It’s the Power of Automation – 5 steps to Improve your processes through technology
Unlike Huey Lewis who believed it was the Power Of Love, Im a big believer that when it comes to business, it’s the Power of Automation through technology. Just like with every business initiative, technology has to be used to support the business initiative and not the other way around so there are key steps to implement a proper automation that will yield these benefits.
1) Have proper processes
Unlike some people that believe that automation brings processes, Im a strong believer that you can’t have automation unless you have a process in place. These processes can be as simple as 1-2-3. If you don’t have them, you need to spend time to create them before you even start thinking about using technology to automate anything. Some questions that can help you get started with process creation/ideation: Who is involved in this process from start to end? Define people and roles. What tools are being used in the process? Can be as simply as “using excel to estimate budget” How many steps does it take to finish the process? Simply numerate each step How much time does it take on each step? How much overall for the process? Time is of the essence when trying to automate through technology.
2) Identify automation goals
Look, I love technology more than anybody can imagine but even then, I always recommend to understand the goals that you are trying to achieve before you implement any technology solution and even if it makes sense to do so. Are you trying to reduce turnaround time to produce more hence make bigger margins? Are you trying to cut costs within the process to also increase your profit margins? Are you trying to have a better outcome with better quality? These are simple questions that will help benchmark how successful an automation implementation is.
3) Identify relevant technology
If you gotten this far, it’s because you know that your process does need a better outcome. Now that you defined the process and your goals, the key is finding a relevant technology solution that can help you reach your goal. Here is where Time and Budget are of the essence as whichever solution you choose has to make sense for your overall goal and ROI. Here is where start turning a bit more technical but its inevitable as you want to make sure that the technology you choose is relevant to your need. How people perform the task in the process is a big key indicator on what technology you might choose.
Let’s take as an example a Factory that is trying to implement a Quality Control (QA) improvement in each one of their divisions.
How do employees perform the task?
Sitting down in their computers or walking through their division? If sitting down in a desk, a desktop platform might be sufficient to automate the process while if walking around the factory floor, a mobile application will be the best fit. You also could do a bit of both world and go for a responsive platform that can be used both in desktop and mobile.
What kind of functionalities will you need to automate the process?
Do you require to be online or offline to perform the tasks? This simple questions can also drive the type of application you might want to implement. A hybrid or web application will require that the entire process be done online (there are exceptions) while a native one might give you more offline options.
How much processing will you need in each step?
Calculating a few equations will not need the same processing power as trying to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create patterns of terabytes of data. This will not only dictate the type of application you will choose but also the hardware that you will need. BOTH software and Hardware are equally important when automating processes.
What about security and privacy?
You can’t leave this one out as data is key and protecting such is vital for each organization. Is the data being processed private? How are you securing the automation and making sure only relevant process participants have access to it? All these questions will also have a weight in the type of technological solution you will have to choose to improve your process.
4) Establish Timeline & scope
As great as the chosen technology can be, it is no good if it takes years to implement and the scope is undefined. The question is not “can we do it all with the technology solution” but “what initial requirements do I have so I can accomplish our main goal”. Defining a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is key and the timeline and scope in it has to make sense to your short term goal. I always say “Better start with a smaller solid foundation than try to create a monster than never comes to see the light of day”
5) Think long term
The great thing about having that solid foundation (MVP) is that once its defined and all-hands-on-deck to make it happen, you can start thinking about improvements and new functionalities that can improve your process automation even better. Here is where using an agile strategy might come in hand as you have a process automation that is constantly being improved. We usually divide new functionality and improvements in sprints and prioritize them so we can deploy them in a timely manner and truly adds value to the process.
Process automation through technology can be a lengthy process but these 5 steps can help build a strong foundation to make it a success. Like Huey’s song say “You don’t need money, don’t take fame, Don’t need no credit card to ride this train”… never mind, you will need money and possibly your Credit Card, just make sure that it’s the right technology solution and truly helps you achieve your goal! It’s the power of Automation! At ConsultR we are experts in providing digital solutions for process automation so if you want to find out more, contact us here.