So, you’ve identified some processes you think are good candidates for automation…
(If you haven’t, then refer to this article in which I describe the process for identifying tasks that make good candidates for automation.)
The next step, to further help set yourself up for success, is to make sure you have all of your stakeholders bought into the idea – before you begin work.
For this, you’ll want to do three things:
Define the business problem you’re planning to solve.
Identify your stakeholders.
Convey the business value of your proposal in terms your stakeholders will understand and benefit from.
While the number of stakeholders will vary, the process is the same. So, let’s begin by imagining a small organization that faces a common challenge: managing employee timesheets.
Define the business problem you’re planning to solve
For this scenario, let’s say that our organization has 20 employees who complete paper timesheets and hand them in to an office manager each week.
The office manager then has to manually enter those 20 timesheets into a time management/billing system.
In this case, the business problem probably looks something like this:
Our office manager spends 5 hours each week performing manual data entry for employee timesheets. This time costs us $xxx while introducing the potential for human error, which can further impact the cost by affecting the amounts we bill our customers and triggering the need for invoice reconciliation.
Identify your stakeholders
Now, you’ll want to identify your stakeholders so you can get their buy-in before you start any work.
When identifying stakeholders, consider these groups of people:
Business owners and/or managers who are ultimately responsible for the process.
Team members who currently manage the process on a daily basis.
Those who put something into the process.
Anyone who gets something out of the process.
Those who will do the work of automating the process.
For our simple timesheet example, let’s say that our stakeholders include:
The business owner who’s ultimately responsible, and who gets reports out of the process.
The office manager who manages the process daily.
The employees who put data into the process.
The team member(s) who will develop the automation.
Convey the business value of the proposed automation
Your various stakeholders will benefit from process automation in different ways. It’s important to solicit any concerns they have up front, and convey the business value in terms that will benefit them.
For our simple timesheet scenario, let’s consider how our example – with the proper buy-in – will benefit all those involved.
The business owner will receive more accurate billing and payroll, reduce time-related costs, and free employees to do more valuable tasks.
The office manager will save time, and reduce risks related to human error.
The employees will enjoy faster, easier and more accurate time entry.
The “IT person” will know the project has appropriate buy-in and value.
Be sure to consider – and even inquire about – any potential risks your stakeholders may see in automating the process.
While you’re getting buy-in on the benefits of your proposal, be sure to also consider – and even inquire about – any potential risks your stakeholders may see in automating the process. These could include:
Will automating this process undermine any other processes (such as reviews and approvals)?
Will the new, automated process disrupt anyone’s workflow?
Will the development process interrupt people’s day-to-day work processes?
Are the costs of automation likely to exceed the costs of the current manual process?
During these conversations, capture any concerns to help ensure you can address them with your proposed solution. Also capture any quantifiable goals that will enable you to measure your success later.
This will give you an agreed-upon definition of when work is completed and help shape any future refinements in these processes.
Once you have buy-in from your stakeholders, you can begin outlining the process you’re going to automate. But, that’s another article.
Jamie is co-founder of Cognito Forms, an online form builder for organizations seeking to quickly and easily connect with their customers. In his free time, Jamie loves spending time with his wonderful wife and kids, training for triathlons, camping with boy scouts, singing in the choir, and trying out the latest gadgets.