How to Build a Winning Business Process Automation Strategy in 6 Steps

The benefits of automation are undeniable. 

Done right, business process automation can lead to all sorts of great things like cutting costs, reducing errors, increasing productivity, and generally freeing up your people from doing repetitive, mundane tasks so they can focus on the things that really add value. 

Unfortunately, getting automation right isn’t as simple as buying a bit of tech, plugging it in, and getting on with it. Putting together a smart business process automation strategy is essential for working out what you want to achieve, getting buy-in from the right people, identifying the tools you need to do it - and measuring the results. 

Here are the six steps you need to put together a winning business automation strategy.


1. Choose the right processes 

Your end goal may be to automate all the repetitive, time- and budget-consuming processes in your organization. But the best way to get there is to identify a strong use case at the beginning of your automation journey, so you can build your team, determine best practices, and prove its success to the wider business before moving onto other areas. 

We recommend scoring your processes on three areas:

- Business impact
- Process maturity 
- Complexity

What you’re really looking for is a process that’s mature enough to have the rules and data inputs ready to go that will make a tangible impact on the business in a short timeframe, without being so complex that it requires touching on multiple teams and departments all at once. 

Finding that sweet-spot isn’t always straightforward, but considering a few processes and judging them on these criteria should help guide your thinking. 

2. Set your goals (and be specific)

While there are many benefits of business process automation, you need to be very specific when building your business case and strategy. This is where you have to look to the end point and work backwards.

If you’re looking to improve customer service, you need to identify where time will be saved for your customer service people and how it can be put to better use. If you’re looking to reduce human-error, you need to list the kinds of errors you want to eliminate and what they cost the business. 

And you need to consider the wider business impact too. Will automation provide you a competitive advantage in market? Or does not automating mean you risk losing your advantage? 

The more specific and tangible you can be in your goals, the easier it will be to select the right technology for the job - and prove success to the business for further automation projects. 


3. Work out your timetable (and be realistic)

Every project needs a timeline, but in your business process automation strategy there are some specific things you need to consider. 

Your organization will need dedicated resources to make the project work, so where are they coming from? Can you prioritize this project and get all the resources you need to do it all in one go? Or will you need to work in a more agile way, splitting the project into sprints so you can balance the needs of the automation project against wider business needs? 

By having those conversations and making those (sometimes difficult) decisions upfront, you’ll be set up for a greater chance of success because it’s clear what’s being committed to against what timelines. 


4. Put together your team and identify your stakeholders

Business process automation is a truly multidisciplinary effort requiring people from different departments with different skills, and your strategy needs to reflect this. 
There’s no one-size-fits-all composition, but in general, you’re going to need:

-    Process owners and subject matter experts: These are the people who know the business process in its current form: where it works, where it doesn’t, what rules govern it, where all the data comes from and so on. 
-    An automation team: This team will include the developers, machine-learning engineers and data analysts who will translate the current business process into an automated solution.
-    An IT & security team: This team will make sure integrations between new and existing technologies are managed smoothly, as well as ensuring all data is handled in a compliant and secure way. 
  An architect: At the beginning of the project, it is useful to have an architect to analyze the scope of the deployment. They can estimate the number of systems required, whether complex security integrations will be necessary and which infrastructure is required. This is especially important for cloud-based projects.

You’ll need to identify all your stakeholders to make the project succeed. This will include the high-level stakeholders judging the overall business impact, as well as the people you’ll need to sign off the resources and budget to complete the project. 
Understanding their needs and pain points, and documenting them in your strategy will stand you in good stead to meet the various challenges you’ll face on the way.  


5. Select the tech and tools

Only at this stage, do you start to think about the actual tools and technologies you’ll need to make your business process automation project succeed. 
A few things to consider when you’re evaluating the available technology are the following options:

-    What’s the cost to create and maintain the automation?
-    How long do you have in your timeline before the automation needs to be deployed?
-    What resources do you have available to meet your automation objectives?
-    How many automation systems need to be managed and what is their complexity?
-   What other technologies do you need to integrate with to successfully automate the process?

Finding out what various automation technologies can and can’t do, then assessing them against your goals, timelines and resources, should make your decision-making process easier. 


6) Manage the change 

Business process automation is never just a question of technology. It’s about bringing the whole organization along with you. That’s why your strategy will need to include details of how you plan to manage the change within your organization.

This will involve working out how you communicate the automation plan and vision across your business, especially to those people whose jobs will be directly affected by changes. It’s also important to provide transparency around the project, to decrease the fear that automation is going to lead to job losses and to promote a positive vision where automation fixes broken processes and leads to more meaningful work. 

Find out more about how you can organize the people, technology, and data you need to get started with business process automation started, in our blog, What is Business Process Automation?