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Your automation framework checklist

A process without a structure or framework to support and guide it is sure to eventually collapse in on itself. Start with the basics of automation and build yourself a lasting framework that can serve as a launchpad for data automation initiatives.

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Where do you start with automation? 

Organizations often feel that they’re short on time, money, and strategy. Building an automation framework usually requires all three. 

But “automation” is a broad and sweeping term. It means anything from purchasing one simple tool for one team in your organization, to entirely revolutionizing your business processes from the ground up.  Why should you automate, what should you automate, and what should you think about when you decide to take the plunge?

When approaching automation, you have a couple of options for creating a roadmap. You can break down your automation planning into categories: Budget, scope, who’s involved, etc. Or, you can go by timeframe: We want to accomplish X in three months, Y in six months, Z in nine months, etc. 

We’ll walk through what it looks like to break down automation by categories and factors, and then attach the timelines as you fill in the details of the scope. We think that approach makes the most sense if you’re looking to give teams the full picture on how automation will impact them.

The budget 

The budget is the first thing you’ll think about when considering automation. How much are you willing to invest upfront, and what does that investment look like? For example, some automation tools, like Impira, provide a pay-as-you-go model where pricing is based on your consumption, usage, or number of seats. Others are simply billed monthly, no matter your usage, and still others require a one-and-done upfront fee. 

Don’t forget to include more than just your upfront investment when thinking about your overall spend. What’s your long-term ROI, and in how many months or years will you recoup any initial upfront investment? How many resources that were previously diverted doing manual work will now be freed up to do other, more intensive strategic work?  As you set your KPIs for automation, they should always map back to spending.  

Prioritization and scope

Like any large project, if you become overwhelmed by tackling all the complexities at once, you won’t even get started. To define your scope, start with the simplest processes first.

You cannot automate everything at once. The right automation teams will understand that they must manage the balance between manual and automated processes, working down the priority list as their workflows allow. 

If you could automate just one department or one process, where would you look first? What requires the least training and will remove the most pain and tedium? Start with one pilot project. Include timelines and milestones for each sprint of the project. 

Map your scope back to specific automation goals. For example, you may be trying to reduce process time and cost. You may be aiming to increase the speed of the process. You may be looking to reduce redundancies in your workforce. Whatever the case may be, make sure each initiative is tied to a specific, measurable KPI. 

In this stage, you’ll also want to tie the right tools to your processes. The right tools will make or break your automation strategies. To select the right tools for automation, think about licensing costs, maintenance costs, upfront investment costs, training and support, implementation, performance, and stability. 

Data and documentation

Automation increases your capacity to collect and process data. As you consider your automation frameworks, think about how your data and documentation will change.

Full-scale solutions for data processing come in the form of technologies like RPA and IDP, which are complementary technologies that help automate business processes. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) works to streamline operations and reduce costs by capturing information from structured data. RPA essentially automates many rule-based human tasks, like opening emails, moving files and folders, filling in forms, or scraping data from the web. 

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) automates the process of collecting data from all sorts of structured and unstructured sources. It extracts that data, reads it, and filters it into more streamlined information that’s ready for analysis. IDP uses machine-learning algorithms to do its job. You can augment RPA using IDP because it can read, understand, and process documents in seconds, whereas it would take a human several minutes or hours to do the same task. 

Both of these processes are important for distilling large amounts of data. Combining them will hone the precision of your automation framework, reduce risk of error, and help your ROI. So if automation will raise your capacity for processing, analyzing, and storing data — think about where that will impact your business processes. 

Your stakeholders

For each automation process, define your stakeholders. That doesn’t just mean the people working on a specific project. It also extends to those impacted, and those that are tangential to the process but still have a part to play. Ask these questions: 

  • Who approves? 
  • Who's informed? 
  • Who's responsible? 
  • Who's impacted?
  • Who takes care of maintenance?
  • Who takes care of analyzing results? 
  • Who runs the sprints? 
  • Who communicates with the users? 

Your users are also of special consideration here. How will disruptions and updates impact them, and when will you communicate that? Gather information about your users through channels like click paths, user surveys, and feedback from interviews. Ensure that they’re not surprised by disruptions or changes that occur as you build out automation frameworks. 

In summary

You don’t fix broken business processes by simply automating them. If your automation comes at the cost of personalization, then it won’t be worth it. The moment you stop being able to make your customers feel cared for and give them paths to receive individualized attention, that is also the moment your automation framework will start working against you.

Your strategy and the upfront legwork you do is crucial to building out automation frameworks.  With automation, think long-term. This isn’t just about a quick win over the next quarter. Use this handy checklist from the points summarized above as a guide. 

Automation framework checklist

Budget

What is the structure of our investment?

  • Upfront investment: ______
  • Monthly costs: ______
  • Maintenance costs: ______
  • Training costs: ______
  • Pay-as-you-go estimated costs: ______

How many years will it take to recuperate our ROI?

  • Estimated ROI date: ______

Number of resources impacted by automation: ______

Estimated dollars saved via this resource shift: ______

Departments impacted:

  • Department: ______
  • Estimated $$$ saved: ______
Prioritization and scope

List processes being considered for automation, from highest priority to least

  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______

Define your top priority test pilot project: ______

List milestones and timelines:

  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______

KPIs (examples):

  • Reduce process time
  • Reduce process cost
  • Increase process speed
  • Improve process coverage
  • Reduce team redundancies
  • Reduce manual hours spent
  • Improve process quality
  • Reduce manual interventions 

List tools being considered for automation:

  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______
  • ______

For each tool, determine:

  • Estimated cost: ______
  • Stage at which they enter the project lifecycle
Data and documentation
  • Where will we store automation data? Who touches it? 
  • Where will we store automation documentation? Who touches it? 
  • Which teams are impacted by new data and documentation processes?
  • Where will we capture and document lessons learned to embrace a culture of continuous learning? 
Stakeholders 
  • Who approves? 
  • Who's informed? 
  • Who's responsible? 
  • Who's impacted?
  • Who takes care of maintenance?
  • Who takes care of analyzing results? 
  • Who runs the sprints? 
  • Who communicates with the users? 

Impira: Your catalyst for automating your processes