First Optimize, Then Automate!

5 Steps to enhance your process before digitizing it
February 1, 2024

If a predominantly manual process is causing significant pain for your organization and it's been decided to digitize it, two things are often overlooked:

  1. The fact that a process is carried out manually might just be one of several factors contributing to its poor results and sluggishness. If a manual process fails to deliver the desired outcomes, simply digitizing the same process is unlikely to improve it.
  2. Directly converting a manual process into a digital one is often not possible and almost never the best approach. Digital workflows provide entirely different capabilities, meaning that a process should be thoroughly re-evaluated and redesigned from the ground up for optimal digitization.

Here are 5 things you should consider before you start to automate your process:

1. Capture the entire end-to-end process

While many organizations are still structured vertically into functional units, value-adding processes often span across different units. To effectively optimize a process, you must broaden your perspective and analyze the entire end-to-end process. This is the only way to understand how to provide the most value to it and identify additional stakeholders who should be involved in your project.

2. Examine the current process

A precise assessment of the current process is often skipped - after all, you want to overcome this process as soon as possible. However, there is often deceptive certainty about the details of a process. Implicit knowledge and crucial elements can be easily overlooked, jeopardizing the success of the automation project.

3. Start with the ideal process

When considering a process, you often think too quickly of all the technical limitations, legal requirements and other restrictions that the process must adhere to. However, if you focus too much on these constraints without critically scrutinizing the status quo, you miss out on the opportunity to genuinely reinvent a process.

Instead, it is valuable to initially envision the ideal process without these restrictions. This approach provides a clearer understanding of what is essential to produce the desired outcomes. Afterwards, you can gradually reintroduce the necessary requirements. By taking all the new possibilities that a digital workflow offers into consideration, you can then reinvent your process in the most effective and efficient way.

4. Draw process diagrams

Process notations, such as BPMN 2.0, can contribute to the success of your project in several ways. Firstly, they allow for the visualization of complex processes that are challenging to describe using language alone. These clear diagrams provide an intuitive understanding of the examined process. Additionally, formalizing a process using these notations according to its rules often helps identify gaps, logical contradictions, and undefined issues within the process.

5. Collect Feedback

Inaccuracies or misunderstandings in the process can lead to painful change requests if they need to be fixed late in the implementation. If ignored, they result in poor adoption or even resistance to your automation initiative by the affected users. To avoid these unpleasant surprises, you should always align your process drafts with all relevant stakeholders before starting to build your application. If you followed steps 1 and 2, you should have a good overview of which stakeholders need to be involved. Furthermore, by implementing the advice in step 4 and creating precise BPMN diagrams, you also have the right medium for sharing your revised process ideas within your organization.

Process automation by itself contributes mainly to efficiency. However, regardless of how efficiently a process is designed, if it produces the wrong outcomes, its efficiency is meaningless. As management guru Peter F. Drucker said: “It’s more important to do the right thing than to do it right.”

If this resonates with you and you would like to know more about how to optimize your processes, please feel free to reach out to us. We would be happy to discuss in a free introductory call what is needed to make your no-code project a success.

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