Don’t Just Consider Complex and Complicated Processes for Automation

by MK Strupe on Thu, May 06, 2010 @ 02:17 PM

When looking for your first process to automate or your next process to automate, keep in mind that your process does not have to be an enormous, gazillion step, complex process.  You can be very successful and realize significant efficiency gains (and thus considerable cost savings) just by automating your core, everyday processes. 

Many of your companies back office processes are ideal candidates for automation using Business Process Management Software or BPM.  These back office processes can be in various departments such as HR, Finance, Operations, Customer Service, Sales, IT, Supply Chain Mgmt, etc.

When considering where to begin your process improvement initiatives ask your fellow employees which tasks they are involved with that are the most time consuming.  Think about the routine things you do every day that involves paperwork and forms at your company.  Think about how these documents and forms flow through your company.  How often do you have to physically walk a form or documents to another person or department so they can do their part so the process can continue?  How often do you have to leave your office to track down a form or documents to see if something has been acted on?

An Employee Vacation Request is a pretty simple, straight forward back office process and a good example.  In many companies the process is as follows:

  • An employee must obtain the appropriate form for requesting time off (which can be a process in itself), fill out the paper form and either fax, email or carry it over to their manager to get the days off approved

  • The manager has to approve the days and pass the request back to the employee

  • Then the request must go to the HR department where HR has to:
    • Verify, usually on spreadsheet, that the employee indeed has days available and if so approves the request
    • Document on the spreadsheet the days the employee is using 
    • Notify the employee that their request has finally been approved

Note that each exchange in this process must be completed by someone sending a fax or email, or by walking down and dropping off the form in person. This in itself is time consuming, and even more so should there be any human error, such as filling out the wrong form, forgetting pertinent information or attachments. Whew!  This can take days! 

 BPM Process Template

Now consider this same task using the Ultimus Adaptive BPM Suite:

  • The employee logs on to a portal, checks to see how many days they have available (they are limited to see only their information), and fills out an electronic form requesting the days off. (If they do not have the days available, they can't access a request form).

  • He/She submits the form which is automatically routed to their manager who then can approve it with a password protected electronic signature. If the manager does not approve the request, the request is automatically returned to the employee with the manager's explanation as to why.

  • Once the manager approves the request it is automatically routed to HR. HR's data base is automatically updated documenting and showing the days being used.

In addition to making this process quicker and more efficient the BPM Software provides complete visibility into the process so that the employee can check on the status of the vacation request at any time.  If he/she sees it is sitting in his manager's inbox, they can contact the manager and ask them to act on it. 

Moreover, time limits can be placed on tasks as well, so that if something is sitting waiting for approval and it goes more than the allotted time, alerts will be automatically sent to the receiver.  Tasks can be reassigned as well, so that if the manager is on vacation, he can designate someone to fill in for him so the process does not come to a grinding halt just because he is not there. 

Using BPM the overall process time can be reduced to minutes or hours, not days! And employees don't have to leave their desk and chase paper forms all over the office.  This scenario can be applied to any type of paper based or approval base process in your company.  As you see, this is not an enormous, extremely complex process, but the time and efficiency gains are enormous! 

Think of the time, cost savings and increased productivity your company would realize if you automated dozens of these back office, everyday processes! 


Relevant Articles:

Working Smarter: BPM and the Economic Crisis

BPM: Visibility Into Your Processes Helps You Control Your Costs

Think "Small" When Starting with BPM: Recipe for Immediate ROI

Process Automation- Think Outside the Box


Anthony Haberkorn
Inside Sales

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This post was written by MK Strupe