5 process re-design tips BEFORE YOU AUTOMATE. Automation + Lean Thinking
Does your automation team streamline a process first, or do you automate the current process, as it is? If so, this can be very wasteful, and your team could be missing a trick.
Before you implement technology like robotic process automation, by re-designing processes first you can remove a lot of the inherent inefficiencies and forms of waste within your business and teams. Automating a streamlined and optimized process can give you a lot more bang for your buck and much higher returns on your investments.
Automating an optimised process will make your automation delivery a lot faster and potentially cheaper to build as an optimised process may require less automation effort, so you will be able to do more with your existing automation licences. Lean thinking and intelligent automation is the ultimate power couple in digital transformation, and can really accelerate the rollout of your program.
A pitch for Lean thinking
if you’re involved in automation, it would be advisable to get upskilled in lean thinking. A a lean six sigma black belt, I’ve seen the massive benefits that lean thinking can bring to the table when automating a business’s processes. Some companies have their process improvement teams and automation teams separate (why, oh why do we love to create silos). A multi-skilled teams is more versatile and team members can easily share ideas and knowledge to co-create better solutions.
#1 Reduce process
To improve the efficiency of a process you may need to reduce the scope of what that process does. Perhaps you offer too much variety in your services (like an application provide those custom builds for each client and essentially just becomes a development company, instead of providing a standard application, which is much easier to scale to more customers). You need to shrink that down and focus on your more profitable processes.
By reducing the process to cater for just a handful of products or services teams can focus on providing better quality, rather than spreading themselves to thin. You’ve probably heard of the 80 20 rule, if not, it’s crazy to think that 80 percent of your team’s time is spent on 20 percentage of the processes that they do, and 80 percent of your business’s profits are from 20 of customers.
This is reflected in the McDonald’s story. They removed all products from their menu apart from fries, burgers and soft drinks as these created the majority of their profits. Which this focus they were able to scale across the US and then worldwide.
A more granular approach would be to reduce paperwork and your carbon footprint, reduce areas of overproduction. Paperwork piling high or virtual documents in folders of folders of folders using up a lot of storage space.
#2 Remove steps
As the world is changing fast and technology is changing even faster, many processes will undoubtedly have redundant steps. New versions of applications and new technologies could deem certain steps and activities pointless and unnecessary. Maybe your team doesn’t need to print the documents anymore to be signed and put it in the storage cabinet because you now use Signatures and store documents securely online. Perhaps an application upgrade now allows for APIs, so data can automatically move from one application to the next removing the need for teams to copy-and-paste information.
An example of this was at a client’s sites. There were two teams that basically did the same thing, apart from the fact that each team serviced a different type of customer. They were a few hundred miles apart, but one team was working twice as fast as the other. After investigating, we discovered that one team was doing half the steps the other team were doing, as someone on the team had worked out a better way to use the new system. By aligning the two teams and standardize the process, doing nothing but removing those redundant steps, this saved hours.
Before automating a process “As Is”, are there any analogue steps in this process? Any steps that would become redundant from the use of new technology (e.g., using an API rather than copy and pasting data)?
#3 Replace steps
Like removing steps, the introduction of new technology can require replacing steps instead bringing new ways to doing things. A task like scanning a paper form from a customer can now become digitizing than form as a PDF or a web form. Customer calls or emails can be replaced with chat bots.
Most manually intensive tasks have some elements which can be replaced with an automated approach.
#4 Re-order steps
Sometimes it’s the sequence of the steps that can make a process that can hinder the flow, and just reordering the steps in a process could save a lot of time. Imagine if two teams were working on a process, and the process flow went back and forth multiple times between people within teams A and B. It might be possible to reorder the steps so that everyone in Team A could complete their tasks, before they are handing the process over to the people in Team B to complete. This new approach would reduce the number of handoffs between teams.
#5 Redeploy steps
Redeploying steps is to tasks or activities out of the process for another person or team to handle. They may be situations in your organisation where teams are doing a task they are outside their skillset that should be done by someone else, who can do it faster, more accurately and have the skills to go through that process a lot more efficiently. These things can happen when teams are re-structured, or when there’s been a brain drain.
Are there any teams in your organisation doing things that they’re not really equipped for, or are outside their expertise? It may be cheaper and more efficient if these tasks were outsourced.
On the flipside, perhaps bringing tasks in-house would provide you more control of a process, so that you could streamline and automate it. For example, a client had partners printing and posting out hundreds of documents to customers, that needed to be signed. By bringing that process in-house and then digitizing the documents, using automation and optical character recognition (OCR) software, we were able to create a much smoother, faster process flow which saved on the time spent on this process, plus we saved on third partner fees.
Automating processes which have first been automated, saves on automation effect so that you can get more from your automation technologies, and a high return on investment.
Are you automating lean and streamlined processes by redesigning and optimizing them first, removing waste and inefficiencies in the underlying process? Are you working closely with the process experts to co-design better process flows?
Eradicating all inefficiencies to zero is high improbable, but identify the inefficiencies and continuous improvement, will allow your team to circle back as new tech emerge.
They say that it’s impossible to improve on Speed, Cost and Quality, but it’s that exactly what technology offers …when coupled with lean thinking?
If you want to learn more about Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified). I release weekly videos to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.
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