Business Process Automation – Still Growing

From manufacturing to healthcare to just about every business that involves any sort of process is looking to automate all or part of their operation. Manufacturing has been moving this way for over twenty years but business process automation is still in its infancy as companies seek to automate, monitor and improve overall process performance.

New tools for automating routine medical data entry have begun to arrive and they tout client savings, time, and the alleviation of data inaccuracies. For example, an off-the-shelf product recently announced by Oleen Pinnacle and Network Automation will do everything from “creating and loading claims test scripts to adding or updating provider records, benefit plans, member information and contract agreement rates.”, according the press release.

However, more often businesses are attempting to design and then implement automation on their own knowing that there are real bottom-line impacts from process automation. They want make their business processes less labor intensive and streamlined to keep them competitive in a technology driven economy.

There are at least a couple steps you need to consider prior to embarking on process automation in your business.

In observing the roll-out of an e-Litigation system for Singapore’s Supreme Court, technology writer Imelda Tan points out that you should “reduce or simplify processes before you automate them,…”. She also cautions that often, in order to save time, companies will simply try to port old processes and habits to some form of automation despite the fact that some may have been outdated.

“Reviewing processes continuously may incur more man-hours but can potentially save more man-hours in the longer term.” Tan writes, “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.”

In a similar way Alexander Mehlhorn, CEO of Framework One, recommends that you “merge your business analysis with systems thinking” to gain the best automation results. His recommendation is to be sure to hire an expert that has sound business process analysis skills, “Finding a business analyst that understands your particular business requirements while also having strong systems thinking abilities is a rare, often expensive skill, and the reserve of larger companies. Smaller organizations will do well to team up with an experienced partner that can give them the benefits of an in-house resource without the high costs,” Mehlhorn explains.

It is this last aspect that can be aided by seeking experts from offshore companies that have both the expertise needed and offer that expertise at a lower cost than onshore process analysis teams. Development teams from companies who have diversified their offerings, technologies served and business process understanding are often a lower cost method for companies to create the strategy, aid in reducing unnecessary processes and then move the resulting processes to an automated platform.

If the U.S. and global economy is to recover fully process automation will be a critical part of that recovery. Companies seeking to automate more of their business processes should heed Mehlhorn’s advice and seek the necessary expertise before you spend more time, energy and money than you need to.

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