A lean business implements tasks and functions that meet customer demand in the most cost-effective and time bound manner. Lean businesses support lean processing. The best way to get started with lean processing across departments is by introducing intelligent automation for the most document-intensive, manually-driven business processes. Before beginning to transform standard processes though, it is essential that businesses make sure the processes are not poorly structured or incapable of meeting business goals when optimized. Automating an inefficient process is futile and only drains a company of its resources, added costs, and IT complexities.
But what’s a bad process? Let’s begin by saying the whole purpose of intelligent automation is to accelerate workflows, eliminate or reduce manual effort and the accompanying errors and inefficiencies, and meet customer expectations on time. In a way, intelligent automation is used to accelerate business processes and lower the costs of inefficiencies and latencies arising from manual effort. A business process essentially solves a particular problem, and intelligent automation helps get to the solution faster at reduced costs.
Any configured workflow or process that does not provide a clear solution and entails added workarounds and complexities is a failed or broken process. There is no point automating a broken process.
“...before embarking on a journey of digital transformation with the help of intelligent automation, begin by outlining processes end-to-end and setting definite working parameters like routing of data and documents a certain way, having all known stakeholders for a job on record, and finding out whether there are any ‘out of the routine’ tasks employees are undertaking to get a job done, and if so, incorporating those as part of the process chain...”
Consider a case where a company decides to onboard a few employees from one of their existing divisions to another newly created department. The whole onboarding process involves transferring employees from one division to another within the same company. If the rules of the employee transfer process are not clear, there could be duplicate data entries of employee details in their database. With the employee IDs remaining the same, will the designations change? Will there be a need to revamp employee portfolios and their payroll details? And, mostly, will the system be syncing new information with existing employee details in their database? Not having a clear route to employee onboarding can be disastrous and any amount of automation will fail to make the process better.
To avoid automation failures, businesses need to curate processes to be ‘automation-ready’. There are many ways to do this. You could start by having a clear process chain for implementing a job. A business process must have a clear trajectory, with starting and ending points for task execution. Because most processes deal with data and documents, it helps to design process flows with specific data ingestion and export points. Are we acquiring data from the edges of an organization? In that case, a process must be able to have access to multichannel data sources. If one of the access points furnishes data by fax, there must be a mechanism to convert that into a digital file that can be uploaded into process workflows easily. By not having a clear path to bring data from paper documents into the process workflows, businesses miss out on critical information needed to implement the processes.
Eliminate Data & Process Redundancies: is your vendor sending you invoices on some days by email and other times through fax? Outline a clear path to receiving transaction documents from external stakeholders including vendors and customers. If reception of data from these stakeholders is through multiple channels, make sure to include all these channels in your process flow so that when it comes to automating the processes, businesses are not left with duplicate data from the same vendor or missing data due to lack of a mechanism to acquire data from any one channel.
Make sure to know if any of the tasks in a process are being performed ‘outside’ the regular operating channels. For example,in the case of medical claims processing, during processing a claims file, if the employee is directly contacting a provider to confirm or clarify an issue, is that within the working boundaries set by a company? While any unofficial interaction with external stakeholders may help complete the job, it nevertheless fails to be on the radar of tasks to be automated. This could pose a problem as there is a definite break in process flow. On the other hand, if the task of clarifying an issue with a provider is documented, like through an email, companies can route process flows to include the email communication, making it easy to apply automation.
Before embarking on a journey of digital transformation with the help of intelligent automation, begin by outlining processes end-to-end and setting definite working parameters like routing of data and documents a certain way, having all known stakeholders for a job on record, and finding out whether there are any ‘out of the routine’ tasks employees are undertaking to get the job done, and if so, incorporating those as part of the process chain.
Intelligent automation elevates business processes and companies to the level of best-in-class and the returns are cumulative; but for that, you need to set your processes right for the right results.