5 Questions to Ask Before You Automate Your Business Processes

I see this a lot, organizations invest tons of time in analysing and modeling business processes. And they end up with a collection of process models but still don’t know which processes should be automated with BPMS technology. And I think this is because many organizations struggle with how to get started with process automation. For example, should they tackle simple processes first or should they tackle the biggest and most complex process first? How will the processes be categorized to determine which process offers the most value from automation?

Having gone through this process (no pun intended) many times with many organizations, I’ve come up with 5 simple questions that help organizations determine what processes have automation potential and the possibility of offering high value results.  Here it goes:

  • Do you have any  “paper heavy” processes? Is there a paper form that gets routed to different process participants as part of the process?
  • Do your process workers waste time looking for forms or documents they need to complete a specific step?
  • Does the process require manual duplication of data? Where maybe an email address has to be manually copied from one system to another?
  • Do your processes “hang” because one of the process workers didn’t receive an email that tells them to proceed with the next step?
  • Are there other “routine” tasks that are very time consuming or can halt the process in its tracks if the task owner goes on holiday or simply forgets  one day?

If you can answer “yes” to one or more of the above questions, you are looking at a process with automation potential. If you’re still not 100% sure whether a process is a good fit for automation or you want more time to  figure out the impact of such a “yes” then it’s time to  speak to the people who perform the process day in and day out.

But beware, these process owners might be comfortable with the status-quo, in fact they might find what they do today is the ideal process. It could be that many of them have already created their own workarounds to avoid potential process problems. Either way, you should gather these details first hand so you can create the perfect automation scenario that reduces error rates and significantly decreases process cycle times. Would you agree?

About Thomas Stoesser

Thomas Stoesser has written 20 posts in this blog.

Thomas Stoesser is Director for Product Marketing at Software AG. He is responsible for the BPM platform with a specific focus on Process Automation and Case Management. Thomas covers BPMS technologies including business rules and content integration, but also spends time thinking about other topics like organizational change management.

4 Comments

  • I would add to your list “processes that are error-prone” – the two main benefits of ‘automation’ (and this does not mean getting rid of people) are orchestration (i.e. guidance)and governance (i.e. guardrails).

  • Agreed! Many companies have such processes all around them, but nothing happens. It makes sense to therefore first understand the current impediments to change – some of which maybe just entrenched politics.

  • Thanks for the comment and sorry for the late response. Yes, I agree with you: It does make a lot of sense to look at processes that have proven to be error-prone in the past. However, when embarking on an automation project in that context, make sure that you understand exactly how the automation effort is going to fix the process issues that have been observed in the past. The examples that you are giving (guidance & governance) are spot on.

  • I would add to each of these how frequently are these processes executed as a qualifying factor, automating a process used once also leads to why does that process exists in the first place. “Thinking through” the automation can yield more than just the “automation” and waste elimination.

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