Incorporating automation into your processes

8 01 2010

This may seem quite simple, however, it is often something that is neglected somewhat. When designing your processes, ask yourself just what can be automated, and how much automation will add to the efficiency of that business process.

Identification

It can be tricky to identify everything that can be automated straight away. Only after a good analysis phase will the majority of processes / tasks that can be automated, be identified. Some of these will be obvious candidates for automation; typically these are calculations or actions that can be completed with all the information stored within the BPM system. Other automation candidates may not be so obvious. The less obvious processes / tasks are often overlooked because of the way the process is currently worked, typically requiring integration between systems (maybe even multiple LOB applications). It is always important to try and automate as much as possible, or at least indentify everything that in an ideal world, could be automated…

Restrictions

Once you have identified all your possible automated “steps”, you really need to see what you can realistically automate given your current BPM technology, LOB application integrations capabilities and of course, your budget…

One of the big problems with BPM modelling tools is that they can become very restrictive in what can be achieved with regards to integration. This is something I have blogged about in the past, https://andrewonedegree.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/bpm-mapping-tools-integrating-data/ with many automated “steps” you will require the services of a developer, hopefully your chosen BPM platform will support this kind of integration and processing…

The next hurdle is to identify what integration capabilities your other LOB applications provide. If you cannot integrate with them at all, then your step cannot be automated and will have to rely on some good old fashioned user processing power, not so efficient. Having a good IT department or use of a good IT consultancy typically means that your company will have a good and clear understanding of its IT and have some form of strategy / roadmap in place. If so, you will probably find that your LOB applications (unless very old) will provide some form of API allowing integration possibilities. (Ideally your business will have proffered technology platforms, such as .NET, Windows etc). If this is the case, then you can start to investigate just how much integration is possible and evaluate the costs involved in automating your process step…

The benefits

Automated process steps provide a number of benefits, the main two of which are:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Accuracy

There are obvious efficiency gains by automating a step, which obviously raises the efficiency of your process and improves SLAs etc. However, accuracy is often overlooked. Automated steps are far more accurate (once they have been fully tested) as they simply remove human error from that particular step. Now I am not saying this means your process will not have “issues”, but what I am saying is that an automated step removes user error from that particular part of your process, something that can be very time consuming.

With these two main benefits you also get a great “cost” benefit. If you measure your time and resources and place a monetary value on these, you will soon see a clear ROI timeline for automating a particular process step. This will typically be the deciding factor (if possible) in choosing to automate a particular step or not…

Conclusion

Whenever you review your business processes, even if you don’t have a BPM system in place, always ask yourself which processes or “steps / tasks” could be automated. Don’t feel restricted because a process spans multiple systems, departments or geographical spaces just indentify candidates for automation. A good way of doing this is by using a good independent consultant.

Automation is a great way of raising efficiency, accuracy, productivity and reducing operational costs. It there is always in the benefits of a company to automate as much as possible…

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14 01 2010

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