Business Process Automation Tips

On Tuesday, I’ll be the guest speaker at the Dayton SharePoint User Group (www.dayspug.org).  I’ll be speaking on Business Process Management/Automation using SharePoint and Workflow.

As I consider this topic, I thought I might share some guidance on the process of automating your organization’s business processes, regardless of whether you use SharePoint or any other automation technology.  Anyone who has endured the fun of auditing, documenting, and ultimately automating the way in which their company does things will tell you that the planning side of it is just as significant, if not more so, than the technical implementation.

Here are some tips that could help you and your team have a smoother and less frustrating experience:

  • Talk about your process first, not the process technology – Many times, a company begins to consider automating their processes because they’ve recently acquired a new tool that can help them do it.  A kickoff meeting is scheduled to begin the process, and what tends to happen is that the conversation centers around the capabilities, or lack of capabilities, of the new tool.  Instead, what’s really needed first is a conversation about the specific details of the process itself, regardless of what tool or technology will be used to automate it.  It may be true that later you’ll discover that the specific feature set of the tool limits your ability to automate certain parts of your process, but at least you’ll have a clearer understanding of where you need to make those compromises.

  • Be on the same page – literally – It’s important to document your process before you begin designing an automation strategy.  Visual flowchart diagrams are best, especially since they allow the viewer to focus on the big picture rather than the wordy details.  But what’s also important about this document is that it can become the Bible from which all future discussions on the topic can start.  Someone who believes there should be a change in the organization’s process should express their view by discussing how the official flowchart should be changed.  Discussing the issue separate from the flowchart results in vague conversations and wasted time.

  • No frills for the 1st iteration – Business process automation should use an iterative approach. Even the most complex process, with dozens or hundreds of steps, can probably be abstracted at a high level into a flowchart of just a few steps. For instance, the process of getting approval to publish a new company document might involve many steps that include multiple people, revision strategies, and document management.  But, at a basic level, it may just involve 1) storing the new document in a specific location, 2) emailing a single approver, and 3) publishing the document to its final location.  A lot of value can be gained from making the Beta version of your new Approval process be an automation of simply these three tasks.  Not only does it allow people to get a feel for things like the having approval emails arrive in their inbox, or using some 1-click publishing tool, but as the design grows in complexity, it helps users see early on where there may be functionality gaps that need to be addressed.

By using an iterative and well-documented design strategy, a team tasked with automating a process in their organization should be able to do so with far less frustration, producing a final product that contains a level of detail that the team can have confidence in.

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17 Responses so far.

  1. Planning ahead before getting things done is a good idea. People who are having problems processing things in their company should find these tips helpful. Business processing is a key if a company wants to be successful.

  2. Louis says:

    It's important to cope with the changes happening in the business world today. The automation of your business processes can actually give you an edge over your competitors.

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  3. Chris says:

    Of course, automating your business processes will increase efficiency within the company. It can also enhance the results and productivity level.

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  4. Great calls. I see the first point being violated too often. Most managers think software just HAS to work, even without getting the actual process down pat.

  5. There is no such thing as "business process automation" anyway. Tools are just there to help, but the people behind them still have to do the work.

  6. Automating your business processes can help you grow your business only if you will do it properly and accordingly. If you failed to follow some rules, your business might end up into nothing. It's important to understand the tools first before dealing with them in depth.

  7. Congratulations on being the guest speaker, I sure do hope you share a video of your talk. Thanks.

  8. This is the reason why it is more practical to just buy a ready made business automation software instead of developing your own. It is more cost effective in terms of money and time that you invest.

  9. It's important for most businesses to automate their core processes in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. I agree with you on having to be on the same page prior to implementing automation with the rest of the stakeholders.

  10. This is brilliant! Just brilliant mate! I am going to be a speaker on a similar topic in a nearby university regarding open a business philippines and your advise here touched on important details that I think I can also focus on. How can I thank you enough? Cheers mate!

  11. Stew says:

    These are all useful information that have covered so many topics including those under digital preservation services. Your tips are amazing! You should write a book.

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  13. Great post! Been reading a lot of info on improving business processes. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Planing is very important to start. The people who don't make strong plan always face problems. This is the very best business process automation tip.

  15. I like the tip of being on the same page. That would be really helpful in an automation service. So that everyone knows what is going on and that way they will be able to work better as a team. http://dazychain.com/features/

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