By Alex Beagent
Most of you will be familiar with this graphic, highlighting how misunderstood requirements can result in a solution, which at best isn’t ideal, and at worst is unusable.
The majority of organisations we work with have a good grasp on the concept that having a common understanding across all stakeholders plays a large part in getting beneficial results. An agreed process underpins the well-oiled business machine.
Process automation can build on your process groundwork, and can deliver massive benefits when done correctly. It can take on the repetitive and routing tasks, enabling your staff to focus on their designated responsibilities. With justified process automation the world can be your oyster; forms, alerts, approvals, escalations, it’s all possible.
Our approach to automation at Roc is to first understand the process, and the context. If agreement over roles and responsibilities can’t be written down, how can we assess the value for automating sections of our process?
A common knee jerk reaction is to attempt to automate everything, but we’ve all had the frustration of the endless ‘press #5 to continue’ call centre scenario when your question doesn’t fit into one of their nicely thought out options, and so you get placed neatly in a queue anyway. Certain processes will lend themselves better to automation, such as raising an online helpdesk ticket – the automation suite could cleverly validate, prioritise, and route the information to the right team, all based on some predefined logic. To do this we need to understand in detail what information is required in each scenario.
When everyone is looking for that competitive advantage, and cost reduction is everywhere, machines are often called upon to replace costly humans. A resource that can work 24/7, and doesn’t call in sick, sounds perfect, but they have their limitations. I like to think of the role of machines slightly differently; they aren’t simply replacing staff, they are enabling staff to perform more efficiently. The staff we have are often, what Peter Drucker describes as ‘Knowledge Workers’ – skilled staff who aren’t just filing forms and carrying out routine tasks, they are using their knowledge and experience to resolve less predictable problems, and uncover answers from abstract information.
In short, we need to reach a level of understanding with our processes, to know how to collate, sort, route, and allocate the data going through the system, to the person who either has the knowledge, or in modern terms, the authority, to deal with it. We can’t do any of the validation, sorting, or routing if we don’t have the details that the staff need in order to make informed decisions or responses.
If all that processing can be completed in an automated way, the time our ‘Knowledge Workers’ spend working is of maximum value.