Process Automation Maturity Spectrum

Objectives
After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the process automation maturity spectrum

Process Automation Maturity Spectrum

Introduction

Welcome back to this business process primer unit. As we said in the previous lesson, many business processes are still unautomated and managed in a manual way, which perhaps isn’t surprising to you if you think about your own job. Why aren’t they automated and what stops them from being digitized and running themselves?

The Five Stage of Process Automation

When looking to automate processes, it’s not as simple as just taking all existing processes and adding degrees of automation to them. Instead, you should start by looking at the stage of the process automation maturity spectrum that the current process sits in. Now, this spectrum comprises five stages of the automation process:

  • Non-standardized
  • Standardized
  • Automated
  • Optimized
  • Hyperautomated, which we will discuss in a later lesson.

The First Four Stages

Let’s learn a little bit more about the first four stages:

Non-Standardized: A process where every instance of that process is run as needed, often with inconsistent steps, and, in some cases, the process may not be followed at all. These types of processes often include multiple emails or conversations. As a result, they can be difficult to track and measure. With these non-standardized processes, there is often no record of what happened.

Standardized: A process with fixed steps that can be repeated. However, the execution of these steps is performed manually by people. There is often no alternative if that person is unavailable, the process is delayed, or blockers are faced. These types of processes can have manual errors and have undocumented steps that can be difficult to track or monitor later on.

Automated: These are managed in a standardized way through a tool or automation system. However, they may not be flexible enough to adapt to individual teams, regions, or departmental variables, much like we need to do with our long tail processes. These processes will run, but may need manual interventions at times, such as in the form of emails, meetings, or talking to colleagues over messaging apps.

Optimized: These are both automated in a system and optimized for the individual needs of the organization or use case. There is usually little need for manual intervention. With optimized processes, the system tracks information and provides data about the process to make it easier to monitor, analyze, and improve as it goes. This is a considerable improvement from a non-standardized process, but is not perfect. Even with optimized processes, you often see that an employee’s time could be better spent on important knowledge work, rather than managing the process and its outcomes. While metrics exist, they aren’t necessarily predictive, that is, we, as people, still need to sit and analyze them, understand where to make improvements, and how to put those into actions.

Summary: Understanding Process Automation Maturity

If you think about your existing business processes, you should be able to identify where on the spectrum they sit.

You have:

  • Non-standardized
  • Standardized
  • Automated
  • Optimized

As a citizen developer, it’s important to understand this spectrum when looking to map your current tasks and to software. While it would be great if all processes could be automated, many need to progress along this maturity spectrum before efficient automation is possible.

We haven’t forgotten about our fifth stage, hyperautomation. This is a key topic for citizen developers, so we’ve dedicated a lesson to it later in the course. Before that, our next well lesson is about the benefits of implementing process automation and some of the challenges it brings too.

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