I am a huge fan of TV shows like How It’s Made and Inside the Factory.  I look at the machines that are automating production lines in absolute wonder of the brains that created them.  Process Automation is generally thought to be in the blue-collar factory production world.

The digital means efficient fallacy

No doubt your business already has lots of computers and lots of people using them.  However, in the white-collar world, there are many processes and actions we take that are far from automated, despite the fact we’re carrying out these processes out on digital technology.

Maybe people are employed transposing data into spreadsheets, taking forms that have been printed and signed and typing them back into another system, simply deciding who emails should be forwarded to for action and many more equally mundane processes that add little value to your business.

The digital means difficult fallacy

Much like my own wonder and awe of the biscuit factory machines, it can seem difficult to know where to begin in this process and even know what is possible with the tools available.

My company likes to pride itself on being solution or vendor agnostic – meaning we’ll analyse what’s best for your company and we don’t stick to any single supplier.  That said, we do currently have two favourites – KiSSFLOW and Microsoft’s PowerPlatform.

After my 20+ years in IT, it’s probably easy for me to point straight to a solution to many problems.  After all, with all that experience, I know what the tools can and should do (should is often an important word in tech!).

What I’d say to the non-IT person, is that there are no stupid questions and the technology is mainly limited by your imagination.  That may sound like two clichés for a blog article!

Whilst it’s true there’s technical limitations of any digital tool, there are also many ways to solve a problem and to work around that roadblock.  Asking the questions allows you to think, alter the process and find a better way of doing it in the automation tools.

Quite often, more than one tool is required to get that process just right.  In the case of Microsoft they have cleverly called a whole suite of solutions PowerPlatform, which is really PowerApps, Power Automate and Power BI.  KiSSFLOW equally, has partner applications such as Zapier.  These allow the tools to do much more than they’d do on their own.

I know, I know, some of you have just gone pale and started to worry about whether you can even begin this process yourselves.  This is where we deviate completely from the biscuit factory.  Unlike automating a manual, physical process in a factory, there are no machines to build, sensors to wire up and expensive hardware to be bought – you don’t need even to own a soldering iron.

Process Automation in the white-collar world, is much simpler, the tools allow you to prototype, tweak and test everything you do.

No coding, yep that’s right NO CODING!

You’ve just gone pale again haven’t you?  No, you don’t have to know any programming languages, most of these solutions are sold as no-code (KiSSFLOW) or low-code (Microsoft PowerPlatform).  Any code you need to know is often not that much more challenging than what you do in Excel formulas.

This is a democratisation of IT, putting the power in your hands and not in the hands of software developers.  After all, the business knows it’s processes better than anyone else and it should be up to the business to build those in IT and change them as necessary.

To leave you one thing as to how to start Process Automation in your business is forget everything.

You how the power to be a builder, maker and Process Automator in your company

Don’t fear what you don’t know about technology or even the process.  Even if you think you know everything about your internal processes, this is a journey and you’ll undoubtedly find things you didn’t know.  The technology is these days, very simple.  Yes, the IT industry has a terrible way of naming things and making it sound more complicated than it is – but believe me, it’s not.  Also forget any preconceptions of how long this is going to take, it’s going to be much quicker than what you think!

Process Automation- there is help at hand

Okay, so you’re sold on the idea, but still worried or just don’t have the time to get on with it.  There are partners and consultants like Unleashed who can help.  Personally, I don’t like to work in isolation – I think writing this article during Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus, that I even like to work as part a team whether remotely or otherwise.

Essentially if you’re looking for short term resources from a partner that can advise on both technology and process automation, then you need to look at the consultants who are being sent out and their qualifications and experience.

That doesn’t mean that you should discount a company or a consultant because they haven’t worked in your industry, your specific process – but they should have something that parallels nicely to what your organisation does and what they want to achieve.  Ask questions and be open to good answers!

Most of all, if you’re looking for someone to work with – they’re going to be part of the team, so they have to fit in, more difficult to judge, but personalities, the people you’re going to work with and even senses of humour all have to gel.

If none of those fit, then they’re probably not the partner for you – even I’ll accept my winning Cumbrian sense of humour isn’t for everyone!  If you think you can handle it – then by all means reach out to us and lets see what we can do together.