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18 Apr 2019
Optimum Process Optimization and Automation

Uncovering Process Complexities before Automating

This article is also published on Automation.com

Business Process Automation (BPA) is no longer a new concept. In some sectors, it has become so accepted as to be expected. Those who are not utilizing BPA are looked upon as lagging behind the pack, while those with BPA implemented throughout all layers of their organization are reaping the benefits. However, what has become recently apparent is that while a spectrum of robotic and automation tools exist that will assist an organization with BPA implementation, the missing critical piece is the organization’s underlying knowledge of their own processes.

Sure, an organization may be able to map out their existing processes, maybe even identify bottlenecks that are keeping them from process optimization; but rather than engaging in process engineering to identify and understand all the intricacies that are keeping them from performance excellence, the organization tasks their IT department to research technological surrogates that they hope (and expect) will cure their process deficiencies.


While a spectrum of robotic and automation tools exist that will assist an organization with BPA implementation, the missing critical piece is the organization’s underlying knowledge of their own processes.

Some of these business process-related intricacies are easily identified while others are elusive. Some are easily countered whereas others seem to be unwanted organizational mainstays. A few of these intricacies are described below:

  • Metrics– if the workflow being assessed is not collecting the metrics needed for the justification of additional human capital, updated technology, or workload shift, these challenges will largely continue unaddressed. Knowing who does what, how many times in a given timeframe is not micromanagement, it is data management.
     
  • Critical Path– utilizing a robotic automation tool to help with process optimization may be a smart move, unless the tool tasks three people at the same time and two of them cannot even start their task until the third person has completed his/hers. Unfortunately, mapping out a process with squares and decision diamonds may not reflect a true critical path, but simply a sequence of events. And basic flowcharts may not adequately reflect concurrent (parallel) work processes.
     
  • ROI Determination– remember that the BPA implementation should be smart and based upon measurable evidence. Sometimes, bottlenecks are unavoidable, particularly during industry recession periods where departments are downsized, and human capital is at a premium. In these circumstances, the estimated ROI may not be favorable enough to justify any robotic intervention.

    Conversely, some process issues can easily be optimized without automation. In this situation, you may realize an employee has been tasked with items totally outside of his/her normal scope of work. Or maybe a department has not had priorities accurately socialized to them from upper-level management. These issues can be countered with soft skills, workload redistribution, and departmental training.

    However, other pain points in the process that cannot be addressed solely through process-centric enhancement may be perfect candidates for BPA. Some popular BPA points include team collaboration, automated document templating and generation, tasking and approval, workflow triggering and metrics tracking, and business intelligence capture and mapping.

  • Human Capital– perhaps the most difficult intricacy to calculate and address (especially in some industries), human efficiency may increase drastically when partnered with automation or it may not respond one bit. This may be due to the following challenges:
    • Overallocation: if an employee is truly overallocated, no amount of automated tasking, reminders, or collaboration tools will resolve this problem. At this point, management needs to clearly understand the root cause of both the overallocation and their performance expectations.
       
    • Accountability: similar to the previous challenge, if no accountability exists, or the organization’s culture is based upon the notion of employee intrinsic motivation, no amount of automation is going to excite an employee into production.
       
    • Technological Ability: while BPA technology is relatively user-friendly (particularly those tools targeting the business side like Nintex), the general user will still have to be able to open and respond intelligently to emails, as well as access the tool’s environment and use it. The tool administrator will have to know basic process engineering or advanced business/data analysis in order to implement the required change management.


BPA implementation should be smart and based on measurable evidence.

Given these business process-related intricacies, it is very unlikely a single individual in the organization will have the competencies required to identify these issues. Any team of individuals that would, together, have these competencies are most likely tasked with other day-to-day items.

Thus, rather than considering software to automate a broken process, the organization should turn to a team that specializes in process engineering, business analysis/ intelligence, and project management. The skills employed by these consultants are generally not required day-to-day by the organization, and the consultants’ outside, non-biased recommendations may be exactly what an organization steeped in tradition and outdated methodology needs to hear.


About Optimum: Strategic Process Optimization and Automation Consulting Firm

Optimum helps organizations streamline and automate their business processes, resulting in simplified communication, error reduction, time and cost savings, and greater compliance and accuracy. By utilizing our in-house Business Process Management expertise, certified Process Automation and Business Intelligence consultants, and innovative workflow automation software products, we help our clients enable digital transformation and automation by optimizing critical business processes, automating workflows and digitizing forms, document generation and change management, and integration with the world’s largest technology ecosystems including SharePoint/Office 365, Salesforce, SAP, Dynamics, Docusign, Box and other enterprise services platforms. 

Contact Us for an in-depth discovery and consultation session to see how we can help you streamline and automate your processes and workflows.

About the Author

Jack Wilson is a Process Engineer with Optimum Consultancy Services leading their business and data analysis efforts.  Aside from his undergraduate degree, Jack also has two certificates in Critical Infrastructure Protection from Texas A&M Engineering Extension (TEEX). With both domestic and international experience in multi-industry business and data analytics, Jack also serves on three Board of Directors, utilizing his skills in these leadership positions.

jwilson

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