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Identifying Good Candidate Tasks for Automation

There are several things to look at when trying to identify tasks and processes that might be well suited for business automation. Here are some things to consider.

Look at the big picture

Make sure you look at the big picture and examine your processes from start to end.  This will help you to identify areas that need improvement, processes that may need to be reordered or eliminated, and areas of special concern.  Seeing the big picture will help you ask the right questions about the details.

Don’t be afraid to dig in

To properly understand processes, you really have to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes. Tap into the knowledge of your front line employees, hear what they have to say and learn from them. If your employees aren’t aware of what you are doing, then you aren’t being intrusive enough.

I once heard a story about a manager who wanted to really understand what happened when a sale occurred in his business. He tried watching from the sidelines, but wasn’t learning what he really wanted to learn.  So he stapled a Sales Order to his tie (still tied around his neck) and had the order processed.  He had no problem figuring out where the issues were after that.

Whether that is urban legend or fact, the idea is that when reviewing processes, don’t be afraid to get in there and really understand what is going on.  It will only help.

Look for special tasks

There are a number of different types of special tasks to keep an eye out for when reviewing your processes.  These types of tasks should raise questions and be put at the top of the list.

  • Bottle Neck Tasks – These are tasks that are slowing up the rest of the processes.  These tasks and processes are the ones that hold up other downstream tasks.
  • Highly Repetitive Tasks – These are tasks that are continuously being repeated over and over again for no apparent reason.  This might include entering the same data for the same order multiple times or manipulating the same report over and over again.
  • Expensive Tasks – These are tasks that are using up valuable (and expensive) manpower such as managers and employees with specialized training or education.
  • Error Prone Tasks – These tasks are the ones that always seem to be done wrong no matter how often “training” occurs.
  • Critical Tasks – These are the really important tasks that can have a serious impact on customer satisfaction and quality or are expensive to fix.  Usually the errors are hard to detect or they can cause significant problems for downstream processes.
  • Mature Tasks – These are processes that have been around a while and are not likely to be changed anytime soon.

 

These special types of tasks are usually all good candidates for automation. Try to identify them while investigating your processes

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