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 It is ironic that this is a debate with some business leaders! IT, by its very nature and existence, is automation. However, without proper process, automation fails to hit the mark. Efficiency and time to market are the cornerstones of competition at a pure business level. Thus, automation is not simply a nice to have but a elemental component of business.

While Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are of keen importance, I believe fervently that allowing business processes to be developed without an eye on and interaction with automation is a tragedy. Does this mean that we automate the entire process up front? No. It means that we must look for portions which can be automated via existing processes. We must establish the KPIs while looking for opportunities for efficiency through automation. How often does the business develop KPIs that are meaningful in terms of automation? Rarely.

Continuous improvement is truly the message I would strongly foster in respect to process and automation thereof. We cannot afford to wait to automate after poor processes have been developed. Secondarily, we cannot afford to rush into setting automation and forget about it. Business process maturity is absolutely needed. The effects of developing a mature process without realizing the expense in resources are enormous however.  Subsequently, Business and IT alignment is paramount.

Inclusion of IT in the cycle of business is a necessity. IT and business alignment will never bare edible fruit unless IT is a part of the business cycle. Ideally, a proper process is developed with IT inclusion so that the automation thereof can be tracked (via KPIs) and valued in the customer experience.

The era of IT simply being given a mess to “automate” needs to end. With the demands upon IT (cost reduction, fewer resources, service increases, etc.), the business needs to respect IT as a business unit, not a dumping ground.  Therefore, Automation should be included from day 1 as a due diligence measure; however, it must always be reviewed over time for enhancement, not just in technology but in process as well as organizational fit.

Within the context of IT, we fail to show the significance of automation since often it is cost avoidance. Nonetheless, there are plenty of examples where automation has saved numerous millions of dollars. In these tough economic times, organizations continue to attempt to save money through lay-offs and cost cutting measures which, in turn, place more responsibility and work load on those remaining. This very point demands automation.

Our responsibility, as practitioners, is to make sure that the areas where we chose to employ automation are scrutinized immensely and tied specifically to business initiatives. Ultimately, serving customers is the greatest measure of success. Serving customers takes a back seat if we do not employ automation at some level to eliminate errors, shorten timeframes, and standardize environments.

One Response to “Business Process Automation: Efficient and Cost Effective?”

  • Your comments on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are well taken. I think it’s also important to remind our readers that KPIs are not the last word on metrics. They are important, but they are only one part of the metrics hierarchy.

    We also need to consider Key Result Areas (KRAs), Key Performance Targets (KPTs) and Vital Mission Activities (VMAs). I refer to these in my recent article on CIO Update. Feel free to have a look at that. Anyone that hasn’t seen the article yet can view it here.

    Great post. Thanks.

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