Simplify processes before automation to reduce cost

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.
Written by Imelda Tan, Contributor

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?

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