Planning for Workflow Automation
By Mike Raia Posted December 19, 2018
While it's tempting to just jump into a workflow automation tool and start building processes, especially when you realize how quickly you can make an impact, take a deep breath. The most successful automation projects start outside of any automation tool. Grab your planning tool of choice and anyone you feel has a good understanding of your company's processes before walking through the steps below.
The necessary steps to prepare for workflow automation are as follows. Note that steps 1 and 2 are actions you can take right now before you even select a workflow automation tool and bring in a software vendor:
- Create a catalog, list, or inventory of the all the business processes you wish to automate.
- Rank the list by impact and expected effort. Low effort/high impact goes first, high effort/low impact goes last (or gets tossed).
- Adopt a standard format and document the standard operating procedures or SOPs that make up these processes. Be sure to include the most likely exception handling situations.
- Make sure the SOP documentation includes the name of the job role that performs each step, the action to be taken, and any business rules that may need to be applied.
- Consider points in the process where data might be needed from other business applications (CRM, ERP, HRIS, etc.) Note where data will need to be pulled in to a form, pushed somewhere else, etc. as part of the process.
- Specify the aspects of the processes that need management visibility, in other words, your KPIs. These aspects provide a solid foundation for the views and reports that will give managers real-time visibility into workflow status.
- Set up time to validate all of your findings in a larger group of people involved in the process to validate your findings/understandings.
- Set up time with the owners of relevant business applications to discuss the data integration aspects of the process.
- Set up time to validate your KPIs with leadership.
- Now you can sit down with the administrators of the workflow automation system (if it's not you). They will review the requirements you've put together and help you see where dropdown lists, triggered alerts/reminders, pre-configured business rules, etc. can streamline the process and where your requirements might be incomplete.
For a deep dive on workflow automation planning and much more, visit our Business Process Management Guide, it's totally free.