overload

In-house maintenance 

Example:

Adding a field to an internal database when a form is submitted.

Low-code solutions are like a pair of knockoff sunglasses: they look great at first, but two weeks down the road you’ll have bent frames and a cracked lens. These programs may be maintained by in-house IT teams, but the time and investment required following the launch is often not worth it for most businesses. Because of the technical and staffing requirements to run and service these types of tools, low-code solutions often rack up a higher cost than expected due to ongoing maintenance costs.

Remember: you still need someone to manage the robots.

High-Code Solutions

Pros:

Can perform complex processes

Multi-step automations

Can be used to automate processes with multiple variables

Extreme flexibility and customization

Cons:

Requires back-end management

Dedicated technical staff required

More expensive than no-code solutions

May be a longer development process

Example:

High-code automation tools can perform a wide range of tasks, including medical billing and coding, insurance claims management, legal process automation, and revenue cycle management.

This level of automation development allows for the most flexible, customizable, and manageable product. High-code solutions can perform extremely complex automations with high variable outcomes and multiple step processes. With this type of tool, you will never be limited on what your automated workflow can handle.

Implementation Strategies

The effectiveness of an automation tool doesn’t stop with design. The deployment and maintenance of the software is just as important as the development, and this is where many software automation design companies fail their customers. Below are two approaches to implementing automation tools and maintaining them following the launch.

Traditional Approach: Automation as a Product

Limitations:

  • No post-launch management
  • Lack of monitoring can lead to automation failures
  • Can’t be updated as processes change
  • Must hire outside consultants/technicians

Most large RPA software design companies focus on this approach. Their goal is to create a product and get it out the door, washing their hands of it as soon as it is launched. This leaves a non-technical team with a complex software tool that they have no expertise to monitor, manage, or update. When a process changes or the tool stops working, they must hire a new development team to update the tool they already spent thousands of dollars creating.

Our Approach: Automation as a Service

Benefits:

  • Pay 90% less
  • No outside consultants
  • Deployed in less than two months
  • Fully managed by a 24/7 service team

Automation as a service is one of the key areas that sets Thoughtful Automation apart from our competitors. Instead of walking away after the launch of the tool, we stay by your side to monitor and maintain your automated workforce. This keeps your workflow running smoothly, saving you from a backlog of failures or weeks of potential downtime when processes change.

On not boiling the ocean

More often than not, mid-size companies that start with low-code solutions wind up being stuck with a program that creates more maintenance than it does ROI. They take on a low-code solution, and it becomes such a headache that they abandon the project altogether. We hear these stories all the time from ex-customers of those programs:

"Our processes are too complex to automate."

"We tried that before, and it created an error backlog a mile long."

"We know we need it, but it doesn't make sense for us to do financially."

And they're right. For these customers, low-code, DIY automation solutions were not the best fit, and it left a bad taste in their mouth when it came to automating ever again.

But these DIY edge cases are not the only options available to mid-market companies and enterprises.

Don't boil the ocean and try to build a team who can do it all for the sake of growth. Instead, offload the most complex and technical parts of innovation to the experts, and start with automation that doesn't negate the purpose of its use by forcing you to hire to support it.

Author

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