Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Process Automation – Enter the Numbers and Push the Button

I recently heard that a managed process was referred to as a “push button” activity. When I asked my colleague about this she said that the process pretty much handled itself.  I would say that I have more questions on this subject than answers and would start with this question – When can automation take over and are we in a position to have the process managed by itself?

Let’s assume for a moment that we have achieved a high level of capability for a particular process. For an example we will use… change management.

Taking a closer look we can see that our example IT organization has been using this process for almost a decade, the stakeholders who leverage it take part in a semi-annual CSI review to see where it can be streamlined further.  At the latest stakeholder meeting the question was asked “Do we need to have people to facilitate this process in a day to day operational way any longer?”

There are always going to be pro’s and con’s for this discussion point depending which side of the table you ask. The real question is “Can you mitigate the risks that present themselves as a result of the automation activity?” It doesn’t only apply to this example, but in general.

Back at the stakeholder review the subject of who is on the hook for change management comes up as whether or not they think this is even possible from a governance standpoint. Looking at their RACI chart they see that someone is responsible and / or accountable to the process. Can they be either if they do not actively take part in the day to day management of this process?

Take a closer look at the general definitions for responsible and accountable:
     Responsible
     - an obligation to do something, or having control over or care for someone, as part of one's job or role.
     Accountable
     - (of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions

… so could it be possible that a person(s) could be either and not actively “do” anything?

Going back to change management, if we automated the daily activities for changes in a ticketing system to only request approvals if the fields were filled in for example would we need someone to review the documentation within the record itself. This is where the challenges lies with PEOPLE, remember them... one of those "P's". Since not all people are created equal we might find that in the beginning that there were very few issues with automating this. However after a while some people might take the route where less is more and over time there is less documentation in the change record. It can be a bit of a tightrope. We might have to have some level of oversight on what goes in the record, which means we might not truly be able to automate this level of work. At the end of the day we still have someone who is responsible for the output of the change. If it is not successful who will we look to for answers? It is likely that the ones responsible for the process would not see the automation as a way to improve anything with regards to the delivery of services to the customer. Since providing an exception customer experience is the top priority the automation might not be worth pursuing

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