3 Common mistakes when trying to achieve Business Process Automation

Having worked with hundreds of organisations in all kinds of industries I’ve come across many ways in which projects just don’t happen or fail.

I thought I’d share 3 common mistakes I see all too often in the hope that if you spot a project going this way you can bring it back to life.

Not understanding the tools

Understanding the potential of a technology before starting to use it sounds too obvious but jumping in without an eye on what tools there are and how to best leverage the technologies you may already have is often the reason that business process automation projects are so frequently rebooted.

The best examples of this are clients we see who have fully adopted Office 365 in their businesses and then invest in other platforms for business process automation. Businesses can get trapped in thinking that the platform only solves the problem they adopted it for e.g. E-mail or Identity management for office 365.

Keeping up with the changes and possibilities on a platform such as Office 365 however is a full time job and it’s not so easy to imagine how parts of it could be of benefit to your business. There are, however, many user groups, community events and summits that could help you stay up to date. At a single event you will see many demonstrations of the use of the tools and technologies that will help you recognise patterns in your own organisation of how you could leverage the technology you already have.

Replicating what you already have

One of the most common mistakes is to attempt to replicate a paper process simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. Take the opportunity to not only find a better, more efficient way using the technology but also consider re-use. Look for patterns across the business that can be re-used and implement those first.

Lack of engagement

I’ve seen many processes automation projects that never actually get delivered to the business and get stuck in a perpetual loop of review simply because the right people were not engaged early enough in the process.

We have moved beyond process automation being delivered by IT, it is now clearly in the business domain to specify, develop and deploy a business process automation project. With the Power Platform in their tool chest business users are developing Microsoft Flow quickly and easily using templates, they have PowerBI ready to make sure the information that they know and understand is dynamically available to business decision makers. They can quickly and easily use PowerApps to engage with users for self-service data entry and business mobile apps.

This means that the whole evolution of agile development and the skills and processes that IT go through to deliver a project are often missed. These steps developed to make sure that IT were not developing technology that was never used. We need to make sure that these principles of requirements gathering, and integration testing are still in place no matter how we go about the development. So, the new challenge is lack of engagement with IT not the end user.

Best practice is evolving around the way to engage the right people at the right time using a centre of excellence and community model. The centre of excellence, usually a subset of IT or better IS provides the tooling to govern and guide. New Flows and PowerApps created by the business are identified and the team then engage with the “makers” within the business to help understand if there are any other similar projects in flight where collaboration can help and to advise on the businesses needs for information to support and adopt the work being developed so it lives on once the maker has moved on.

In addition, the community model is developing to bring those in the business who are keen to self-develop together. Sharing and learning together, helping each other and working to help ideas be realised alongside full time jobs.

The combination of the Centre of Excellence and the Community model is proving extremely successful and is one that I think is the way forward and I’ve seen work well – just remember that engagement is needed to automate in a way that the business will adopt as a whole, it’s not designed to slow down your project but to escalate it to a wider audience and to save the same thing being developed 10 times in the same business.

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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