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Published: April 13, 2018 – Author: Kent Andrews

What are the right questions?

In our experience working with organizations that want to “dip a toe” into process automation, it’s typical that they want to start their automation initiatives with this question:

“What do we want to automate?”

It’s not a bad question. It’s just the wrong question.

Asking the right questions allow you to design and build your automation faster and more efficiently, with less (or even no) backtracking or do overs along the way.

The right questions are more likely to lead to an automation that meets your real process needs, uses the right software tool, and is suitably redundant and scalable.

So what questions should you be asking?

1: What do we want to achieve?

Any improvement in a business process should start with this question. Automation doesn’t change the fact that a business process is in place only because it leads to a specific business objective.

Now how do we reach that necessary outcome faster, more efficiently, with less opportunity for error, and at a lower cost … with automation, or through process changes that would precede automation?  

When done correctly, automation will invariably improve a manual, repetitive process and do it more efficiently and accurately. But if the process is unwieldy and unnecessarily redundant in itself, automation will improve it by only a fraction of what could otherwise be achieved. The process end point should be the starting point for automation planning.

2: What is the process to be automated, and what are all of its possibilities?

Process automation is never an “out of the box” solution. The fact that automation software is too often sold that way does a disservice to the automation industry and to those who buy software based on their belief in automation miracles.

Building an automation has something in common with building a house: if the foundation isn’t right, the house never will be, no matter how much you try to fix it afterward.

A sound process automation also depends on its foundation. The foundation for an automation is the initial process analysis, an audit of each step in the process and of all of the possible outcomes that must be considered when building the automation.

A thorough initial process analysis is critical and should be completed without shortcuts or oversights. The time you invest in defining each process step will return time saved in building and testing the automation.

3: What tool should we use?

You wouldn’t think of building a house with just a hammer or just a screwdriver. You need a “suite” of tools to build anything that is going to last.

Common sense would tell us that the same reality applies to process automation. Why would one automation software “tool” be expected to provide a universal answer for any process?

Simply put, there is no such thing as an automation cure-all. No single automation tool will work with maximum effectiveness for every process step. Choosing the right automation tool – and integrating multiple tools when called for – can be the difference between an automation that increases productivity and another that creates more headaches than it is worth.

These three simple questions should be applied to any initiative for business process improvement. Intelligent process automation doesn’t eliminate the need for applying basic problem-solving skills to process analysis.

Those seeking to automate should embrace these simple questions as a formula for process automation success. They should look at automation as an exacting and potentially exciting aspect of business process improvement, not as an end in itself.

Agilify is in the business of helping organizations unleash human potential by implementing and mastering intelligent process automation. With years of experience in the enterprise automation space, Agilify’s team of industry practitioners and trainers can provide the training, implementation, support and advisory services necessary for every step in an organization’s automation journey.