Process Automation: a guide for the wise and wary
At TechTrade Yorkshire, Arena’s Neil Maude led a seminar on process automation that began with some guidelines on which processes to select. He advised that an organisation should: pick repeatable processes with high volumes, estimate the current costs, estimate the complexity of the change and associated risk, rank in terms of value and don’t forget new opportunities! His presentation (available below) gave some examples before making some suggestions on process design.
Good process design should take a number of steps: Firstly, map the process - flowcharts are ideal. Secondly, consider your process objectives. This could include quality and the need to avoid error, speed, dependability, flexibility and cost. Thirdly consider technology and the interfaces available.
Whilst automation projects are often started with the aim of saving cost, Neil reminded the audience not to neglect the wider array of benefits that may be of even higher value. Further, not automating can put you at an operational disadvantage against the competition which might risk your long term future. However, people are generally wary of change – especially changes to their day job/core activities, so issues around change management is vital to the success of process automation.
Neil shared some practical tips for effective change management with the seminar audience. This is based not only on current theory and over 20 years’ experience working with software development and implementation, but also from insightful experience of organisations shared in the mstore user group. Those implementing process automation should prioritise:
- Communicating early
- Engaging with the right people
- Showing a need for change and create a sense of urgency
- Selling the benefits
- Showing the big picture
- Gaining some “quick wins”
- Embedding champions
- And finally, celebrating!
Approaches that work well include running a pilot project, focus on common case types or “Red Routes”, ensuring that you provide manual exception handling and review benefits properly.
Approaches that don’t work so well include creating a “Big bang”, designing for exceptions and “edge cases”, providing no over-ride (“the computer says no…”) and failing to engage early at all levels.
In summary, Neil advises that an organisation picks the right process in terms of volume, complexity, and objectives. Cost is important, but is not the only driver. Also consider new opportunities, customer experience, consistency, and scale. Creating good automated processes is a people-activity – be sure to engage with those doing the process manually. Finally, ensure thorough reviews of your business case and your new data.
Neil’s slides from the TechTrade seminar on Process Automation are available to view on SlideShare (please use password: process automation)