Why process management is crucial for successful process automation

01 July 2024 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read
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In the ongoing pursuit of efficiency, businesses are increasingly turning to automation as means of improving processes, writes Chris Ellis, a leader at Nintex.

Key goals of automating processes include streamlining operations, freeing up valuable resources, and achieving greater productivity. However, many leaders are encountering a sobering reality: rushing into process automation projects without proper planning can lead to bottlenecks, amplify errors, and hinder progress.

The key to unlocking the true potential of automation lies not in the technology itself, but in a deep understanding of the underlying business processes.

Chris Ellis

Chris Ellis is Director Pre-Sales at Nintex, a provider of process automation software solutions

This is where process management emerges as the unsung hero of successful automation initiatives. It’s a structured approach that visually depicts the steps involved in a particular activity, from initiation to completion. This visualisation allows organisations to identify areas for improvement, eliminate redundancies, and optimise workflows before automation is even begun.

The perils automation without a map

Omitting process management in automation projects is akin to embarking on a long road trip without a map or GPS. You might reach your destination eventually, but the journey is likely to be riddled with detours, wasted time, and frustration.

Similarly, automating an inefficient process simply amplifies existing problems and creates a faster, more entrenched version of dysfunction. Potential pitfalls include:

  • Exacerbating inefficiencies: Automating a poorly defined process can lead to ingrained inefficiencies becoming permanent fixtures.
  • Wasted resources: Without a clear understanding of the process flow, automation tools might be implemented in a way that hinders integration with other business activities, which can create silos and waste resources.
  • Change fatigue: Ineffective automation can lead to constant changes and disruptions for employees. This creates frustration and resistance, which hinders adoption and undermines the intended benefits.

Process management in action

Process management delivers the essential roadmap for successful automation as it provides a clear visual representation of a range of elements.

Each distinct activity within the process is clearly defined, outlining the sequence and interdependencies, enabling users to identify unnecessary steps and opportunities for streamlining. A process map also highlights any points where a decision needs to be made and the potential outcomes of each choice, which helps ensure that automation rules are built with proper logic and account for various scenarios.

Mapping also helps with understanding how data flows through a process and this is crucial for integrating automation tools seamlessly. It prevents data bottlenecks and ensures the smooth transfer of information between various systems.

Combining process management and automation

By integrating process management with automation, businesses can unlock a powerful combination. The process map provides the blueprint, guiding the implementation of automation tools in a targeted and strategic way. This ensures that automation tackles the right problems and delivers real, measurable benefits.

To successfully combine these two elements, it’s important to go beyond technology. It’s crucial to consider the human element and how employees will adapt to the changes. A well-defined change management strategy is essential to address employee concerns, provide training, and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Process ownership is another critical factor. Assigning clear ownership for each mapped process ensures accountability and encourages continuous refinement. Process owners become champions for improvement, identifying areas where automation can enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

A process-centric approach

Process management serves as a springboard for a truly transformative approach to business. By focusing on optimising core processes, businesses can achieve greater agility, adaptability, and responsiveness in today's dynamic market environment.

This process-centric approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where automation becomes a tool for amplifying efficiency and innovation, not simply replacing human effort.

While automation holds immense potential for businesses, its success hinges on a deep understanding of the underlying processes and process mapping unlocks the true power of automation.

Process management provides the roadmap for streamlining workflows, eliminating inefficiencies, and ensuring that technology complements, rather than disrupts, existing operations. By embracing a process-centric approach, businesses can leverage automation strategically, achieving a future marked by increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and a sustainable competitive advantage.

It’s clear that successful business process automation hinges on a solid foundation: process management. It provides the clarity and understanding necessary to identify optimisation opportunities and ensures automation complements, rather than replaces, well-defined and efficient workflows.

By investing in process management, businesses can embark on a journey towards a more streamlined, efficient, and successful future. This approach empowers organisations to leverage the power of automation strategically, achieving increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and a more competitive edge.