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Five Steps for Building a Winning Business Process Automation Practice

Today’s organizations want to become digital, leading-edge, and automated. This shift requires the adoption of new technologies to streamline existing business capabilities and enable new ones. However, the processes supporting these capabilities are not well documented, do not reflect how end users are executing them, and are burdened by wasteful activities and wait times. The throughput and quality costs caused by these inaccuracies and inefficiencies offset the gains from your modernization investments. Optimation can build the necessary toolbox for your process designers and automation specialists to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your business processes and better support your transformation endeavors.

What Is Optimation?

Process optimization and automation go hand in hand. We should be automating efficient and streamlined processes and tailoring them to best use the supporting technology. Optimation brings these two concepts together to:

  • Improve process efficiency by removing wasteful tasks and injecting value-added activities.
  • Increase process throughput and output quality with the right automation technologies.
  • Ensure strategic alignment of business operations and technology to the broader business and IT strategies amid changing business and IT environments.

Optimation requires a certain way of thinking, analyzing, and solutioning to better understand why an issue persists, its impact to value delivery, and what is the best way to resolve it. The fundamentals of optimation involve:

  • Putting the user front and center. We want to better understand the end user and their operational environment. Use cases, data models, and quality factors allow you to visualize the human-computer interactions from an end user’s perspective and initiate a discussion on how technology and process improvements can be better positioned to help your end users.
  • Building for the future. Optimation sets the technology foundations, process governance, and management building blocks in your organization. We must expect that more optimation will be done using earlier investments.
  • Managing it as part of your application portfolio. Optimations are add-ons to your application portfolio. Unmanaged optimations, like applications, will sprawl and reduce in value over time. A collaborative rationalization practice pinpoints where optimation is required and helps you identify which business inefficiencies should be optimated next.

These fundamentals can be significantly different from how business process improvements are traditionally performed. Rather than taking a risky big bang approach, Info-Tech recommends the thoughtful introduction of minimum viable automations (MVAs) into existing processes and technology with the goal of transforming processes into a seamless digital experience for all stakeholders

Follow These Steps to Optimate Your Business Processes

Step 1: Identify Your Optimation Opportunities

Look for optimation opportunities in your business transformation strategy, existing process and technology documentations, and stakeholder interviews. Prioritize these opportunities in a backlog and collaborate with stakeholders to narrow the vision and scope of your upcoming optimation implementation. Use Info-Tech’s Deliver on Your Digital Product Vision blueprint to develop your vision on how you see your optimation driving business value and to lay out a backlog of optimation opportunities.

Step 2: Define Your Optimation MVAs

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Bill Gates

Select an optimation opportunity from the top of your backlog. Learn, analyze, optimize, and redesign the business processes and the supporting system and data outlined in this opportunity. Process optimization involves process discovery and mining, waste and risk reduction, process standardization and flexibility, and solution architecture enhancements. See Info-Tech’s Create a Winning BPI Playbook blueprint for more information on business process analysis and improvement.

With an efficient process in hand, assess, select, and plan its automation. This requires a methodical approach to:

  • Understand the automation capabilities available in your current application portfolio and the various types of tools in the marketplace.
  • Conduct a fit assessment of the desired technologies.
  • Prepare for the solution’s implementation and ongoing management.

Unfortunately, process automation tools are not one-sized-fit-all (regardless of what many vendors advertise). So optimize your business processes again and tune your data, applications, and infrastructure to the specifications of your automation technology to capture its full benefits.

Break down your optimated process and solution into small units (i.e. stories) of valuable work. Then package several of these work items together to form your MVA. An MVA focuses on a single and small process use case that can be delivered within a short timeframe and is designed to satisfy a single group of users. Its purpose is to maximize learning and value and inform the development of a full-fledged optimation practice over time. Use Info-Tech’s Deliver on Your Digital Product Vision blueprint to help you create the optimation stories that will define your MVA.

Step 3: Define With the End in Mind

Optimation is not a one-and-done initiative. It’s a living body of practices and technologies that mature and grow with your software products and business functions. Set the right governance and management foundations using your MVA as a starting point and involve the right stakeholders to maintain buy-in. These building blocks provide the support to manage and facilitate business, operational, and technology changes; address conflicts among process and technology stakeholders; and adhere to quality standards while maintaining alignment with the holistic organizational strategy.

Use Info-Tech’s Optimize Your Application Architecture blueprint to guide the analysis and redesign of your application architecture to support long-term optimation growth, and use our Build a Rationalization Framework blueprint to verify and validate the value of your optimation solutions.

Step 4: Roadmap and Deliver Your Optimation MVAs

Implementing optimations without a plan is risky. Key steps and stakeholders can be omitted in your MVA and critical risks can be unaddressed, which can lead to underwhelming or short-lived solutions and a loss in stakeholder buy-in and funding. Create an optimation roadmap that balances the priorities of your MVAs with the development of your optimation foundations. Use Info-Tech’s Deliver on Your Digital Product Vision blueprint to prioritize your optimization initiatives and develop your roadmap.

Optimation delivery largely follows the principles, mindsets, standards, and frameworks of your software delivery lifecycle (SDLC). Application portfolio management, maintenance, quality assurance, and collaborative delivery (e.g. BizDevOps) are especially critical in optimation and should not be brushed aside. Your SDLC can be further stressed if your stakeholders are using low- and no-code capabilities to support business-managed and citizen-developed optimations. Review and modernize your solution delivery practice to address the many complexities of optimation delivery. Refer to Info-Tech’s Modernize Your SDLC blueprint to document and improve your SDLC practice.

Step 5: Monitor, Mature, and Evolve Your Optimations

Post-deployment feedback loops are important activities in your optimation practice. They help surface and debunk earlier assumptions; gauge the overall health, relevance, and value of your optimations; and glean opportunities for enhancements and new business and technology capabilities.

Optimation roadmap

Schedule recurring rationalization and roadmapping activities and continuously monitor your optimation solutions to verify and validate their alignment with stakeholder needs. Leverage Info-Tech’s Streamline Application Management blueprint to balance the maintenance and upkeep of your optimation solutions with new feature and capability initiatives.

Parting Thoughts

Optimation offers a new approach to improving employee productivity and business value delivery. This is done with cross-functional collaboration, the simultaneous optimization and automation of strategic business processes, and enhancements to supporting IT capabilities and technologies. Minimal viable automations (MVAs) limit the risks and uncertainties to corporate systems and business operations while providing a good starting point for a disciplined optimation practice. MVAs can only be successful if your business and IT teams are committed to organizational change and are led by passionate champions who will motivate change, coordinate work, and remove organizational blockers.

Want to Know More?

If you need to develop your business process automation practice, refer to the following Info-Tech blueprints for guidance:

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