How to Define Automation Goals for Process Improvement

Defining the goal. This is, without a doubt, the most important place to start when wanting to create, implement and execute on process automation and improvement. Lack of a clear goal will lead to inefficiency and confusion. Individuals can have varied perspectives about what is trying to be achieved and why this undertaking is occurring. In the end, the lack of a clear and agreed to purpose can prevent full realization of benefits. So before we dive into conversations around defining processes, building them, executing change management, and improving upon them, let's first focus on defining the goal.

There are four places to focus as you build out your goals:

1. Define where your organization wants to achieve change.

At Catalytic we have four categories that goals fit into: Cost, Productivity, Risk, Data Integrity. From our experiences, when it comes to process improvement, an organization is looking to improve on one or multiple of these categories. But what do these categories mean to your organization?

What does your organization define as risk?  Does it mean that your organization avoids any situation that would result in litigation?  Maybe it refers to the possibility of lower profits or of how your organization operates.  Understanding what these four categories mean to your organization is key to ensuring you’re focused on the right things.

Next, what is critical to you? Is cost reduction number one or is data integrity a challenge so you're looking to double down efforts to improve on that? Or is it a combination?  Using that assessment will help to define your goals and will allow you to tie them to the overall company strategy.

2. Identify what you can do to impact the overall company’s strategy.

You’ve defined what your company wants to achieve now focus on how you can get there with the goals themselves.  To ensure their success, your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time specific.

Specific: Make sure your goals provide enough direction for those executing on them to understand what they mean.

Measurable: Goals should have clearly defined and measurable indicators of progress.

Assignable: Be specific in who, or what, will complete the goal.

Realistic: Make sure you have realistically achievable goals based on the time and resources available.

Time Specific: Specify when the goal is expected to be completed.

3. Tie processes to the goals you have set.

Now that you've established these goals, ask yourself what processes could best tie to them? Processes allow us to reach these goals. For example, if data integrity is number 1 for your organization and your department is finding quality issues with a data file that is populated weekly, perhaps that is a good process to tackle.  Or what about a process that leverages 3 FTEs but you know it is mundane work that is demotivating and slow? - That links to productivity.

Now more than ever before, determining ways to make life easier on your team or streamline things by leveraging automations and/or systems to assist your processes will result in more impactful results.

4. Measure the success of these goals.

Before you focus on specifics within your processes to meet your goals, think through how you will measure success. What are your key indicators? Will you show a decrease in cycle time? Will it be that a certain number of FTEs can spend a certain amount of hours per week working on higher value tasks? Will it be that data errors on a particular data feed drop by a target percentage?  There are many options, but without key indicators on how success will be measured, the success or failure of the goal will be open to interpretation. Remember, you are building the strong foundation which will result in a stable, predictable and aligned structure.

You’ve now identified what your organization wants to achieve, defined what your goals are, what processes tie into those goals, and how you will measure success.  Moving forward, it’s time to look at what you should consider as you dig into fleshing out your processes.
Jump to our next blog for some guidance on what to focus on.

Andrew Thiermann

Andrew Thiermann

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