Automate, Don't Wait, on Business Process Improvement

by Taylor Leighton on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 @ 04:47 PM

There are many compelling reasons why automating processes is important. Sure, improving processes before automation is always important, but it doesn’t avoid all the pitfalls of paper based processes.

Let’s evaluate a single process, Expense Reimbursement - a simple process to illustrate how automation can save you big bucks.

process automation steps

You may think, this is simple… it should only take three or four days, correct? What can go wrong with it?

Below are ten examples of the typical impediments and the delay that each one can potentially generate:

1.       Employee forgot to add one of the receipts – 4 hours

2.       Someone along the process can’t understand the cursive writing of an employee – 4 hours

3.        The postage truck delivering the paperwork from the employee’s location to the manager’s location delivers it
           to the wrong place – 5 days

4.       The manager contracts the flu and cannot complete the paperwork that is sitting on his desk - 3 days

5.       The finance reviewer fails to see that the bank account number for the employee is missing from the
          reimbursement sheet – 1 day

6.       Finance is closing the month and can’t get to it till next week – 7 days

7.       Paperwork gets lost and an employee has to resubmit – 10 days

8.       Money wire doesn’t go through and the bank fails to notify the finance clerk – 5 days

9.       The employee changed banks and forgot that the reimbursement process was in transit – 10 days

10.     Someone in Finance, tired from burning the midnight oil the previous week, spills coffee in the paperwork and
          makes some of it unreadable – 1 day

I guess by now you get the point. If you add all those potential delays above, that is a whopping 42 days plus! A paper based process that should take 4 days could potentially take over a month due to inefficiencies inherent to being paper based.

Now let’s look at the same process after being automated:

process after automation

How would automation deal with each one of the issues listed above?

1.       By using process attachments, the employee can be prevented from submitting the process form until all required receipts are attached.

2.       It’s an electronic form with automatic calculations, but if there is a typo, anyone along the process can return the form to the employee (who would be automatically notified of a new task by e-mail).

3.       No trucks anymore, it’s automatic so processes can move from person to person, ignoring geographical barriers.

4.       The manager can still get sick but if the task goes late, it can be automatically re-routed to someone else within the finance department.

5.       Electronic forms can have intelligence built in, even checking if an account number is actually valid. It can also be automatically retrieved from the finance or ERP system

6.       No loss of paperwork to do…no paper.

7.       Approving electronic forms is much easier because one can do it through a mobile phone. Remember that after automating there is no more “deciphering hieroglyphs” along the way.

8.       The money wiring is now an automated electronic transfer. If something goes wrong the finance clerk can be notified.

9.       Again the money transfer will fail. The finance clerk is notified that the account doesn’t exist and may even call the employee to sort this out. But, now everyone has visibility as to where the process is.

10.   Lastly, nothing prevents the finance clerk from spilling coffee in their keyboard. In which case they may complete the task from someone else’s workstation or their own mobile phone.


These are just 10 compelling reasons why you should not wait to automate your process.


Relevant Links:

Completely Automated

Workflow Automation - Remembering Where BPM Came From

Don't Just Consider Complex and Complicated Processes for Automation


David Almeida

Director, North America Product Management


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This post was written by Taylor Leighton