3 Steps Needed Prior to Automation of Any Process

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Many organizations and companies try improving their internal processes through the application of software or automation systems; but stop and think for a moment about why this may not be the best approach.

How many steps do you have to go through with the current process? What people, groups, or parts of the organization are or will be affected?  Why do we believe this process needs to be improved?  Etc… and the list goes on.

Like most people, chances are the mere contemplation of process change will give you a headache.   One system is used to collect the data, another system is used to analyze the data, and multiple other manual processes are used to feed and/or extract information from the process.  Not to mention that everyone involved in the process may have a different business objective as it pertains to the process.   Automating this tangled web will in most cases just make the inefficiencies and discrepancies happen at a much faster rate.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just start with a clean slate and build a process that would work for everyone and then automate that process?  Well there are three (3) steps that should be completed prior to applying software or automation to any process and they are:

Step 1: Understand the Needs – The first step to make the process more efficient and cost effective is to clearly identify and understand the needs of everyone involved.  You need to identify:

  • How many different individuals or groups are involved or dependent upon the process?
  • What data does each of these individuals/groups provide to the process or require from the process?  And at what frequency/timing?
  • What business value is generated through the process?
  • What data has been gathered to identify whether the process has issues?

Step 2: Define the Objectives – The next step is to define the objectives in reviewing or changing the current process.

Clearly defining objectives is critical to insuring that the process will meet all of the needs of the company or organization.

Step 3: Create an Efficient Process – Once the needs are understood and the objectives have been established, a process should be created to meet both of these goals. This is often the most complicated step.  Many organizations will outsource parts of this process, but caution should be used to insure that internal users/managers are involved as they will ultimately have to implement and utilize the new process.

Once an efficient process is created and implemented, software applications or automation systems can be reviewed to evaluate their potential for optimizing this new process.

Applying Steps 1, 2, and 3 often require a fair amount of cross functional rigor within an organization.   Combining this effort with a business and financial analysis can provide you a clearer path to identifying the Return on Investment (ROI) $$ and timing.  This rigor on the front end often saves time and frustration on the back end.  It also provides a clear path to the right types of Automation Solutions to match your optimized process.

By Jim Willems, President, Appolis


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