Staff are encouraged to review workflows and identify roadblocks while managers are continually hunting for ways in which processes can be streamlined. Productivity is the name of the game.
As a result of these pressures, there is growing interest in the field of process automation. Businesses are realising that applying technology to existing processes can reduce staff workloads and speed up everything from customer order processing and billing to, inventory and IT management.
Aligning changes to strategy
The initial step in a process automation project is to identify and align planned changes with the overall strategy and vision of the business. This will give credibility to why the changes are needed and the value they will deliver. It will also ensure staff understand what is being undertaken and why.
Interestingly, statistics from Gartner show that between 15% and 20% of the budget for a process automation project should be allocated to supporting the people and managing change. Also, this investment can be worth 50% of the overall achieved value as it helps to avoid things such as lack of adoption and budget overruns.
Another way to ensure changes are accurately aligned with overall business strategy is to appoint champions from among staff members. Often, the implementation of a change management team works best which involves drawing people from across the business to ensure all departments and groups are represented.
Cover the entire process
There can be risks to a process automation project if one or more parts of a process are missed. While unexpected items often do come up, it’s important to be able to handle them as soon as possible.
For this reason, project champions should continuously collaborate as a group to represent all stakeholders. Their feedback and ability to react is vital to ensure that, if things are missed, it can be rectified as quickly as possible.
It’s also important to encourage feedback from all staff. This could be achieved by holding regular ‘town hall’ meetings where updates on progress can be communicated and reactions and comments sought.
Another option is to create an intranet portal through which updates can be distributed and staff feedback gathered. This will help everyone to feel connected to the change process and optimistic about the results.
Even when considerable project planning and company-wide communication is undertaken, there still may be some staff who resist the changes. They might be set in their ways and see no need for alterations, or fearful that their role might be changed or disappear altogether.
While it’s best to try to eliminate resistance before it even happens, sometimes additional work will be needed to get these individuals on board. Champions can spend extra time with them and clearly explain what the changes will mean for them.
If further support is required, consider creating an issue resolution mechanism. This will be a pre-prepared method of identifying challenges as they come up and resolving them before they cause disruption and discontentment among staff.
Another tactic that helps to keep everyone on the same page is to keep a finger on the pulse through regular staff surveys. These can take the form of a traditional question-and-answer survey that is used at strategic points in the change process.
Also, there can be quick, smaller surveys issued at update events or during team-building activities, or they could occur during regular champion coffee talks with individuals. The objective is to always have feedback coming in through multiple channels.
Keen an eye on the future
Once the mechanics of the process automation project have been completed, it’s then time to focus on the benefits it is delivering to the business, to staff, and to clients. Once these are becoming clear, any lingering resistance to the changes is likely to disappear.
At this point it’s time to focus on what is now possible thanks to the improved processes Include all staff in discussions about planned changes in business direction and growth opportunities. Explain their role in this strategic road map and what the months and years ahead will hold.
Process automation is more than just the application of technology to processes. It’s a way of preparing a business for the future.