The marketplace for business process management automation is growing on a daily basis. The fieldBusiness Process Automation: Look Before You Leap is becoming more crowded with sophisticated options that provide users with a variety of configurations to streamline business processes and integrate with other systems.

Business leaders have moved away from asking, “Is it worth the time and investment to automate business processes?” Now, many companies have decided to make automation a key part of their operational growth strategy. The selection process itself can be overwhelming and requires in-depth research. Frequently, it is about more than just the solution and its technical capabilities. With so many moving parts, it is very easy to focus on performance outcomes instead of determining if the processes are even ready for automation.

Here are some specific steps to help you move forward with business process automation.

Perform your due diligence.

Look into how the process is currently being handled both internally and externally. You may find that there is a lack of standardization, the process changes frequently or that only portions of the process need to be automated.

If a process is not standardized, automating that process will prove to be a challenge. You will find that vendors need to know the details surrounding your business process and routine operations; so, having a process standardized with comprehensive documentation is vital.

Standardization and documentation also provide insight into areas where frequent changes in the process would occur. Knowing where changes occur in the process and their frequency are critical pieces of information to the design of the system that will support the process.

Automating a process from end-to-end is not always the solution. Having a clear and detailed view of the process allows you to determine if this is the best choice. It exposes the areas and decision points that, if automated, could make the entire process more time-consuming and complex than it really need to be.

Choose the process to be automated.

It is best to start small and choose processes that are already well defined – right down to the smallest detail.

Choosing too many processes to automate at once slows you down more often than it provides progress. Starting with well-defined processes allows you to select processes that are the right candidates for automation. This helps you avoid the common pitfalls of:

  • trying to automate processes that are flawed and not ready for automation,
  • are so complex that automation would add to your team’s workload rather than reducing it.

Define the process.

You may already know the start and the end points for the process, it’s the steps in the middle that may contain too many grey areas. This is where you should pull in the experts on the process – the people who work with it on a regular basis. They can help you by clearly defining every step in the process and provide a real-world view of the scope for the automation project.

Take a look at things live.

Now that you have worked to define the process, you need to see the process in action. This practical approach can lead to innovation. Are there steps that can be modified or removed? Is this the best way to get to that end point? Taking steps to improve on what is already in place before automation will result in a more successful solution.

Look to the future.

You’ve planned, evaluated, defined, streamlined, and reinvented. Taking these steps provides a starting point for your business process automation project and goes a very long way towards ensuring a successful implementation.