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18 Jun 2019
Optimum Blog Process Automation Toolkit

A Superhero’s Toolkit: The Engine Behind Automation

A Superhero’s Toolkit: The Engine Behind Automation

Our previous Process Optimization articles have suggested that the engine powering Business Process Automation and Robotic Process Automation initiatives is human effort. However, this is no ordinary human effort, but rather the unsung superhero powers of Process Engineers, Business Analysts, and Project Managers! But even superheroes have toolkits that can make their ability to power automation for large complex processes. This article covers a few of those tools.

Business Requirements Document (BRD) and User Stories:

You may be asking, “Isn’t that the rather dull document with the charts and an endless list of requirements?” Actually, you may be right…unfortunately. Some view this document as a hastily written hodge-podge of flowcharts, tables, endless sections, and the long, uncontextualized list of requirements at the end, that’s quickly forgotten once the document is executed or the project begins to fall apart.

In reality, every project is undertaken to drive a positive change in the operational or financial environment of a business, therefore, a well-written BRD should tell the concise story about the business goals and the “desired” state of the new environment. And when those long-term projects leave the team wondering “why did we decide to do it that way?”, the BRD should be the go-to manual that ties the requirements to the business needs. Major components of a robust BRD can include:

  • Problem Statement, Challenges, and Opportunities
  • Current State of the Processes/Data/Systems/Business Environment
  • Desired Change, Business Goals, and Future State
  • Scope and Out-of-scope
  • User Stories, Work Processes, and Use Cases
  • Functional and Non-functional Requirements
  • Assumptions and Constrains

“Depending on the project execution approach, Agile or Waterfall, the BRD may contain different components and come in various formats. The goal is, however, to capture and present the true essence of the change and draw an accurate picture of the future environment, once the project is completed.”

Process Mapping Frameworks:

Incorporating the right content and the best practices into the BRD’s process mapping visualizations allows a diverse set of stakeholders to extract the relevant information and insight from the document, and helps the project team to catch mistakes and gaps early on. There are a number of industry-standard frameworks, such as SIPOC, to discover, define, document and communicate the inputs, outputs, steps, and results of business processes.

SIPOC is a framework and a tool that helps define and map complex processes that may not be well scoped or easy to understand. This framework is typically employed at the Measure phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology. It is similar and related to process mapping and ‘in/out of scope’ tools but provides additional process details.

“SIPOC is especially useful when determining process handoffs, dependencies, data and information flows, and automated task assignments.”

Optimum Uses SIPOC
Source: sipoc.info

On the other hand, a generic process flowchart helps to detail the sequence of events while enabling stakeholders to critique possible outcomes sprouting from a decision diamond. This type of chart is beneficial in determining which parts of the process can benefit from an automation tool and the extent to which that benefit is realized (ROI). The flowchart is also helpful when utilizing a tool to automate a process that moves from one phase or stage to the next.

For those projects that are heavy on data transfer within a system, relational diagrams are often the best visual for communicating data paths, along with their origination and endpoint(s). However, even a well-designed relational diagram can be overwhelming for certain stakeholders (and can require a plotter to print), so put thought into whether this is the most effective visualization for process mapping. System diagrams are also great visuals to use to depict information flowing between multiple systems and for determining data transfer between systems utilizing RPA technology.

Conclusion:

In short, know your audience and paint a complete and accurate picture of the change and the new environment for your implementation team and your business users, in any format or layout that makes the most sense to them. The BRD is one of the major deliverables that can provide the right foundation and set the project for success. Once the high-level components of the BRD are defined and articulated, then detailed functional requirements, system prototypes, wireframes and mock-ups, and other technical documentation can be developed based on the foundation set by the BRD.


About Optimum: Strategic Process Optimization and Automation Consulting

Optimum helps align digital solutions to business outcomes by bringing sound strategies, optimized processes, and innovative technologies to organizations to enable Digital Transformation that drives business value and measurable results. Clients using our Requirements Definition and Process Optimization consulting services benefit from our extensive industry and process engineering expertise to help them:

  • Identify, analyze, and document the current state of the work processes and business challenges and needs
  • Define and optimize the future work and business processes by identifying the desired state and the optimization/automation needed to achieve those business goals and vision
  • Develop process maturity and technology roadmap for the short-term and long-term goals
  • Design and implement the relevant automation solutions
  • Gain real-time analytics and insights to govern and drive process and business efficiency

Contact us to learn more and see how we can help.

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