Process Automation, in all its current embodiments and buzzwords (RPA, BPA, Document Understanding, Process Engineering, Hyperautomation,…), is clearly a critical issue on the minds of most business leaders. The marketing hype remains intensely positive. It is also true that many larger companies have internal efforts underway to utilize the technology set and seem generally positive in their feedback. They are finding it very useful for all the obvious reasons: streamlined processes that lead to less labor, better output quality, and better operational data, among other benefits.
But what about mid-sized companies? How do leaders at these companies start to partake of the benefits of process automation without betting the company reserves? Often there are just too many barriers that stand in the way of them getting started or, more importantly, getting the significant benefits that process automation can offer. This paper offers my perspective on how mid-sized companies can start the process automation track efficiently to quickly begin gaining the benefits it provides.
Following is a list of nine critical questions on process automation with my corresponding answers. My solutions involve engaging Macrosoft in your pursuit of process automation, but honestly, you can always substitute any other highly skilled process automation service provider.
- How does my company get started with process automation?
Short answer – call us! Longer answer – after we come into the picture, we work together on three initial steps and create three documents for leadership consideration:
- Identify the best (probably most cluttered process) area of your business to highlight process automation’s benefits.
- Select the process automation enabling tech to use. We are a Microsoft Gold Partner (and have been for over 15 years). We strongly believe MS Power Automate is the best and most straightforward orchestration option for implementing process automation today, and even more so in the future.
- Construct a short business case documenting benefits and costs thru the initial showcase application with a view of expansion beyond that.
We will do most of this initial work with your team at a minimal investment. And remember, we have Microsoft resources behind us, so they may be able to support some of the research work to get things started for your company.
- Why should we use MS Power Automate rather than some of the other high visible vendors in the marketplace: UI Path; Automation Anywhere; Blue Prism?
In all the top rating services (Gartner, Forrester,…), MS Process Automate is not only highly-rated today it is also moving up. It can work well in most use cases for a mid-sized company, I suggest using MS Power Automate as things simple to implement and support.
Among other considerations: other tools are much more expensive; they require specialized trained resources to run them, and these top vendors are focused on large-cap companies at the higher end of the market (top financial or insurance companies, for example).
- What can I do as my company absolutely does not have any resources available to work with your team?
If no one at all is available, that is a showstopper. But perhaps look at it this way – you currently have people working and managing the current processes. We can team up with them with minimal impact on their time. We will be saving a lot of company time and resources once the application automation is implemented.
Our team’s job is to ask all the right questions uncovering the information needed from your existing personnel and business process documentation. We are willing and excited to make this work for your company.
We expect the calendar time required to complete the items in Question #1 is less than a month. We will assign a tech lead to the project, and it would certainly be good to have a single point of contact in your firm. At the end of this diagnostic, your firm will have enough data and information to inform the leadership team of the benefits and costs of a showcase implementation of process automation in your company.
- What can I do since my firm’s internal systems are homegrown, and much of the data needed for automation is unavailable?
This is where my team comes into play. If you have a collection of Python, Bash, Shell, or Perl scripts that work together in a somewhat ad-hoc way and it requires your teams to monitor the process, input, and output data to keep things moving, that is, in fact, a perfect case for process automation.
Process automation brings together all these separate process elements into a single framework. This provides your team the ability to orchestrate everything from a single dashboard, automate all the data inputs as much as possible, and provide a clear and well-structured framework for making and understanding further changes in process code.
In the showcase application, we will build with you. We will identify one of the more chaotic parts of your business and convert it into a well-run, well-understood process flow. Imagine the benefits of that!
- We don’t have the data stores and clean enough data to implement process automation?
The data does not need to be perfect to get things started. Keep in mind, as process elements are moved under the orchestration framework of MS Power Automate, the data flows and stores will automatically begin to improve. One of our main objectives in implementing process automation is to ensure the process data flows and stores move to ever-better degrees of precision and accuracy. That gives process owners a clear view of how things are going and how best to automate other processes.
