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Which one comes first, Re-engineering or Automation?

This seems to be another popular discussion while an organization is considering Re-engineering of their processes and also wants to get it automated. In this context, we are talking of an organization which has a certain legacy and a scenario where the present environment is semi-automated with hard-coded business rules but not really enjoying a fully blown and an agile process-environment. And when we say automation, we refer to it the BPMS way in this context, based on visual-process-diagrams and smart objects. So which one comes first? Normal thinking suggests we should Re-engineer first and then automate the processes. Let’s ask ourselves some pertinent questions before we freeze that approach. Why any organization wants to take up Re-engineering and automation, first of all? Most probably, the existing processes have lags and on the verge of becoming incompetent, losing to competitors. In that case the scope for improvement clearly lies in people’s roles, ease-of-technology-usage, the kind of processes and process-measurements being used right now. If it has to be a three-pronged approach, then should the three components be re-visited one after the other or simultaneously? To simplify the discussion, let us say we can make it a two-pronged approach because the people’s-roles can be re-visited as part of Re-engineering exercise. But usually a Re-engineering exercise is time-taking because it is a long drawn process. So, that leads to a question- Do you really have such a luxury of spending such long time on Re-engineering and spend equally good time on Automation, following that? Will the sponsors appreciate it? Or do you think it is wiser to initiate them as parallel exercises? Or does it make sense to ask “Why not Automation first and Re-engineering next?”. If we think through, we will realize we will ultimately need to automate the processes, in the present age of rising attritions. Do we really want people to carry processes in their minds? Do we really want to have on-going training sessions for inducting new employees into processes? Or do we want to embed the processes in the ways we work so that once a process-worker does his/her task, it automatically relays it to the next person in the process, notifies the activity-owner of the task lying at his desk, alerts if an activity gets delayed, enables easy and online measurement of processes in terms of desired metrics etc. In that scenario, does it not make sense to quickly make our present process-environment agile first or in parallel to the Re-engineering, so that the environment supports easy change of the process as per Re-engineering recommendations?

- Written by Chandrasekhar PS, a Certified Process Professional from BP Group

Synergy has been helping many clients implement BPM from last six years, whether it be a core process or support processes. Synergy carries over 200,000 manhours of BPM implementation. Synergy has been supporting clients in the entire BPM life cycle right from identifying right BPM software or tools, developing process models, Analysis of As-Is processes, Designing the new processes, Business Process Monitoring and implementing new BPM applications. In effect, Synergy has witnessed clients benefiting from drastic process improvements.

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