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Are you struggling to automate? Try standardization instead.

Many of the clients with whom I work have identified that process Digitization and Automation are critical to their ability to survive, let alone grow. And as such they invest. They hire teams of automation experts. They train their teams to be citizen developers. They buy automation tools. And nothing happens.  

The problem here is that this approach gives the organization everything they need to use technology to solve process problems but fails to help the organization identify the process problems in the first instance.  

When we talk about problem solving, we talk about a four-step approach:  

 

 

The approach of providing people with the tools and training needed to automate is essentially jumping straight to stage 3, developing and implementing a solution. Jumping straight to phase 3 will result in one of three outcomes:  

  1. Nothing. The business doesn’t identify process problems, so they have no use for the automation tools and techniques that are provided to them.  
  2. The production of Automated Waste. The business automates a process because they identify an ability to automate a process. Without performing a root cause analysis or optimising the process first, they end up simply automating the production of waste.  
  3. Success! Without going through the motions, the business may stumble on the right solution to the right problem. It is unlikely and unpredictable, but it can happen.

So, what can you do to increase the impact of your automation efforts? My recommendation is to accept that you can’t jump straight to automation, rather you need to start with process management. First up is to document your as-is process, stabilize it by eliminating variation, and then standardise.  

In performing this act of understanding how work is done today, your team will be guaranteed to identify problems which will lead to producing ways to incorporate technology into their processes. While this approach will take your team longer to get to the stage of automation, they are almost guaranteed to identify more use cases for automation and, importantly, will end up creating solutions that deliver results.  

For more information on how to achieve standardisation see my earlier blog Process Standardisation and Stabilisation.  

Please do reach out if you would like to discuss this in any way. 

Ishan Sellahewa 

ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com 

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