A "best practice" when conceptualizing and discovering business processes is to get all process stakeholders together (either physically or electronically) to discuss, debate, and ultimately agree on what constitutes the "As Is" state of your current day-to-day operations. These discussions result in a rough draft of a business process flow as well as a list of "to do" items required to develop this business process using a BPM Suite tool. As with many company projects, involving more people usually means more issues, exceptions and special cases will be brought up for discussion. As part of your process automation talks, many process construction items will be identified that can range from the "must haves" to the "like to haves." An example of such a list is below.
Classic project management practices take over the role, where your process owner will identify all identified tasks, work to prioritize the tasks, and then work with your process architects to estimate the effort for each of these tasks. You may be very surprised to see how long your list gets, after everyone spends enough time thinking about your day-to-day operations and becomes comfortable with noting your current day inefficiencies. After looking at this daunting task list, you may be in a position where you are telling yourself "This project will take FOREVER!" In cases like these, an ideal methodology for process automation is to remind yourself "Rome was not built in a day".
There are two potential project paths you can take when strategizing on how to complete the items in your project list. One path is to work to complete all items in one comprehensive project; trying to satisfy everyone's needs, solve all the scenarios and extend to process improvement initiative to include multiple sub-processes. This is the path of high risk, high cost, potential slow deployment and typically results in high management dissatisfaction and worker disruption. The better path to success is to "Think Big, but Start Small"; break the big project into several smaller sub-processes and identify the "high leverage" aspect of the process pain.
A business can typically get 60%-80% of the benefit behind automating only 20% of the process. By talking a smaller, but critical aspect of a large process, the work team can generate a quick win by implementing the process in as little as 8-10 weeks. Management can see an immediate improvement and users can quickly see the results of the initiative. This positive energy fuels the ability to expand the project to include additional aspects of the process.
By breaking down the process automation project into three phases, ROI on your process automation initiative is experienced soon and your process participants are involved in your new automated, online processes quickly. As business process continually evolve and change, based on changing business practices, it may be the case that the original Phase B items get marked with lower priorities, as new higher priority items arise. Keeping an agile approach to business process improvements ensures you are continually investing in and evolving your business processes. Are you involved in a large business process automation effort currently? Are you structuring your process automation project into phases to ensure you have a measurable and attainable return on investment?
VP Product Marketing and Management