Should a Business Process Be Automated?

Business Process Automation

Very often, in order to improve their business, organisations invest a lot of time in analysing and mapping business processes. And, as a result, a collection of business process models is produced revealing, among other things, business areas for potential process automation.

But, should a process be automated?

Not every process has automation potential. In other words, before we decide to automate a process, we need to determine if the process brings higher value from automation

Here are some examples:

 Duplicated process – It is important to explore reasons for the duplication of a process. Is it duplicated due to lack of IT system integration, for example? Or, maybe, the process owners created some kind of workaround that actually improved their overall work. In this case, preserving the duplicated process might be more beneficial than removing it through automation.

 Redundant process – As illustrated in the example above, not all duplicated processes are redundant. On the other hand, in the example below, additional analysis is needed to establish whether a process is superfluous or not.

Let’s take an organisation that manages insurance claims and let’s presume that the following two processes have been mapped: First-level Claim Verification (Process 1) and Second-level Claim Verification (Process 2). Also, apart from their names, it has been confirmed that the only difference between those two processes is their owners: Junior Adviser and Senior Adviser, respectively.

In making a decision on whether the claim verification processes have automation potential, the following would need to be clarified:

  • Are any of those two processes redundant, considering that they differ only in who performs them? If so, which one?
  • If Process1 is redundant and removed, where and how will Junior Adviser be engaged after that?
  • Will the removal of any of the processes have an impact on other mapped processes? Etc.

Those additional findings would specify whether Process1 or Process2 should be automated or removed as a redundant process.

Paper-based work – The automation of this type of work is almost always taken into consideration when tending to reduce costs and increase performance. But, should every ‘paper’ (i.e. a set of activities required for managing the ‘paper’) be automated? Well, sometimes, a process might be more effective if performed manually.

In general…

Various parameters affect whether a process is fit for automation or not. One of these parameters could be an organizational climate. Simply, people might be comfortable with the current state of things. As an oppose to that, in another organisation, there could be a process with automation potential, but due to lack of assets and/or human resources, the automation of the process would be unfeasible (in this particular scenario, could it be said that the process has automation potential?! I wonder…)

Anyhow, if we want to say with certainty that a process could and/or should be automated, a broader perspective is required (benefit analysis, strengths/weaknesses, impact assessment and so on). Otherwise, we could end up with tons of specifications, workflows, and other documents suggesting ways of improvements, but not having tangible results.

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