Process automation has revolutionized the way that organizations do business and has led to the downsizing of many companies. There are a variety of technology products that are available through process automation which make business operations simpler and less expensive. The purpose of this paper is to discuss process automation and the impact that it has on downsizing. We will discuss the technologies that are available and why these technologies are important to the overall business strategies of corporations. Let's begin our discussion by defining process automation.
According to a whitepaper entitled Requirements and Characteristics of Process Automation, process automation is defined as "Automatic control of an organization's processes, policies, and communications using computer technology which brings about improved productivity and quality." (Matthews) The whitepaper, published by Cypress technologies, states that effective process automation is designed to improve manual processes within an organization. (Matthews) The whitepaper also explains that there are three methods that can be used to produce an effective process automation system. These methods include;
Communications is an important aspect to any corporation that allows common goals to be shared through communication lines and terminals. Communication within process automation; ensures that communications are heard, increases the rate of communication, ensures that messages are complete and ensures that the message is easy to understand. (Matthews) Process automation ensures that communications are heard by automatically checking to establish that information was sent and received. (Matthews)
The rate of communication is increased through process automation because it allows the organization to send emails rather than sending memos or reports which can be costly because of the need for additional supplies. Finally, process automation ensures that messages are complete and easy to understand by not allowing incomplete information to be sent. (Matthews)
Productivity in process automation is the increase in the efficacy of communications allows employees to be more productive. Productivity is usually a major force behind the creation of a process automation system. Process automation increases productivity by allowing computers to perform various tasks that would ordinarily be performed by human beings. (Matthews)
The report presents this example, custom project management application was built to facilitate the successful completion of the company's major projects. Projects were run from management's headquarters to offices around the world. The steps and details were entered into the system along with completion targets and who was responsible for their completion. Once the project was started, the system e-mailed all responsible parties their orders and when they were to be complete. When the steps were complete the responsible parties sent compliance reports to the project manager who logged them into the system. If a target date was approaching, a reminder was automatically sent. When a target date was passed, a nudge was sent with a CC to the person's boss. If the target date was way overdue, a report with a request for investigation was sent to the appropriate parties. Project timelines would be automatically adjusted based on non-compliance, unexpected circumstances." (Matthews)
When this type of process automation occurs the computer can store information pertaining to statistics and reports that are related to company projects that are being conducted in different parts of the world. The company can track the progress of the project and suggest solutions for projects that are difficult to complete. (Matthews) system that allows computers to do the work can greatly increase productivity by making the manufacturing process faster and more efficient. In addition, process automation allows the work of the computers to tie in with the overall business strategy of the corporation. (Matthews)
Policy is the final factor that is needed to create an effective process automation system. Policy is a composition of rules that have been set forth by a corporation or entity to ensure that the goals of the organization are realized. (Matthews)
Within the context of process automation there are several policies that process automation can enhance. Among these policies is employee training. An automated system can aid employees in understanding some of the complex systems and problems that they may face on the job. (Matthews) The automated systems can tests employees to ensure that they have mastered the skills that are necessary to perform their jobs effectively. (Matthews)
However, the whitepaper concedes that an organization must have a strict, well defined policy before implementing an automated system. The report explains that computers can only perform tasks that have been assigned to it -- if there is something wrong or inadequate about an organizations policy the automated system will be of little use to the organization. (Matthews)
Therefore, the whitepaper suggests that organizations should establish policies that have very little exceptions. (Matthews)
In doing this the organization will increase the stability of their policies while increasing the efficacy of process automation. (Matthews)
Types of Process Automation
As previously stated there are many different solutions that involve process automation. There are simple forms of process automation such as email and then there are more complex forms of process automation that involve the use of Robots and highly specialized software. All of these solutions allow organizations to do more with less by decreasing workforce while increasing productivity.
In the next few paragraphs our discussion will focus on the various types of process automation.
Contrary to popular belief process automation is not limited to the manufacturing and distributions aspects of business. Process automation can be used to find an adequate pool of applicants for a particular job. In adhering to an automated process employers' ensure that they are hiring people that can perform specific tasks. The Merit System Protection Board explains,
Some agency representatives we talked to viewed their automated systems as successful, pointing to the benefits such as larger applicant pools, faster referrals and more consistent candidate assessment. But other agencies are struggling to achieve acceptable timelines and quality. Automation isn't automatic. Agencies unanimously agree that implementing a hiring management system is not like buying a toaster. You cannot simply plug it in and expect it to work." (Issues of Merit)
One of the newest process automation solutions involves the integration of business process management into workflow technology. According to InfoWorld Magazine this automation is being introduced to the market by an organization called webMethods. (Harreld and Sullivan) The article explains,
WebMethods plans to add technology that furthers automation of the human elements within BPM in Version 4.6 of its integration platform...Version 4.6 is designed to integrate into the workflow technology a modeling and workflow management tool that controls business processes, rather than lower-level data integration issues...Typically, when business processes reach the point where human interaction is required, users print out and pass around the function that needs approval then rekey it into the system. WebMethods' workflow interface keeps everything within the system...In addition to the new interface, webMethods workflow includes features such as a manager review step, support for roles, and full process management." (Harreld and Sullivan)
The article also reports that the company will release a product that will aid organizations in monitoring their process automation platforms. This monitoring technology will allow companies to examine their overall business processes. (Harreld and Sullivan)
Another type of process automation is unique to organizations that deal in ecommerce. AI Magazine explains that there are automated agents that are used in ecommerce related work environments. The magazine explains that automated agents are used to negotiate one to one with consumers. The article concedes,
Designing efficient protocols that facilitate such negotiations can thus have a major impact on the development of electronic commerce. In particular, such protocols can be used for automated negotiations, opening the floodgate for a huge number of applications that benefit consumers and providers of services, such as electricity and telecoms." (Vulcan)
Within the manufacturing industries managers have observed that there is a need for collaborative process automation systems.
According to Business Wire this type of automation will allow companies to see a quicker return on investment. The article explains that collaborative automation is essential to the synchronization of valuable information that can be retrieved during production to make the manufacturing process more efficient. ("Can Your Process...")
According to an article entitled "Process automation and collaboration:
C-Business" collaborative automation is here to stay. The article reports,
The market for collaborative applications incorporating people and processes is potentially huge. Forrester Research says that the enterprise collaboration market will exceed $64 billion in a few years. And the solutions with greater potential are those that include the ability to integrate with other applications and other information management resources. Employees, business partners and customers dynamically collaborate, thus allowing enterprises to deliver greater value to customers by synchronizing and optimizing events and activities among a dynamic set of business partners. The collaboration application model will be the dominant application model by 2004, according to the Gartner Group. Thus replacing the web-based stand-alone collaborative model existent today." (Srikanth)
The final type of process automation that I would like to discuss involves storage automation. An article in Computer Technology explains that…