We talk a lot about automation here on this site and for good reason, it is a passion of mine! However, there are certain areas that often get overlooked on the journey towards process automation that I wanted to discuss further.
Just the Bullet Points
I could talk about automation and everything surrounding it for a long time. I enjoy helping organizations in their journey when evaluating technologies and how it fits into their organizational efforts. However, let’s boil all of this down to some fine-tuned bullet points first:
- Define your automation goals – This will help determine what technology suits your organization the best rather than the specific use case. No one wants to add more products that are only used for one thing.
- Understand the process – Ensure that you know the process that you are looking to automate. This helps by including a larger audience when defining the process and understanding all that are involved.
- Build a larger team when evaluating – Just as including a larger audience when defining a process is important, having a diverse team evaluate automation technologies can help determine if a technology is a good fit and can be used in other areas within the business.
These bullet points may seem simple or obvious, but they lead to a smoother transition into automation as well as early adoption of the technology. When you add all of this together, you can then see a much faster and larger ROI from your automation efforts.
Let’s Have a Conversation…
Most organizations believe that processes that they automate are automatically improved due to it being automated. While this can be true, often it is not. Processes need to be assessed, documented, mapped, and continually improved upon both prior to automation efforts as well as afterwards. If we think of a process that is poorly designed and is prone to errors, automating that process is only going to accelerate those errors. This generally is spawned from an overall lack of understanding of the process. So, then our first step in any automation effort should be to ensure that the process we want to automate is at the very least, documented and understood.
Understood by whom? The ones executing the process or the ones developing an automated solution? If you are thinking it needs to be both, then you are correct. It is important that everyone involved, from those performing the actions within the processes and interacting with the automated solution to those that are developing the automated solution, understand the process end to end. This is critical because as someone that interacts with the process, they need to know what to expect and what and where automation plays a part in the process. For those that are developing the automation, they need to understand what roles users play in the process and how the solution interacts with them. This leads to another point; building a team around your automation efforts.
When starting to evaluate automation, most organizations direct their IT staff to go out a look for automation vendors with little guidance on what to look for, or to look for something that addresses one need. While this is an acceptable place to start, I would argue that it is important to see what other areas within the business can benefit from an automation technology. When one team or business unit is the only one involved, their focus is on solving their needs first, and everything else afterwards. If you are looking for other places to find potential use cases, check out this article on Beyond the low hanging fruit of process automation in IT and HR .
By having more than one team evaluating a technology, you allow for other key business units to get involved and provide their feedback on what is important to them and solve more use cases. Additionally, this gives the organization more users that would be evaluating the technology and thus thinking of other use cases that can be solved. Once an automation technology has been selected, building out solutions will be easier and potentially faster. Since more have people have been exposed to the capabilities of the technology and have been thinking of how they can leverage it to solve their business problems, deployment time can be reduced.
What process should be automated or used when evaluating automation technologies? This is another question that I get a lot and see organizations struggle with. Many times I begin to ask more refining questions like I discussed above. Is the process documented and defined? Do the people that are evaluating the technology understand the process? If not, organizations will quickly fail at evaluating technologies properly or worse, make a selection that does not truly address their needs. Another great article to check out is To automate, or not to automate, that is the question, and it covers the importance of process management as it relates to process automation.
These are a few examples that I have seen over and over again when I talk with organizations as they are evaluating automation. There are a lot of misconceptions too, but perhaps that is another article for another time! In the meantime, what other areas that you have ran into and found to be impactful to your business? What do you know now that you wish you would have at the beginning of your automation journey? Let me know in the comments below!