Automating your business processes is an excellent way to increase workflow efficiency. It can help your company streamline its communication, enforce accountability, and reduce its overall costs.
A common misconception is that only large corporations are able to automate their business processes. This simply isn’t true. Organizations of all sizes are able to automate their business processes with a little work, guidance, and by choosing the right technology.
Here are 3 steps to move you closer to business process automation:
1. Break Down and Document the Current Process
Your organization’s business processes are a combination of various other processes that are being carried out by individuals and departments within the organization. To start, you’ll want to first define and outline these processes and then document them. These include things such as your accounts payable, contract management, and HR onboarding processes.
While analyzing these processes, you’ll want to answer the following questions:
- How do documents and information enter into our organization?
- Who receives, analyzes, acts on, and approves these documents?
- What department handles these steps and which documents are they in charge of?
- Where are documents stored for retention and later archived?
- Why is our system currently set-up this way?
Quite often you’ll discover that processes you expect to be separate from each other will be interconnected and share a handful of steps.
Be sure to document the steps that are absolutely necessary to each process, which are helpful to have, which are completely unnecessary (remember that if eliminating a step from the process breaks it, then it’s probably necessary), the individuals that need to be part of the process, and what the purpose of the process is.
Having a document management strategy in place is helpful when analyzing your business processes as it saves you from the additional work of needing to determine which type of documents are being handle by each department and will state how documents are to be stored. If you don’t have one in place, you can find out how to set one up here: Creating a Document Management Strategy
2. Eliminate Inefficiencies
Now that you’ve gone through your organization’s business processes, it’s time to clean them up.
First, remove all the steps you’ve identified as being unnecessary. Next, be sure to eliminate any processes that add no beneficial value to your organization. These can be processes that are now being carried out by a separate process more effectively or remnants of a process used to address needs your organization no longer has.
You’ll then want to begin moving individuals into the process as needed - this mainly applies to those who must be a part of the process for it to function properly.
Finally, remove all overlapping and duplicate tasks. As is the case with any organization – small, large or anywhere in between – communication lapses between departments can result in employees inadvertently reviewing duplicate items or skipping over points they assume were completed.
A detailed business process helps you avoid these errors by monitoring the work done, and the work yet to be completed, with a visual pipeline for employees to access.
The analysis and documentation completed in step 1 should make this easier as you’re now able to view documentation from the beginning of the process. Look at the process as a series of footprints you follow to retrace your steps. This strategy may feel like more work initially, but it saves countless hours and increases productivity and revenue down the road.
3. Choose a Document and Process Management System
Business process automation hinges on having the right management system for your organization. This technology will enable your organization to eliminate repetitive manual tasks associated with routine business processes, freeing up staff for higher value activities. You’ll be able to create and automate business processes that coordinate between people, applications, and services.
You’ll want to look for a system that allows you to route, review and approve documents, eliminate bottlenecks, and has point and clink business rule definition. You can learn more about that here: Workflow Automation and Business Process Management
The best document and process management systems allow you to easily automate your business processes without needing to purchase and install additional servers or software - which is great for organizations who have dated hardware and software or those who have never had it before. It minimizes IT responsibility and offers a great ROI.