When starting an automation project, clients like to know what they can do to prepare their teams and processes for success. Since the success of a project has a lot to do with team members working towards a common goal and having enough information to quickly make design decisions, there are things that can be done before kick-off to ensure the team will have what they need to keep the project moving in the right direction.
Communicate project goals and approach clearly
It’s easy to agree that everyone needs to know what the goal of a project is and what the approach will be, but the information that is passed on often changes, losing the emphasis of the most important factors. Without the details, it’s easy for project team members to feel their duty is to represent their own interests against all odds, which can result in looping conversations and indecisiveness when important decision points arise.
Most projects are approved and measured at a strategic level. An understanding of the factors and limitations that are important to the measured success of the project will help a team drive toward decisions that represent the best interest of the project.
Though it may be tempting to have a bunch of snazzy functionality included in the form, understanding the project resource limitations goes a long way in giving a project team the information they need to recognize when project scope is maxed out and gives them the right framework to prioritize needs when hard decisions have to be made.
Make sure the right players know the right players
Though it makes sense to staff a project with those who know the most about the process, that isn’t enough. From experience, the “right players” seem to be those who not only understand the details of the business process but, more importantly, understand when additional input is needed and can involve the right resources for quick and accurate information and analysis.
During an automation project, each piece of the process is examined in deep detail; it’s common for unexpected topics and questions to arise. Even the most seasoned team may not have ready answers for how to best determine security access for each individual or how to most succinctly restrict values for different populations in a particular scenario.
Projects can keep their momentum up if a project team can quickly address process and design challenges by having the right resources at hand to supply information and foster contact with additional resources as needed.
Mind the gaps
Inconsistencies and process gaps are hard to code around and can turn into pain points when automating a process, especially if discovered later in the design/build process. There is a tendency to hope that automation will magically fix problem areas when, instead, it can often highlight them. A project can get stuck at points like these, which then puts pressure on the team to reconfigure the design quickly, sometimes causing an overly-complex solution in order to simply keep the project moving.
An early and candid look at the problem areas in an existing process can reveal those spots that will need extra attention or early discussions and solutions so that unnecessary steps and complexities can be avoided. It gives the team time to at least consider any changes to the existing process that may help create a smoother and more efficient automated process.
Prepare with copies of real scenarios.
Having a collection of real examples is one of the best ways to talk through a design for review and approval and prepares the project team with test scenarios to include during testing phases. When automating a currently-paper request form, for example, clients are encouraged to save copies of the existing forms being processed as soon as the decision to automate is made.
This gives a project team the ability to use real data as a reference when making important design decisions. Having a reference library of data that supports the scenarios being discussed can help reveal areas that may be commonly problematic so that effort can be focused on smoothing out those parts of the process.
When it comes time to test the solution, this also gives the team the ability to test against real scenarios rather than constructed tests which tend to be built to requirements and tend to pass, but don’t generally help to test how thoroughly a process was automated.
By taking these steps early in the automation process, a project team should be better equipped to understand the magnitude of a project, design a balanced and efficient solution, and hit the intended goals for a successful project.
Written by Lani Urreta, Senior Consultant
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