8 Things You Need to Consider Before You Begin Your Automation Project


If you're early in the process of assessing and planning automation or process automation in your organisation, it can be daunting to figure out where to even begin. 

Here are 8 early-stage things you need to consider before you automate business processes.

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1) What Is The Big Problem That You're Trying to Solve

This is a critical and but often overlooked foundation of your entire automation project. It it sets realistic goals, keeps you focused on fixing one problem, and allows you to accurately select automation tools that are the most capable at delivering your objectives. 
For best results, boil your problems down to a simple problem statement: 
  • "HR staff are forced to spend too much time managing overtime and leave requests."
  • "Finance staff spend hours writing long financial reports, and as a result do not enough time for other work."
  • "Sometimes an application from a customer or candidate will be stuck in a massive delay because there are key documents or information missing that are needed to proceed"
  • "Callers are irritated at long support calls. Call centre workers need time to gather case documents, verify user credentials, and check the status of their ticket, which lead to extremely bad reviews."
 With this simple and focuses statement, you'll be able to move on to solving that specific issue without losing sight of the entire reason for your automation decision. 

2) Figure out your plans and goals

Now that you know what your problems are, you need to state what success will look like for you and your organisation.

It's helpful to run the same exercise in step 1, to create a simple success statement. Using our examples above, that would look something like this:

  • "Overtime and leave requests are managed in one hub, and all stakeholders can approve it with just a click, leaving HR free for other tasks."
  • "The data and reports from our financial data are created by AI and intelligent assistants, and automatically sent to everyone's inbox for analysis and strategy."
  • "When a candidate applies for a job, their applications are checked to be 100% correct and with all vital documents accounted for. The recruiting manager can see all of this information and documents in one place in with one click."
  • "Call centre workers can fetch all client information, particularly their latest support tickets and communications records, as soon as they confirm the caller's identity, so they don't need to put the caller on hold unnecessarily

Just like your problem statement, this success statement will serve the basis for informing the working parts of your automation process. With it, you'll be able to figure out:

  • Which teams and personnel you need to involve
  • What information you need to gather and which employees and team leads you need to consult for the best results
  • Potential technologies and tools you might be able to use, and their strengths and shortcomings. 
  • And, most critically, what technologies, tasks, or processes they make use of doing this work.

3) Perform A Comprehensive Process Audit. 

The most critical part of your automation is also the most simple: you need to understand how you do what you do.

You can only use Process Automation effectively (and extract the greatest ROI) if you deploy it strategically and for the greatest impact.

Perform an in-depth audit of your teams, workflows, tasks, technologies, and processes. During this process, you're looking for clear, definitive answers to the following kinds of questions:

  • How do your teams work?
  • What processes and tasks do they engage in, during the course of fulfilling this desired end goal.
  • What technologies do they use?
  • What stakeholders are needed for input?
  • What delays and bottlenecks exist in this workflow?
  • How is information stored and generated?

With this information you can get a clear understanding of where your Process Automation project will have the greatest effect. 

If you don't know where to start, you should strongly consider consulting an expert. In every automation project we're engaged in, we perform comprehensive 1-on-1 automation readiness assessments, to examine the multitude of processes involved before determining the specific best use cases for automation.


4) Explore The Various Tools and Technologies That Might Work

We know, it's quite daunting, as there are so many of them out there. 

However, a good rule of thumb is to use the results of your Process Audit: the solutions and platforms you use will depend on the kinds of data and work that you've identified during this critical stage of your pre-project preparations. Particular technologies excel at specific tasks: Microsoft Power Platform's Power Automate tools allow you to mimick human inputs into a computer, allowing it to emulate basic human workflows (especially when you're dealing with databases and the like); while things like Microsoft Dynamics 365 allow you to manage and automate a great many actions you'd typically perform in Sales, Marketing, Support, and Case Management. 

In some cases of more complex work, tools and technologies might need to be combined into stacks to do what you need. And if you have highly complex, ambitious projects, you'll need even further functionality, data connection, and technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, or even blockchain technology, to get things done

You might need outside expertise to make this call, so consider bringing in an expert consultant to figure out the best tools for the job.


5) Get Expert Consultation and Input.

You've heard the old saying, "measure twice, cut one". There's often only just enough budget to do your project well, let alone do it twice, so getting expert insights into your plans, goals, and chosen technologies and automation solutions is highly advised. 

They can trim fat, keep your goals and scope realistic, and bring any faults and issues in your project to light before they wreak havoc on your project.

Our best advice is this: find someone who has successfully implemented  successful solutions for similar projects in similar sized organisations. Look for published proof of their successes, such as case studies, customer testimonials, and so on, as well as demonstrated mastery of the automation tools in question through industry-recognised accreditations and certifications, such ISO and Microsoft Partner status.


6) Define Your Project Parameters And Objectives

Now that you know what processes you can automate and which tools might be applicable for the job, you need to get your project plan up and running. 

Here are your top project planning priorities:

  • Set clear project definitions, goals (with measurable outputs), and clear objectives. 
  • Define owners of critical project stages.
  • Set deadlines and time goals for stages of the project.
  • Develop a change management plan to ease disruptions as you bring in new tools and technologies. 
  • Start managing stakeholder input.


7) Create A Clear Project and Communications Plan

Your project will fall apart if you don't include the basic rules and definitions for how the various stages are run and communicated. Take some time with your team to formalise the following project rules:

  • What needs to be communicated, such as:
    • progress reports,
    • drafts and early documents/work
    • stakeholder input
    • concerns & complaints
    • blockers & project delays
    • risks & threats
  • How it should be communicated (you don't want critical information to be lost in your email inbox, and you don't want breakdowns or silos in critical communications)
  • How often this communication should happen (daily updates, weekly reports, end-of-stage debriefs, etc)
  • How progress is measured. You might use shared spreadsheets, or project planning and management platforms like Asana, Trello, or Monday.com, but whatever format you use you need to ensure that each stage is being monitored and that each project phase as clear, measurable actions that you can check off as you complete them. 
  • A checklist of stakeholder input. Every part of your organisation will be affected by this automation project, so ensure you're checking you're processing all input, concerns, and feedback from your various teams.
  • Define your scope, budget, and limits. You need to have at least some idea of the duration and costs of this project, so that you can manage scope creep and keep unplanned expenditure to a minimum.


8) Understand and Plan For How You Will Effectively Manage This Change

Change management is just as vital as the project itself. 

Implementing your new Process Automation solution will likely involve lots of training, old systems and processes being replaced, and new skills demands for employees.

What's more, many projects fail not because of bad software or project outcomes, but because of change management issues, including:

  • Lack of in-house expertise.
  • Poor employee uptake.
  • Lack of planning and strategy.
  • Limited budget.

You need to tackle this proactively from the start so that there are no hiccups.

  • Making the benefits of this new automation solution clear to all of your team
  • Educating them about how it works
  • Training them on how to use it
  • Answering their questions and concerns and assuaging their fears early on.
  • Getting buy-in and support from everyone, from the highest levels of management to the newest employees who are to use the system on a daily basis. 


If you're looking to get expert insight into to approaching, planning, and implementing high-ROI, high-impact automation in your HR, Finance, Accounting, or other organisational workflows, you should consider getting in contact with us. 

For over 2 decades we've been delivering highly successful custom-built solutions and automation to enterprise organistion and major government agencies in Ireland and the UK.