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12 Questions to Ask Before Automating Processes

26 September 2016

A more recent version of this blog is available here.

Today’s connected workplace means there are now many opportunities for better organisational performance and management. But what must companies consider before they embark on a journey to digitise / automate / optimise their workflows and processes?


Process automation anyone? 

Why automate processes?

Process Automation is digitisation of any manual process in a way that centralises and compiles information within an organisation. That could mean anything from the implimentation of a simple electronic filing system to streamlining all workflows in a department. Process Automation is used in order to:

  • Minimise the risk of human error along with it's associated costs and inefficiencies.
  • Dramatically speed up the completion of your processes so you can re-focus man hours on other tasks.
  • Track, monitor and report on your documents and processes.
  • Enforce accountability and establish a clear approval hierarchy.
  • Enhance governance, compliance and reliability.
  • Facilitate communication in your business process.
  • Be pro-active rather than re-active.

These benefits can be achieved in any department of your organisation including HR, Contracts, Mailroom, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable - and usually result in a significant cost reduction. For example, it could mean finding a way to strip out manual processes such as data entry, which will accelerate their work, delivering immediate financial returns and productivity gains across the broader finance function.

A study by Aberdeen Research found the typical Accounts Payable worker is able to process just 20 invoices in a day, whereas the leaders in this area were processing invoices four times faster than the laggards. Process Automation can also mean a reduction in costs of up to 90% according to management consulting company McKinsey .

What processes are the most manual/time intensive?

Save time with process automationEvery organisation is different and has a range of processes specific to their culture. Analysing company-wide printing trends and volumes by department is a great place to start figuring out what's most inefficient - more often than not, companies striving to improve organisational performance management will identify an over-reliance on paper-heavy processes.

Save money with process automationFor example, if the Accounts Payable team tends to print 60% more on a particular day or week each month, this could suggest that they are using paper-based processes to do an invoice payment run which could be potentially automated. The same could apply to departments such as Accounts Receivable, HR, Contracts, Mailroom, and others.

Deploy software to look for paper-heavy processes
Your MPS provider should be able to deploy software that helps you uncover paper heavy processes by interrogating the big data from your printing fleet, in order to pin down inefficient internal processes. Once you have completed this step, you need to get into the detail of that specific process in order to achieve a clear understanding of the tangible and intangible benefits of automating it.

I have identified my inefficient processes, now what?

Answers to the questions below will assist you and/or your provider in calculating the time and money that could be saved through process automation

to guide you and/or your provider to make a business case for Process Automation and .

  1. What type of documents do you process? For example, they could be invoices, proposals, time sheets, forms.
  2. How do you currently store these documents? For example, it could be in filing cabinets, storage boxes, or electronic formats.
  3. How many documents, both paper and digital, do you process? Per day/month/year.
  4. In what format do you create or receive the documents?  For example, they could be PDF, email, word files, post, paper.
  5. How are they being distributed, both inside or outside the business? For example, by email, website, fax or post. And how many people require access to these documents? In total and at any one time.
  6. What systems do you have in place at the moment? In terms of workflows, methods, equipment and computer programs.
  7. Do you manually input significant amounts of data into these systems? How many hours does it take and how many people do it?
  8. What level of automation would be acceptable when replacing the process? Bear in mind a fully automated process with no human interaction might cost more than a semi-automated solution.
  9. Are there any special requirements for this process? For example, they could include audit control, access control, regulatory and time constraints.
  10. How many people are involved in the process at the moment? Automating operations like data input could allow people to do other, more business-critical things.
  11. How do you manage or view this process currently? For example, management information or pre-prepared reports. And how long does it take to prepare and view it? It could be “live” or "historic" data.
  12. Do you get all the Management information that you would want? Specific information might help productivity or efficiency.

Implementing the digital transformation

If you follow the world of motor racing, you will know how big data is used to make performance enhancements leading to competitive advantage - the optimisations may often be subtle, but as the winning F1 team at Mercedes Benz would tell you, the results are not.  

Here at Xenith, we use the same strategy in combination with market leading business intelligence tools to uncover inefficient processes. We can then quantify the time and money to be saved by automating these processes, in order to give your organisation an idea of the tangible results of the project.

We can then optimise your business processes, start on the road to digital transformation and deliver results for your organisation.

There is no cost attached to the initial steps of the process, so get in touch with us now to explore the different ways in which you can save time and money for your organisation.

 

Takeaways:

  1. Process Automation can mean a reduction in costs of up to 90% along with other benefits like visibility, control, agility, compliance and speed.
  2. Analysing company-wide printing trends and volumes by department is a great place to start identifying paper-heavy or inefficient tasks - MPS Providers can deploy software to analyse your big data accomplish this.
  3. Take a deep dive into the identified inefficient process in order to quantify time and money that can be saved by digitising and automating the process.
  4. Regardless of whether you are currently in a contract, a good MPS provider will be able to help you with the process while maximising the RoI of your existing infrastructure.

Keep an eye out for the next article in this series - we will showcase the digital options that allow companies to improve processes once the initial analysis mentioned above has been conducted.

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Still not sure where to start?

Xenith can help identify processes that are right for automation and help you get started with the process!

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