SOLID Business Automation Blog

The Best Tips for Automation Success

Posted by Annette Gardner

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20-Jan-2016 09:27:00

The Best Tips for Automation SuccessEmbarking on an automation project is never undertaken lightly. Business operations and processes affect almost every part of your business; from Agents on the ground, to Engineers, to Finance and Technical Support. Adjusting the processes that form the backbone of these functions can be daunting to say the least - even when it is for the ‘greater good’.

Customers usually seek us out once they’ve hit a critical point in their business operations where current processes are no longer manageable and their bottom line is being affected (aka Revenue Leakage).

So - when you’re at a pivotal moment in your business operations history - and you’re kinda NEEDING your automation project to be a success - how do you go about making it happen?

I asked our team of engineers who work daily on automation projects from South Africa to Uganda and everywhere in between, to come up with their best tips - and this is what they said:

 

The Best Tips for Automation Success

 

Trust the company you choose to be your automation partner.

Automation is an investment. It’s an investment in your business, in time, in money and in a business partnership with your provider that will hopefully bring you benefits for years to come as both your business and technology evolve.

“Identify an automation supplier/partner with a proven track record to work with. Trust is everything - check out what they’ve done (and for who) in your industry. Reference-check them and really engage during the pre-sales process. You’ll benefit from a well established relationship”.
[Fabien Zablocki, SOLIDitech Developer]


If you’d like some help with how to pick your automation provider, download our eBook “6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing your Business Automation Software”



Analyse your Current Processes (Pre-Automation).

Doing this gives you a deeper understanding of exactly where your pain points are, what they are, and how your business actually works.

 

Why?

“If you automate a process for how you think it works instead of how it actually works, you're doing more harm than good. Software works harder and faster than people so incorrect processes are duplicated and applied very quickly”.
[Christopher Hamman, SOLIDitech Solution Architect]

“Analysis allows you to identify high value areas for automation”.
[Tim Spring, SOLIDitech Developer]

“If you’re able to identify areas where well-defined processes take place, you can use the insights gained and apply the same success to the rest of your operations”.
[Fabien Zablocki, SOLIDitech Developer]


Don’t be afraid to work with your provider and benefit from their years of experience. It’s likely they’ve been exposed before to the challenges you’re experiencing and can offer very constructive advice.

Bottom line: Knowing your business (well), puts you in the best possible position to build automated processes that answer your key pain points; rather than just having a bunch of flashy features that look cool, but don’t really fix anything. Isn’t that the heart of Automation Success?

Recommended reading: “Revenue Leakage: Where the Real Problem is”.

 

Define Exactly What you Want to Achieve.

This is a biggie: Know what you want, be clear, be explicit. Your provider will be able to guide you based on their experience and the functionality offered by their solution - but having a very clearly defined project scope means everyone is singing off the same songsheet, objectives are achieved, expensive time is not wasted and - at the end of the day - you’ll get exactly what you paid for (and often more!). 

“It’s important to know exactly what objectives your project is reaching for (before you launch!). Ask yourself “Why are we automating?”. Having clearly defined project phases ensures deadlines and milestones are met“.
[Martine Hamman, SOLIDitech Business Analyst] 


Recommended reading: “ISP Billing Software: The Solution to your Repetitive Problems”.



Have a Laser-like Focus.

Set your goals and then stick to them. Like Glue. 

Keywords here are communicate, communicate, communicate.

“Continuously communicate your timelines, priorities and scope to keep everyone focused. If you do this, in addition to allocating project roles to key staff members affected by the project, your teams will hit the ground running and quickly find that productive pace you’re aiming for. Get pivitol people on board right from the start”.
[Martine Hamman, SOLIDitech Business Analyst]


Being focused on achieving your goals helps to drive the project and inspire those around you.

Projects where the client isn’t a key driving force, and doesn’t integrate with the providers project team don’t tend to hit deadlines, often cost more and don’t achieve key business objectives.

Recommended reading: “The Ultimate Checklist for Successful Automated Provisioning”.

 

Incentivise.

Regardless of whether you prefer the stick or the carrot approach, there’s no denying that incentivising a project of this magnitude works.

Operations automation can be a lengthy project that affects almost every department - meaning there are many internal players to get (and keep) onboard. Incentives have proven to work in maintaining motivation and helping everyone keep their eyes focused on the prize.

“Basically the problem is that staff get really nervous with automation projects, because they think "redundancies" - So sometimes they can be very resistant to change and become unhelpful. Incentives can help to keep them focused”.
[Oliver Gardner, SOLIDitech Solution Architect]

 

Embrace Agile Project Methodology.

Agile Development is when requirements analysis and development is done in very short cycles.

“This means that short bursts of highly focused development work is then validated through the demonstration of a working piece of functionality, as it’s produced.”
[Oliver Gardner, SOLIDitech Solution Architect] 


The benefit here is that you, as the client: 

  1. Can see what’s being done - and that it’s being done to your specifications as it’s happening (rather than one huge project at the end)
  2. Can refine requirements as you move through the project - based on the working demo’s you see
  3. Can have functionality delivered to you in bite-sized working chunks that staff can start using in a staggered approach (this makes training cheaper and easier and means less change management)
  4. Can more easily get buy-in from core users when they can physically see what’s being produced 


‘Scope creep’ does however need to be carefully managed when you adopt this approach. 



Benchmark yourself.

“What are your goals? Faster, better, cheaper? Make sure you know how to quantify these measures in the automated system, and that you have comparable figures from the manual system.”
[Christopher Hamman, SOLIDitech Solution Architect ]


Define your measures of success upfront. Otherwise - how will you know if you’ve succeeded? And by how much? How much time was saved? How much revenue was recovered? These statistics are vital for closed loop reporting and essential for the negotiations both internally and with your provider regarding your next automation project.


... Enjoy the rewards of a project well-run!

We hope this list helps your next project be a real automation success :-).



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Topics: Business Automation, Process Automation, Advice, Tips