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What are the key reasons to automate business processes?

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From an interesting discussion on LinkedIn (which requires you to join the group), what are the key reasons to automate business processes?

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  • The only reason is that you have fully understood the processes, in the context of the overall end-to-end flow, simplified it and then identified that it can and should be automated.

    The only place automation occurs before process mapping is in the dictionary

  • They talk about automation meaning automation = BPM. But BPM is much more than process automation and in many cases automation isn't the biggest BPM benefit.

  • I completely agree, taking the time upfront to model the process is paramount. However, I think there's a distinction that needs to be made between the types of processes we're automating: are they simple and routine (what we call at Blueworks Live "spreadsheets over email" type of processes) or are they operationally critical processes.
    If we lower the cost of automating and changing these simple processes, then modeling upfront all of the sudden becomes less critical because the automation is the model.

  • All too often people ask a simple question such as "reason for something" and we IT bods give them back answers that dont actually relate to the question, rather they relate to a different question (in this case when). No wonder business gets frustrated with IT...

    So reason for automation, thats dead simple to answer. "To improve process efficiency, reduce cycle times and to reduce error rates".

    If we want to answer the other question, which IT picks up on, such as when should we automate...Then we get a different answer complpetely...

    "Only when we understand 100% what work happens at that particular step in the process, what elements are needed (by this I mean content access, raw data, calculations to be performed etc) and if it is technically possible to automate"

  • We automate business processes to be more efficient and effective. We expect that will reduce costs and improve customer relationships which should lead to increased revenues and profits.

    • This is interesting because we often see words like "expect" or "should". I think critical to automation is in fact measurement and so part of the modeling phase we "should" ensure we have in place KPIs that will allow us to track if what we "expect" actually occurs.

  • To control a fire and make sure it doesn't happen again.

  • I have to agree with Ian Gotts. In my mind there are two forms of BPM: automation and everything else.

    Automation is a big technical and business commitment. Automation gets in the way of human decision making, and human decision making gets in the way of automation. Half-baked solutions cause trouble for everybody.

    I blogged about when to automate, and when to accept that people are just better:

    http://blog.consected.com/2009/09/when-business-process-management-bpm-is.html

    http://blog.consected.com/2010/12/world-without-people-is-not-fun-place.html


  • I agree with Andrew on the reasons he gives, it's just plain and simple. If...it works out as expected, which may or may not be the case. Plus we must not forget to keep in mind what's in it for the business as a whole as there is usually only a fraction of processes that lend themselves to end-to-end automation and promised outcomes such as increased effectiveness, improved customer services, visibility, etc. for the wholesale operation remain even more questionable.

  • As I've done in the past here, I'd like to consider automating activities separate from automating processes. If all the activities are the same, but the process (the decision of deciding what happens next) is automated, then the main benefit is increased consistency and greater visibility. If your BPMS has good support for timeouts and escalation, it also makes it easier to make sure that progress is made and key work doesn't fall through the cracks.

    Automating the process then makes it easier to automate some of the activities of the process. At that point you get a benefit of improving efficiency and responsiveness.

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