Thinking and planning are essential for companies. In this way, they can defend their current market position and maintain or expand it long-term. However, it is not enough to rely solely on existing practices and do everything as before to achieve this goal. In order for companies to compete in the long term, they need lean processes and efficient operations that save time and generate profit. On the way there, process optimization as a basis for automation is an important step.
The starting point for process optimization is the process potential analysis (PPA). This procedure involves analyzing which processes are suitable for optimization and subsequent automation. Companies gain a quick and transparent overview of their processes and value creation thanks to PPA. They also obtain knowledge about optimization potential and necessary changes in process automation.
After the most suitable processes have been identified with the help of PPA, the actual optimization follows. The aim is to digitize the processes as far as possible and prepare them for automation. The focus here is on shortening throughput times, making ideal use of resources, increasing productivity, and thereby improving quality in the long term. Of course, aspects such as cost reduction and risk minimization must not be ignored. For visualization, it has proven advantageous to sketch the processes graphically according to the BPMN modeling standard. With this method, the business process steps can be visualized from start to finish. In this way, easy-to-understand diagrams can be created and shared.
A structured approach involves conducting an analysis of the current status of the process with the highest digitization potential, building on the results from the PPA. The first questions responsible parties need to ask themselves here are:
- Who performs which tasks?
- How is the implementation carried out in detail?
- Which departments are involved?
- Which systems play a role?
- How is the workflow structured?
Cross-departmental process thinking is necessary to articulate the optimal process further. In doing so, it must also be considered where possible weak points lie. Only when all these aspects have been properly thought through and formulated can an accurate picture of the current state be obtained.
The optimal target state: (no) wishful thinking
After a thorough analysis of the current state, it is defined what the optimal target state should look like. At first, this may well be a "wishful thinking" process: Processes can – and perhaps should – be thought of differently, redesigned, and restructured. The change of procedures, the adjustment of releases, or the modification of process chains play a central role. However, the description of the target process is only the beginning. Subsequently, it must be determined whether the ideas and suggestions can also be implemented. This raises the question of technical implementation and whether and which necessary technical prerequisites are already in place and still need to be created.
The feasibility on the test bench
A technical concept is required to test the feasibility of implementation. The goal of this concept is to describe the business and technical requirements as well as all roles and authorizations. Moreover, it provides companies with a robust and solid guideline in which all the prerequisites for successfully digitizing a process are created.
Process optimization is an essential basis for tackling business processes' automation. As in the case of the PPA, it has also proven successful here to involve all affected company departments and employees from the very beginning. If they are actively involved in the decision-making process, and the entire change process, resistance and rejection can be avoided. Since the optimization of processes is not a one-time task but a continuous process, the basis for continuous improvement, also known as the ongoing improvement process (CIP), is laid.