Now that you’ve discovered your own processes and have a clear idea of processes that can benefit from automation, it is time to roll up your sleeves and get something tangible off the ground. In other words, it is time to automate your business. Answer these four questions and you’re off into the right direction.
1. Can you sketch an overall picture of your processes?
Many people don’t know much about company processes that extend beyond their own department. However, it is paramount to familiarize yourself with processes at the overarching organizational level. Only then, you will know who should do what at which time in a process.
Once you’ve acquired this information, you need to focus on the so-called happy flow: What do things look like when everything is going the way it should? Don’t focus on incidents that hardly ever occur. The effort and money spent on automating these incidents can cost you more than it saves.
Users are often happy with less and simpler options if it results in easier use of the system. Ask your stakeholders the question ‘how often does this occur’ and ‘how much time does it cost you to solve this by hand’, to really estimate the value of automating the step.
2. Why do people perform certain actions (and should you rethink these)?
If a process is carried out in a certain way ‘because that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ you might be holding on to an inefficient flow of actions. Try to track down and rethink such processes early on, because translating analogue or ineffective processes to digital versions is often a waste of time and money.
Sometimes, it is wise to eliminate certain steps or reverse the order in which things are done. A question like ‘Wouldn’t it be more efficient to do this much earlier in the process’ can be very helpful in optimizing the process. Be flexible in this regard, so you can truly benefit from automation.
3. What are your acceptance criteria?
What should the outcome of a process look like? As with the first question, it is important to leave out any details and focus on the big picture. Define a broad yet crisp-and-clear answer to this question to ensure that everyone involved understands the ultimate goal.
Of course, to achieve this, several smaller goals can be defined, for instance for each of the stakeholders.
4. Can you create a simple design to test it with stakeholders?
To explain your plan to all the stakeholders, break down your process into five to six steps (at most) and summarize it on a single page. At this point, however, you don’t know what your application will look like, so make simple, tangible sketches to add further details to the steps.
This will allow stakeholders and/or key users to visualize the process and ask for any clarifications right away. For example, ask why a form field or button is at a certain place or stage in the application blue print. Not only is this a great way to test the waters with them, you also involve them from the very start, ensuring that they’re on board.