Business Process Optimization
For those of you who attended my breakout session at the NEXUS ECM Conference on automating business processes this topic will be familiar to you. If you missed the session, this blog will provide a glimpse into the world of automating and optimizing business processes.
There are many different ways to approach process automation and optimization and the purpose of this blog topic is to provide information based on my industry experience. I will discuss identifying processes within an organization and then automating those processes utilizing a number of valuable implementation strategies.
From my experience in the Enterprise Content Management industry, I have found the main reasons to automate or optimize a business process are as follows:
- Gain Process Efficiencies
- Process Quality Improvement
- Improve Reporting, Tracking & Auditing
Let’s take a look at identifying a business process that could be automated. When looking at processes to automate or optimize, the starting point is to identify a process and then extensively research the process to get a clear understanding of the current state. A good place to start with this research is to look at all of the inputs and outputs of the current process. This can include documents, data and communication associated with accomplishing tasks in a process.
Next, we will want to evaluate the identified process to determine what manual steps in the process can be automated. From identifying the steps we then can determine which ones will provide the best return for the business and/or user.
The last key to identifying and evaluating business processes is the inclusion of the user community in the analysis of the current process to determine; 1) what is currently working well, 2) what could use improving, 3) what are the major deficiencies and 4) what is on the user’s wish list for the process.
By following these steps in identifying and evaluating a business process you will set yourself up for success when architecting and implementing a solution for automation or optimization.
Now that we have discussed identifying business processes let’s take a look at some implementation strategies to assist you in automating/optimizing the process.
- Understand the Business Process: As discussed earlier in the post, it is critical to fully understand the process that you are automating.
- Evaluate current bottlenecks
- Determine the user interaction with the current process
- Require Ownership at All Levels: In order to get full acceptance of the solution you are implementing you should ensure that the entire team is on board and understands the benefits to them and the organization. This includes:
- Executive Level
- Departmental Management
- End Users
- Know what to Automate: Don’t automate every manual process for the sake of automation. Determine the return value associated with the re-engineering of the process. In some cases it will make more sense to keep the process manual. For example, in a customer service organization, it may be more beneficial to provide human interaction to a customer instead of sending an automatically generated email.
- Educate Yourself on Existing Systems: Understanding the current infrastructure in place can be critical when determining the return on investment and initial cost of the process re-engineering.
- If there is already an Enterprise Content Management system in place, you should be able to leverage this for tasks associated with document capture, document management/archival, workflow, etc…
- Line of Business systems (Oracle E-Business, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, MSFT Great Plains, etc…) can be leveraged for storing metadata associated with the documents you are capturing. Using software like ILINX Integrate, these LOB systems can then be image enabled to retrieve documents directly from your document management system without ever leaving the LOB system.
- Promote Ongoing Analysis & Optimization: This strategy is key to creating and maintaining truly efficient and optimized processes within an organization. Let’s take the following example:
- A manual process is identified to automate
- The process is automated with success using the above implementation strategies
- Everyone is happy and uses the new and improved process
- Now that the process has been improved it is common to call the project a success and never look back. This may work for some time, but eventually the process will need to be evaluated again to determine if additional automation or optimization needs to take place. Over time business processes evolve and technology changes, so this step can be imperative to keep your business process streamlined.
In summary, we have taken a quick look at the process of identifying business process to automate and optimize, as well as, some strategies for success when taking on the task of business process re-engineering. Please feel free to post comments related to this information or your own experiences related to this topic.Ryan S. Keller Project Manager ImageSource, Inc.