We live in a world where doing more with less is the new norm – especially in the public sector. Our resources have been drastically reduced yet we are expected to deliver more than ever before. Even worse, we don’t have the luxury of acquiring more time to fulfill our obligations.
How can we best maximize our time? How can we be more efficient in this agile, ever-changing, and fast-paced work environment?
An effective way to improve efficiency is to automate common business processes. Think about what you do day in, day out in your organization. From initiating a simple expense reimbursement process to fulfilling a more complex procurement process, often times these business activities are cumbersome and manually executed. What if you can automate these? Not only will it save you time and be more efficient, it can provide consistency and set predictable expectations. Here are four steps to help you best automate common business processes:
1. Identify low hanging fruits: Don’t go off and look for complex business processes to automate. Start with something relatively simple but cumbersome that you do on a regular basis, such as creating a monthly expense report for your team where your team members send you tons of spreadsheets via email and you have to manually collect and summarize the information.
2. Visualize business process: Once you identify a business process that you want to automate, map out what the process flow looks like and identify tools that you need to fulfill this process. If necessary, engage a colleague to help you in this exercise. A great way to do this is to draw a swim lane diagram. The beauty of visually illustrating a business process is that it clearly shows how the process works and, more importantly, define roles and responsibilities of the individuals involved.
3. Maximize your technology investment: Let me be clear, I am not talking about email – there are better tools that you can utilize to automate your business processes. Most organizations today have invested in SharePoint and, unfortunately, it has turned out to be nothing more than a glorified network share. Did you know that you can automate the process defined in your swim lane diagram with SharePoint workflows? In fact, if you have a well-established SharePoint environment and want to get a better handle on lifecycle management which may include site creation, user management and policy automation, check out how DocAve Governance Automation can help.
4. Measure success: How will you know if automating your business process was effective? A good way to do this is to demonstrate what you’ve gained in terms of time, cost savings, and even business opportunities now that the process is automated compared to the manual and cumbersome method before.
Realize that automating business processes is an iterative process. You don’t stop at one. Carry on and look for the next business process you can automate so you’ll be on your way to mastering efficiency.
One of the other items I have found useful when trying to automate processes, is communication. It can be difficult to strictly think of what you would automate from an IT perspective. However, opening that discussions both internally and externally with vendors, such as AvePoint, can lead to a brain storming session that provides great suggestions.
It is also useful to begin with simple processes that you can automate and then add more layers of complexity once users have gotten used to the new system.
A customer made a comment about automating site creation. The customer said “when we set the automation of site creation, it will reduce our help desk calls by 80%.” The customer has now moved on to automating site content for users.