This paper is meant as a guideline to determining the success of process automation within an organization. I provide my definition of what process automation is and lay out the goals and objectives of a good process automation system.
The techniques and technologies employed in process automation are irrelevant. Whether you are using desktop applications communicating via COM or an HTML based user interface using J2EE or .NET is unimportant to this particular discussion. The technology that can produce the best results within the experience and budget of the organization is the best one to use.
What is Process Automation
Let us first define some terms1:
Process n. 1. A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result. 2. A series of operations performed in the making or treatment of a product.
Automation n. 1. The automatic operation or control of equipment, a process or a system. 2. The techniques and equipment used to achieve automatic operation or control.
System n. 8. An organized and coordinated method; a procedure.
This paper concerns itself primarily with processes and systems as opposed to equipment or machinery where this term is most at home.
So here is my definition of process automation:
Automatic control of an organization’s processes, policies, and communications using computer technology which brings about improved productivity and quality.
This is a good high-level definition. In order for process automation to be a positive factor it must improve the manual process or system it is replacing in certain key ways. That is not to say it should change the process or system. If a process is working and the associated policy is sound and gets the desired results, then basic principals and policies should not be changed. There are three key criteria that are used as guidelines in creating a good process automation system. These are explained below.
Workflow applications and solutions are perfectly valid, but I consider them Process Automation “Lite”. Workflow is used primarily to direct tasks from one person to the next according to the rules of the process. Process automation takes this concept to a whole new level, as you will see from reading this paper.
Three Keys to Process Automation
These three keys are:
A successful process automation system will address these three issues above all others. If the system does not reinforce policy and improve communications and productivity it is a waste of time and money.
All definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition
Requirements and Characteristics of Process Automation