strategic planning

When to Automate a Process

Many Managers and leaders ask this question, “When do I know its time to automate a Process?” The simplest answer is that automation of a process is critical when the well-being of your employees is being impaired, too much time is spent on manual input and putting out fires; and less time is dedicated to strategic planning and achieving strategic goals.

Leaders must constantly measure process performance as this includes, process cycle time, lead times, and process costs coupled with benchmark comparisons to truly understand how they fare with their competitors. For example, say you wanted to automate your Accounts Payable function. You would first create a process map to identify inefficiencies in the process, test and implement new controls, track and analyze Key Measures of Performance (cost per invoice, process cost, process cycle time, days to resolve a problem, et cetera) and compare data to your competitors. If you realize that the cost per invoice and process cycle time is significantly higher than your competitors it is wise to consider automation software.

However, before integrating software to automate the process you must compare the total costs and see if new and tested controls or alternative low cost methods can reduce costs and cycle time without the integration.

A process in dire need of automation can be detected by increase in poor quality, delivery and productivity. A process can not run smoothly if any of these process efficiency characteristics (quality, delivery and productivity) is not meeting business and customer requirements.

The Anatomy of an Effective Strategic Plan

What is a strategic plan? In short, “a strategic plan defines the business the organization¬† intends to be in, the kind of organization it wants to be, and the kind of economic and non-economic contribution it will make to its stakeholders, employees, customers and community.”

To create an effective strategic plan an organization’s leaders must first clearly understand their business and what business they really want to be in. They must also conduct and have SWOT Analysis, customer research (including non-customers), economic, government (industry laws and regulations data), and technology (current and forecasting trends) accurate data available.

Once this information is available and carefully analyzed, leaders must discuss their intention to shift strategy with their team. All company departments should be given the opportunity to share ideas and express concerns. After the Voice of Employee has been acquired the strategic plan can begin.

An effective strategic plan is composed of the following:

  • Vision Statement
  • Mission Statement
  • Key Customer Value Factors
  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Visual KPI Metrics
  • Contingency and Preventative Plans

To be effective, a strategic plan must be visual and are not meant to be paper documents that sit on shelves nor Word or PowerPoint documents that are only seen once. The CEO (top management) must also gain support from respected and persuasive key personnel that will drive buy-in to the new strategic plan and discourage opposition. Effective leaders align the strategic plan with daily business activities by translating what needs to be accomplished into how it will be accomplished. They give each department clear responsibilities and performance expectations instead of sending out a memo company-wide that this year they want to increase revenue by $10 million. In short, strategic goals are distributed in small batches.

Effective leaders ensure employees are given clear responsibilities and performance expectations; and are given timely rewards for achieving goals. They also ensure that the strategic plan contains clear objectives, provides and utilizes measures of performance, clear due dates and is visual.