What You Need to Know About Business Process Automation

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If you’re a company in the process of automating, it can be difficult to analyze, measure, and evaluate your current procedures. You don’t want to waste time during the transition, but it’s important to understand what works and what doesn’t so you’re not automating ineffective processes. In that case, automation won’t help you meet your intended goals.

Whether you have a formal business process management (BPM) team or are simply evaluating your department’s processes, there are steps you want to take before automating.

1. Evaluate Your Current Processes

Since the goal of BPM (and eventually automation) is continuous improvement, the first step to document what’s working and what’s not. To do this, you’ll want a team of individuals who can observe, analyze, and interpret where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Once you select your team, define roles and responsibilities of all team members. Gather data on productivity like how long each workflow takes, how much time is wasted during the process, and what roadblocks cause these time lapses. In this step, you’ll also want to identify your goals and expected outcomes.

Don’t forget the stakeholders. What are the needs of external and internal customers? Who will be impacted by the process changes? How can you make positive improvements in relation to their involvement in the process?

2. Map and Measure What Your Processes Look Like Today

Before you can come up with solutions, make a flowchart of your current processes. Which team members are in each workflow? What’s the chain of approval or process for passing a file through the steps?

In addition to mapping the steps, think through ‘what-if’ scenarios to ensure you’ve modeled potential real-world situations. A vendor, for example, may request wording changes to a contract before signing. If you hadn’t considered that possibility, you’d create a process that didn’t allow for a feedback loop.

Once you define the steps in the workflow, document where the process lacks productivity and pinpoint which areas need improvement. When you’re measuring the effectiveness of your manual process, record all of the qualitative and quantitative data. This way you’ll have a baseline in which you can compare your completed transition.

What’s next? You’ll need to establish a plan. Try starting with a Statement of Scope. Name each process, define its goals and objectives, then figure out how long each workflow should realistically take. Once you have this information in place, you can start searching for the roadblocks that are currently decreasing productivity.

3. Identify Roadblocks

What roadblocks are currently hindering your team’s workflow agility? Are approvals taking too long? Do hard copies get lost in the shuffle? Are you losing track of where the file is in the process?

There may be other barriers keeping you from improving your processes. Often, the root cause of the blockage is a manager or executive that is hesitant to leave the hard-copy days behind them. This resistance to change can lead to other hurdles in your BPM analysis, causing you to do even more research on solutions and statistics that prove manual processes are lacking.

IT Managers Inbox says:

“In your meetings with stakeholders, be sure they understand why process improvement is needed. Get them on board, keep them updated, and get feedback from them on the progress of the process improvement.”

After you show the management team that there is value in automation, the next steps are determining your preferred automation tool and taking it out for a spin!

4. Automate, Monitor Results, and Optimize

While it may be tempting to set up your automated workflows and consider yourself done, it’s important to remember that they often need fine-tuning. Here’s where your goals (remember those from step 1?) and your baseline metrics come into play.

Don’t have a set-it-and-forget-it attitude about process automation. CLICK TO TWEET.

After using your automated processes for a period of time, compare metrics and gather feedback from participants. Just as with your old processes, gather information on what worked well and where the process broke down or became stuck. Then make adjustments, try them out, and evaluate again.

Even after you’ve met your initial goals and feel that your processes are running smoothly, make sure to revisit at regular intervals. As businesses change, processes also change. Planning ahead often results in needing only minor course corrections, rather than major process overhauls!