By: Keith Brickey
- Business process automation leverages technology to automate manual tasks, improving operational efficiency and boosting value for various stakeholders.
- Blanket automation isn’t advisable; business processes require a human touch and critical thinking skills. Therefore, select processes where the manual aspect isn’t efficient.
- Automation requires continuous improvement to ensure that implemented changes offer the best business value moving forward.
Business processes encompass an operation with multiple steps and usually involve more than one human or system. For business processes to positively impact your business, they need to be specific, measurable, flexible, and – most importantly – repeatable. Businesses processes that tick these boxes are ideal for automation. Automation provides linkage between steps with process flow based on business rules and timing. Process automation is a quest for improvement. Like most quests, there are points along the way where things can go wrong. The following are things to watch out for.
Automating the Wrong Business Processes
BPA has the potential to save time, reduce costs, improve service, and increase profits. However, not all processes benefit from automation. Thinking that if a bit of automation is good, a lot of automation would be better, some businesses spend effort on automation that makes no sense.
How to Avoid:
To ensure that the right processes get automated, it’s good to perform an ROI “return on investment” analysis comparing the relative effort and benefit of automating each BPA candidate. ROI should be large enough that a simple comparison of the total cost of implementation against employee time (money) saved is often enough of an indicator.
ROI can rank business process automation candidates, and the ranking can be used to determine which processes should have priority and which should not be automated. Of course, there can be overriding factors such as the need to achieve organizational goals.
You are better prepared to select the right BPA system with the right candidate processes in hand. Your business can efficiently implement automation in the areas that will benefit most.
Automating the Most Complex Process First
Many businesses postpone automation until there is an overwhelming need centered around one business process. The business process driving the company’s automation is a complex and even mission-critical application. Funding for BPA is often tied to such an application. So, starting the BPA journey with that complex application seems reasonable. Those who yield to the temptation will pay a heavy price in pain, chaos, and failure. There is a steep learning curve even with today’s low-code / no-code solutions. BPA systems provide myriad ways to accomplish the same things. Those who don’t understand the downstream consequences will most likely choose the wrong options, causing re-work, budget overruns, delays, and unhappy sponsors.
How to Avoid:
Avoid falling flat on your face with your first (and maybe last) automation project by first automating one or two simple processes. This will give your business sponsor a warm fuzzy feeling because he will be able to show success to others. From this effort, you will learn how long various subtasks take to complete and test so that you can set realistic expectations when you undertake the “monster” project.
It’s easy to make a list of business process automation candidates and break them down by step. Then rank them by the number of steps and let the first project be one of the easy ones.
Automating Flawed Processes
Successful business operations rely on efficient processes with consistent results. Automating an already successful process adds structure and improves repeatability; however, automation alone does not guarantee success. Automating a flawed process can make things worse.
How to Avoid:
Business sponsors and process owners need to walk through, talk through, and optimize processes using input from those who participate in the process and from downstream consumers. It is easy to change a process design on a whiteboard and not easy to modify an automated system after it is fully implemented.
Properly optimized processes are more likely to balance departmental goals and overarching organizational goals. For example, the department needs to reduce staff and eliminate errors, while the organization aims to improve customer service and increase revenue. Optimization is the key to reaching both general and specific outcomes.
Using an Unsuitable or Incompatible BPA System
Some businesses might note the value associated with automating business processes, leading them to take on the first automation software that comes their way. However, business owners might inadvertently choose a software solution that doesn’t align with their requirements. So, rather than benefiting from automation, businesses instead encounter other challenges that make operations more complicated.
How to Avoid:
This mistake can be avoided by getting the right automation tool. You need to intimately understand your business processes and the different facets that require automation.
Start by determining which business processes are candidates for automation. Ensure that the BPA system selected can interact with all systems’ data and APIs (application program interface). A common pitfall is using an application such as Salesforce or SharePoint that has built-in workflow capability yet has limited ability to interact with external systems. Also, determine if the selected BPA system has connectivity to all involved systems. Determine if the selected BPA system can pass user credentials to other systems as part of the business process.
Determine that the forms technology of the selected BPA system can deliver the user experience required by the business process. Some BPA systems have only the most rudimentary forms, and many BPA applications need sophisticated forms to meet the needs of the process.
Acquiring a BPA system incurs hidden costs such as staffing and training experts. To avoid multiplying both known and hidden costs, it’s better to have one BPA system. For best value, the BPA system should be able to automate all of the business processes that are candidates for automation. Short-sighted criteria based on only the first implementation process can cause pain later when a subsequent BPA implementation requires more excellent capability.
Selection of the right BPA system is a balancing act involving many factors. Sifting through online reviews and using free trial software only adds to the confusion. Bytezoom has years of BPA experience and works with several leading BPA providers. We can help you determine which system achieves the balance needed for your organization. Please use this Calendar to set up a no-cost session with one of our BPA experts.
Insufficient User Training
Automating a business process with human steps will change how some team members receive and carry out their task assignments. Any lack of instructions reduces user confidence and increases frustration. This can create bottlenecks that prevent other users from performing their tasks. Thus, efficiencies gained by automating are lost to confusion and chaos.
How to Avoid:
There are many effective ways to train users. To the degree practical, users should be included in developing automation related to their work. Input from actual users is invaluable and increases the likelihood of adoption. Similarly, there are benefits associated when users assist with testing.
Users need to understand their role in carrying out such tasks to prevent chaos.
Forgoing Review of Business Process Automation Results
Eager to move on to other projects, business sponsors and owners sometimes consider a job done once the solution is deployed. They forget that users are grappling with the new ways of doing business and may need to have minor changes made to compensate for unforeseen consequences of automation.
How to Avoid:
The business should establish an Application Administrator role responsible for managing automated processes. A sound BPA system should have a BPM “Business Process Management” aspect that includes a management console with process dashboards and reports. The Application Administrator can use these tools to identify sticking points and focus on changes that may be needed.
Well-designed automation incorporates configurable properties that make it easy to change aspects of a business process without taking the system offline or doing extensive testing. The Application Admin takes care of these changes based on the approval of user requests by the process owner. This approval can be another automated process! Surveys can be built into task forms, thus providing continuous improvement.
Business process automation offers plenty of benefits to your operation, including increased team efficiency, reduced labor costs, scalability, and better customer service.
The large number of companies now automating almost everything has created a wealth of business process automation knowledge, and much of it is available without cost. The trick is knowing how to apply that information to your business use cases. This is where Bytezoom can help you determine the next steps on your process automation roadmap. Please use this Calendar to set up a no-cost session with one of our expert BPA consultants. No selling. Our goal is to help.