When starting a process automation project or initiative, it is essential to get a solid foundation in place.
Sometimes, automation teams rush forward without putting the key elements in place. For organizations that have yet to implement a significant process automation initiative, these are the eight steps that AIIM recommends you follow in order to get the most out of your automation project. Find out more in the full report,
The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Business Processes, Process Automation and RPA.
1 – Select your team
First and foremost, you need to select the team that’s going to deliver your automation project. Yes, the project is about automation technologies, but you need the right people to deploy that tech and drive it forward.
Identify a core cross-functional group to drive the initiative. While a process-driven project can be led by the Business, you will also need support from IT and Operations. In Bizagi’s global survey of over 1,000 businesses, people working within IT (61%), Operations (60%) and Business Process Specialists (57%) roles were considered the most effective in realizing and delivering change and transformation by their peers.
2 – Establish your framework
Every organization will have a different reason for undertaking an automation project. When establishing your framework, you need to understand “why” your organization should consider a process automation initiative – not generally, but in the specific business and competitive context of your organization.
For some, the aim of automation will be to improve internal operations, by enhancing the supply chain or supporting employees with their work. For others, it may be a risk mitigation exercise or to help ensure compliance. Understanding the ‘why’ will also help when you develop your strategy because you will approach delivery of the project in a different way based on the desired outcome.
3 – Develop your strategy
AIIM’s research reveals that the biggest barrier to starting process automation projects is a lack of clear strategy and priorities. It’s vital to develop a strategy document that lays out your vision along with key performance indicators and critical success factors. Having a clear end-goal is obvious, but you should have regular, attainable milestones that help to indicate how the project is progressing and keep your team motivated.
Creating a Center of Excellence (CoE) for process management and automation can help to define your strategy by establishing design standards and best practice. It will also help you to create an arsenal of reusable components, so that you can later scale-up production you can realize economies of scale, with a decreased turnaround time for generating additional workflows and reduced costs in production.
4 – Get backing from an executive
It can be hard to get everyone on your side when starting a new initiative or introducing a new technology. You should identify an executive sponsor for your process automation project and get their buy-in.
If you demonstrate how their input will contribute to the wider business and the positive effects of process automation on the enterprise, you can get them on-board. This in-turn, will make it easier to instil confidence in the automation project across the organization. This has to come from the top; if senior managers evangelize the change, it will trickle down to all levels of the organization.
5 – Select your first processes
Evaluate which processes are initially best suited for the initiative. Your first process should be one that can deliver results fast. According to the Bizagi Spark framework, you should start small, think big, scale fast. This agile process automation methodology delivers results quickly by identifying a simple process that can be used as a ‘quick win’.
Automating this first process and delivering tangible value fast will help to build momentum in your process automation project, prove value to your executives, and instil confidence in the project across your organization. You can then build on what you learn from your first process and scale automation across the enterprise.
6 – Change management
The first reaction to change is often resistance, so you need to identify agents for change who can help you instil process automation throughout the organization. You can use your executive to help convince them that this technology is vital for digital transformation and they all have a significant role to play in making it happen.
You have all you need to get people on your side. Use your strategy and framework to highlight the path to success, and the milestones along the way. Once you have begun, you can use results from your first process to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of process automation and get people on your side.
“Employees are typically being asked to do more with less, resulting in frustration and an unwillingness to change the way they work. Making a concerted effort to communicate the overall strategy and demonstrate how process automation will complement the work your employees are performing is vital to project success,” advises Sheri Nystedt, CIP.
7 – Assess the state of processes and systems
It’s important to conduct an initial assessment of the current state of the process targets and the systems that support them. There’s no point in automating processes that are broken. It also makes it harder to measure ROI from the project if you don’t set a benchmark of how processes and systems are operating prior to automation.
It’s likely that as your organization has acquired more applications, the technology stack now comprises of disparate, siloed systems that don’t communicate with each other properly. It’s imperative for IT to streamline these systems to both enable employees and better serve customers. Using a single process automation platform to support systems connects silos and uses process as a common language to unite the business, while automation then helps to deliver further efficiencies.
8 – Identify expected outcomes to set targets
You should already have considered the outcomes from your initiative as part of your framework and asking ‘why’ you’re undergoing the automation project. Now it’s time to identify the expected benefits from automating your processes and prioritize initial process targets based on the expected outcomes. Benefits of process automation include that it:
Supports compliance: Automating processes guarantees that tasks are completed in-line with the parameters that you set, so you can adhere to best practice and avoid the risk of errors.
Enables employees: Manual, repetitive tasks, such as data entry, can be automated to free up employees to concentrate on other areas of their jobs that require a human touch.
Visibility of the customer journey: Using a single process automation platform, you can see the entire end-to-end process. This helps provide a contextualized view of the customer and allows you to provide a better customer experience.
Agile and scalable development: By creating reusable processes and using a CoE, you can scale automation throughout your organization and easily make agile changes to the processes, so you can continually improve operations.
Cost efficient: Implementing automation in the office generates 30% to as much as 200% ROI in the first year, mainly in labor savings, reports Think Automation.
If you’d like to find out more about how to prepare your organization for an automation project, and learn from organizations who have already automated their business processes, download AIIM’s new report, The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Business Processes, Process Automation and RPA.