One of the critical hallmarks of Macrosoft is our data skills; from the very beginning, we have known how to work with spotty data and improve data quality.
- How long will the implementation of the showcase application take?
In most cases, this will take three months or less from the time the process is initiated. Before we start, we need to have the following documents signed with your company: NDA, MSA, and a Business Case, including a detailed description of the showcase application scope.
It is critical that your firm’s leadership team has a clear idea of what we will do and what they can expect to happen once the process automation system is in place. While we firmly believe process automation to be highly beneficial to most mid-sized companies and is undoubtedly their path to the future, it is not magic, and we can’t put unrealistic goals in place.
Once the business case is set and agreed to, only changes agreed to by both sides will be made to it.
- How big is a team assigned to the showcase project?
On our side, for an average-sized showcase project, we will assign a US project and ~2 technical team members out of one of our international offices. Our team members are highly skilled in process automation implementations using the MS Power Automate framework. Members of the team are data experts, ensuring that we know and monitor the quality of the data going into the system and ensuring that your team has confidence in the system’s outputs once it is built and running.
On your side, we would much prefer a single point of contact to ensure we can get questions addressed in a timely fashion and keep your business process people informed of how things will change (for the better) in the new system. Also, we prefer regular meetings with the technical and management teams to review progress and overcome any bottlenecks that may arise.
Finally, we need timely access to your business teams running the application to be automated. We always minimize this precious time. Our experience suggests that the business teams we work with gain a functional perspective on the processes they are working on, the time spent on each activity, and how those things improve under the automation project.
Overall, the way we do things, you will find the project will not be an undue burden on your team. Our firm belief is soon enough that, your leadership team and the business teams will see this is the way to the future and put their strong support behind this effort.
- What happens after the showcase application is up and running?
After the implementation of the showcase, there will be several choices your company can make. In mapping out these options, I assume and fully expect the showcase project will be successful and will have achieved the positive objectives we laid out in the original business case. So, there will be no consideration of closing the showcase application.
- Transition the showcase application entirely to your team and hold off on further automation efforts. The showcase application is running, but no additional automation requires in the near term, perhaps until the next fiscal year. This sometimes is an understandable option but not one that gets your company on a solid automation track.
- Transition the showcase application to your team but have Macrosoft work with new business teams in your company on additional automation projects. A typical goal in this scenario is to get six automation applications up and running within the first year of working together. At the end of that year, the benefits of automation will be fully apparent to leadership and many of the company’s business teams. Your company will be well on its way to a fully automated, digital future.
- The third option is a variant of the second, where Macrosoft continues to operate the application’s automation we build together for a specified extended period to allow your business teams to take on a lot of new work and clients. Remember, all of this operations work will be done out of our international offices at a beneficial price point, and the people assigned are both experts at MS Power Automate and will be knowledgeable about the data and processes within your company.
- Will implementing process automation will be too expensive for my company, even just a showcase application?
For sure, all the automation projects we work with will have positive paybacks within one year or less. That will undoubtedly be true for the showcase application we build first. So, on a strict dollar basis, they will pay for themselves quickly and be among the best and most profitable projects your company can undertake. That is precisely what we will show in the documents we create at the start of the showcase project, and the actual implementation will live up to those objectives. And please remember that will our hybrid working model withUS PM plus international developers, gives you the best of both worlds in terms of investment.
Beyond the dollar view, there are many other benefits to your employees and the quality of the products and services you provide to your customers. In a separate byline, I will outline what I see as the most important of these benefits for your company. And in the final analysis, there is not much choice for your company. Process automation of this type is critical and essential for your firm not to be left behind.
Regarding the initial cost of us making the showcase application together, you will find our price to be more than reasonable. By itself, we don’t expect to make much on that initial effort, given all our need to gain knowledge of your company’s processes and data sources. We aim to win your company over to a full-blown automation initiative that utilizes MS Power Automate throughout your company to great advantage.
By G.N. Shah | July 12th, 2022 | Process Automation