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4 key steps to designing workflows for automation

Note: For the purposes of this article we’re going to assume you’re the process owner or that you have organizational approval to start digging into processes.

Correctly mapping your process ensures that it will meet your defined goals.  In an earlier blog we covered what to consider before mapping your process.  If that’s clear, let’s look at how to map the process correctly so that it functions correctly when implemented. There are 4 stages to this:

 

1. Existing documentation

The first thing you should do is look for any and all existing documentation/artifacts relating to the process you’re tackling.  Occasionally, there will be no documentation and you’ll be starting from scratch, if that’s the case, move to step two and start to look at how your new process should work.  These can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Workflows of the process (flowcharts, swim lane diagrams, etc.)
  • Spreadsheets
  • Work instructions
  • Forms or data inputs
  • Data outputs
  • List of actors and their roles in the process

 

Compiling these documents will provide you with version 1.0 of the process. This will show the process as it was originally intended or as it exists today.

 

2. Process Design/Improvement

Rarely do processes function the way they were originally documented.  To address this you should ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is this how the process really works today?
  • Is this how the process should really work today?
  • Are we using automation to enhance how this process works?

 

If the answer to any (or all) of these questions is “no” you will need to identify if the process, the documentation or both need to change in order to address them.  With all of this complete you’ll now have your process version 2.0 and will be ready to bring in others for validation.

 

3. Validation

Up until this point the exercise of mapping this process correctly is usually the task of one individual.  Now it’s time to bring in others to validate the work that you’ve done.  You’ll want to have one representative from each department and/or system that is part of this process and agreement on who is the process owner and, therefore, has final say for the process’ design.

Note: Where possible, bring in individuals that have ownership/approval over the department as well as any systems that that department interacts with.  This will help streamline the number of people involved and ensure that validation occurs as quickly and effectively as possible.

During this process validation session you’ll review your process version 2.0 and make updates as you receive feedback from the representatives present.  You should take an iterative approach that results in all parties agreeing to the finalized flow of your process.  If roadblocks/disagreements occur the designated process owner will need to make the final call as to how the process should flow.

Once your process has been validated and agreed upon by all parties you’re ready to implement it.

 

4. Implementation

Because you have already agreed upon a finalized version of the process, implementation has more to do with change management than it does with process building.  Things to consider as you implement:

  • What is the effective date for the new process?
  • Are all affected parties informed on how this process will work?
  • Are they clear as to what their role is?
  • How do you handle things if an exception occurs or there is an error?
  • Are all relevant systems connected and have they been tested in conjunction with each other?

 

Change management is a critical component that can ensure a process’ success or its failure when implemented.  Let’s dive into how to manage change effectively to ensure success.

Written by Catalytic