Simplify processes before automation to reduce cost

Simplify processes before automation to reduce cost

Summary: Organizations looking to automate their business processes should first attempt to reduce and simplify these processes, so the overall cost of automation can be lower.


Reduce or simplify processes before you automate them, and this will help lower the overall cost.

Biz process

When more customer complaints appear in public forums and staff get frazzled, your company decides it is time to automate processes. The fastest way to do this is to convert all forms into soft copies, keeping everything else status quo. 

Nobody wants to volunteer to do the tedious process of re-engineering, and it is too expensive to hire consultants to do so. The thick documentation outlining tender specifications for a shiny new automation system is rushed out over a few weekends, and the project takes years to roll out. And before it is completed, something breaks again and the cycle repeats. Does this sound familiar?

Reviewing processes continuously may incur more man-hours but can potentially save more man-hours in the longer term. Ask yourself if a process can be cut? Some processes are still around for legacy reasons. If no one in the company knows the rationale for their existence, eliminate them temporarily and assess the impact. If no one notices, then they may actually be obsolete.

Ask yourself if roles in the process are still relevant? If you document processes in a swim-lane format, it will be clear whether these roles are still relevant and whether the actions to-and-from the role are useful. Is the approval process by the boss in place simply to delegate responsibility to him or for him to audit the submitted work before it makes a wider impact on other systems?

Can a step in a process be cut? What is the objective of this step? Is there an easier route to meet the same objective? There is no need to spend ICT resources to automate, say, 10 steps, if only 7 steps are necessary in the first place.

Singapore recently rolled out the first phase of its new eLitigation system for Supreme Court cases. At an industry presentation, I learnt that they systematically went through extensive re-engineering process. As somebody pointed out, this is commendable considering legal professionals traditionally are trained to look back into historical cases to be used in court.

If your business looks to the future, what is holding you back from reviewing your business processes?

Topics: Project Management, IT Priorities

Imelda Tan

About Imelda Tan

Based in Singapore, Imelda is an arts fan disguised as a business consultant and Infocomm technical writer.

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  • RE: Good Article - A wake up call for everyone

    Dear Imelda Tan,
    The article that you wrote was exciting.
    I have long been waiting for someone to bring up this issue.
    You have touch the nerve of entire industry, the reason for productivity is not moving.
    We have lost more than decade of making productivity improvement.
    For the past decades, everyone wants easy way, find many excuses for not able to compete at low cost, shifting factory to low-cost country.
    There was no one, no industry leader, no government ministry wanted to take the challenge to make the change in such mindset.
    I never buy the idea of having 5, 10, 20% gain the productivity improvement.
    I believe only in quantum leap. The gain has to be more than 2 times or even more.
    However, everything has to start with simplification process and remove as much waste as possible.
    Today, I see the creation of the waste that hinders the process improvement.
    Manpower is either double to do the same job or push the worker to work harder and faster to achieve the same output. Even though with the use of computer and IT, it does not help.
    In fact, the speed of the computing power is indirectly increase the waste even faster and greater.
    We used to challenge ourselves in the past that as a programmer to code program that was efficient, effective and with only few byte of capacity. The challenge is to use the least memory capacity that perform the same task to beat your opponent.
    The fundamental starts with no waste, efficiency and effective.
    I recalled my Mentor was used to say "KISS" Keep it simple, stupid.
    • RE: Good Article - A wake up call for everyone

      Dear pohkhui

      Thank you for your comments!