Not only can the project go long trying to automate complex exceptions, you can end up complicating the simple transactions, and adding more long-term maintenance overhead.
Do the easier stuff, and go live with it. The exceptions can either wait for another project phase, or they may just be the stuff best suited for humans to handle.
#3 - Do it Right the First Time
Now that the stars have finally aligned and you are doing your automation project, you don’t want to do it half-baked, do you? You may never get the chance again to add the extra features, the clever edits, the gravy integrations, the superfluous notifications, the gold-plated cupholder. Go big or go home, right?
As a business process automation consultancy, we have worked with several clients who have insisted we build complex edits, checks, and features to handle every exigency. Our team has reviewed some of these systems in production use and found that as much as half of the code we wrote is never fired. The business user community migrated quickly toward what worked best and fastest, and ended up never needing the nanny edits and shiny toys that cost so much project time and dollars.
In most cases, even a simple automated process will be much more effective than the manual process it replaces. One client sponsor, toward the end of a project much prolonged by demands for a few more features before go-live, said, “We’re replacing a piece of paper. How many features does it take to beat a piece of paper?” Yet their organization kept using that piece of paper months longer, trying to agree on a few more bells and whistles for the automated process.
Build a simple process that is better than the one you’re replacing, and go live with it. Plan an immediate post-go-live analysis of how the system is used, followed by a scheduled update phase to implement the lessons learned. You won’t know for sure what edits and features are really needed until you see how the simple system gets used in real life. And as discussed in #1 above, the sooner your project goes live, the sooner it starts paying for itself.
#4 - Insist on 100% Stakeholder Buy-In
You’ve been fielding complaints for years from the various stakeholder roles and divisions you service about these clunky business processes. Every division and interest group in the enterprise forever wants you to cater to its specific procedures and eccentricities. This is your chance to finally make everyone happy! And by everyone, of course, I mean no one.
I’ve seen a six-month project stretch to two years, trying to get all six semi-autonomous divisions to agree on functionality and go live together. Each division knew the expectation was for a unified process, and that essentially gave each division power to hold the project hostage – every pet feature request became a “showstopper” they couldn’t go live without. The result was a system so complex that no one liked it – and ironically, it still isn’t used by all divisions.
By contrast, another organization had a business office that objected to the automation project and didn’t want to be included. Rather than make concessions to bring them on board, the project sponsors proceeded without them. When the solution went live, the process became many times easier across the enterprise – except for the population served by the holdout business office. Intense pressure landed on the holdout office, and within months of the initial go-live, they came to the sponsors asking to be included.
To avoid a hostage situation:
The best way to fail with business process automation is not to do it. The benefits of an elegant, workflow-enabled electronic form solution can be stunning: drastic reductions in turnaround time, error rates, and overall human effort; payoffs in customer service, better security, reduced liability, and freed-up resources who can focus on more productive work. Now that you know what not to do, it would be a shame not to try!
Written by Paul Taylor, Founder
Copyright (c) 2016 Gideon Taylor Consulting, All Rights Reserved.