Automating business processes makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to let a machine take over a repetitive, tiresome task, particularly if it could do so with speed and accuracy? While any number of business processes could benefit from automation, it makes sense to identify which processes, when automated, would offer the greatest return on the investment of effort.
Look for processes that everyone dislikes, or that cause major slowdowns in other work processes. Determine how your business would benefit if certain processes were automated. Would automation make work life easier solely for those who perform the processes, or would the business overall benefit? Once you successfully automate a process and realize the benefits, you can look for other processes to automate.
Brainstorming for Automation Ideas
Sometimes it’s obvious which process could benefit most from automation. Suppose your company has relied on paper timecards for years even though competitors use electronic forms for timekeeping. In this case, a small investment could pay off almost instantly and continue paying off long term.
If it’s not obvious where to start, however, brainstorming may be in order. There are a number of brainstorming techniques, and some of them may sound silly, but they can cause people to look at problems from different perspectives, and that can lead to novel and innovative ideas. For example, you could ask your brainstorming team how a superhero might improve productivity through automation. Or you could try “reverse brainstorming” where you ask your team how they would prevent the goal of automation, which can make you consider novel ways an “adversarial” automator might operate.
Ask Your Employees
One terrific way to determine which processes to automate is to simply ask your front line employees. They’re the ones who process expense reports or reserve vehicles in the transportation pool or ensure new employees complete all on-boarding procedures. You might even consider holding an employee contest for the best idea for automating a process. This can free up employees to think unconventionally or submit ideas they may not have felt comfortable submitting before. The people who use processes every day often have terrific insights on why these processes bog down and how they could be facilitated through automation.
A Single Automation Idea Can Be Transformative
The University of Tennessee at Martin needed a better way to issue student photo ID cards. The process they had been using involved students standing in lines multiple times after arriving at campus, and it was labor-intensive for the staff as well. Mike Abney, the Process Improvement Facilitator at the university, turned to PerfectForms to automate the student ID request form online.
With PerfectForms, students could go to a website when applying for orientation and upload an ID photo. Email reminders were sent to students who forgot to request IDs, and the result was a student ID process that was faster, didn’t involve standing in line, and provided students with their ready-made ID cards as soon as they arrived on campus for orientation. For the cost of a $360 full user license for a year, the school not only automated the student ID process, but automated 20 processes in only two weeks, with no programming required.
Automation Doesn’t Have to Be Costly and Disruptive
The automation of student IDs at UT Martin shows that automating business processes doesn’t have to be expensive or disruptive. In fact, it can be done with minimal disruption and prevent major headaches, saving everyone time and hassle. PerfectForms doesn’t require the user to know how to program, so nobody has to start an IT initiative and add to the already heavy demands on most IT departments. Automating common business processes like expense reporting, employee on-boarding, yearly performance reviews, or requests for supplies and equipment makes them faster and more accurate than using paper forms, is friendlier to the environment, saves on storage space, and automatically creates an audit trail.
Talk to your front line employees about what tasks they would like to automate, and you could come away with ideas that can save significant time and resources over your current solutions. With PerfectForms, you have the power and flexibility to create electronic forms that look just like your paper forms and link them into efficient workflows that put an end to misplaced papers and automatically alert form recipients when their attention is needed. If you would like to know more about PerfectForms, check out our demo or contact us at any time. We would love the opportunity to answer your questions about automating business processes.