Why we sometimes say no to process automation

Logging a timesheet. Manually transferring data from one system to another. Reconciliation and verification processes…Do these sound like things your business is spending too much time on?

There’s little doubt that software-driven process automation is likely on the cards for you. Automating these often mundane and laborious tasks will allow your teams to refocus their expertise in more deserving areas of a business.

Research and advisory body Gartner predicts that 72 per cent of organisations will be embarking on a process automation project within the next five years.

But what if I told you there’s a really fast way to assess whether your business or a specific process could be a candidate for process automation…In under 20 minutes?

During my career, I have worked with large and small businesses in helping them embark on their automation journeys and it’s the best and brightest enterprises that invest the time to do it.  

Recently I worked with the Endeavour Foundation where my remit was to look at the sales program and build-out a custom solution to reduce the downtime the team was experiencing in doing manual tasks so they could direct all their energies towards new business opportunities.

Using the F.A.S.T.E.R approach we were able to assess quickly that some of the systems behind the team could benefit greatly from automation. Working with the sales group we designed new systems that worked in with their existing infrastructure. The cost saving in time was equivalent to a full-time position and meant that those subsequent hours could be funnelled more wholly towards creating new revenue streams for the business.

But what does F.A.S.T.E.R look like and how can it be applied to your business? Let’s take a look.

Flowchart – does your process follow a well-defined decision flow? Could you map it onto a flowchart (regardless of how complex)?

Affective – beyond considering just the financial ROI, does this process affect your team’s mood and productivity?

Subject matter experts – are your SMEs engaged and do they have some breathing room to contribute to the project?

Technology stack – what does your technology stack currently look like? Is it conducive to running automation? Can your existing core business software accept integrations with other software, and what does your roadmap look like?

Expensive – is the process expensive (in time or money) to run? Or are human-error mistakes common or damaging?

Repetitive – is the process repetitive? When or how often does it trigger?

Each business has its own priorities and will see these prompts through its own lens. That’s exactly the intention behind F.A.S.T.E.R. This isn’t supposed to be a 0-10 scorecard or a go/no-go checklist for a process automation project. Instead, I think it’s extremely important businesses are investing their valuable resources in areas that will deliver the best ROI as they see it, and too often that’s only reduced down to a financial ROI.

So as with any project kicking off, the pre-work in understanding these factors is crucial to project success. We all need to have the confidence to accept that “this isn’t a good fit for us right now” and to park it for a later date; likewise, if a potential process automation project does tick a lot of these boxes, steering and managing its implementation is equally important.

So, the next time you’re sitting there thinking let’s hurry up and get it over and done with or can’t this be automated, remember the principles of F.A.S.T.E.R and place your process automation efforts into your most viable and rewarding processes.

Curtis West, Data Analyst and Futurist, Vaxa Group

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