As the manufacturer of service management software, we frequently talk about the value of automation with our customers. After all, process automation is a key benefit of OTRS. It saves time, reduces errors, limits repetitive tasks to keep people more engaged in the workplace, keeps teams focused on strategic tasks: The list goes on. We’re pretty big fans of automation.
However, as businesses start to explore the benefits of automation, it’s important that they spend time thinking about how automation can best add value to their organizations.
Question 1: Are processes clearly defined?
Automation means giving a series of instructions to a computer and then letting the computer manage the steps to complete various tasks. For instance, let’s say you wanted better insight into escalated tickets. You might tell the computer to:
- Every day at 9 AM
- Run a report of escalated tickets
- Sort the report by responsible team
- Then, sort the report by priority
- Email the report to firstname.lastname@example.org
In this simplified example, you can see how just telling the computer to run a report would send the manager a mishmash of information that would need to be manually sifted through. By taking time to write out all of the steps required, the manager receives a report in exactly the format he or she needs.
That’s why it’s best to spend the time with your team — and any other group that may be impacted by your automation efforts — to discuss and document existing and needed workflows. Doing so will save you time and money in the long run because once they are documented you can more quickly configure your automated solutions without a lot of rework.
As you take time to document your processes, it will be easy to note instances where "people power" makes more sense than computer power.
Question 2: Would personalized human attention add value?
As mentioned, automation is great when there are a series of routine tasks that can be done simply and effectively by computers, such as your company’s onboarding process. Once an employment agreement has been made, there are a repeatable series of tasks that need to be taken care of: tax forms filled out, technology acquired, training scheduled. It would take extra HR time and effort to remember such a list and coordinate all of these items. If instead, starting a “new hire process” puts all of the various steps in motion, the HR team would save time, nothing would be forgotten and all tasks would be completed by the time the person started work.
However, there are times when digitalization isn’t the best way to accomplish a task. This is true when having human-to-human interaction adds value to a situation. Examples of this might be:
- complex troubleshooting situations,
- tasks that require creativity,
- following up with individual leads or
- on quality control tasks.
In these cases, it simply doesn’t make sense to automate the tasks because they can be done better by people. People bring their spirit and knowledge to a situation in a way that can’t be defined through a process. As you take time to document your processes, it will be easy to note instances where “people power” makes more sense than computer power.
Question 3: Is the request volume high enough?
While automation can absolutely save time and money, resources are needed to configure the automation and process expertise may be required. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to devote such resources to automating tasks when the request volume isn’t high enough. If, for instance, you’re going to tackle a simple request twice a year, it may not be worth it to invest in automating that process. Sure, you might do it the same way each and every time, but does it really make sense to spend the time and effort to automate it?
On the other hand, if you’ve got a process that needs to run several times a day, well, that’s one you may want to consider automating. Again, it all comes down to planning and documentation. As you work on that, you’ll be better able to evaluate which processes should and should not be automated.
As you can see, effective automation is closely tied to your process development efforts. To ensure a positive outcome for your organization, devote resources early on. Spend time defining, documenting and evaluating your processes in all areas of your business, from marketing and ITSM to operations and information security. And if you find that you don’t have the skills or resources in-house to do this, bring in process experts to get the system up and running quickly and to provide any necessary training for maintaining and adapting processes down the road.