Almost all business processes, or at least part of them, can be automated for better performance. We can use many of the features of ServiceNow to assist with this, complementing traditional analysis techniques.
When introducing an improvement and process automation, it’s beneficial to use a structured approach with the aim of ‘levelling up’ the process. This 4 step guide explains the main steps to consider.
Start with the Source
Historical data is a prerequisite for process automation and improvements. It shows clearly where automation is most needed. What’s more, each process being analysed should ideally operate on unified elements, this gives the business greater control over process execution.
For example – On-boarding processes for a new employee or customer.
With an onboarding process, each time we complete the same steps, using the standard data prerequisites. Unfortunately, we often meet a blocking point during the process due to a lack of information or someone being overloaded with work.
It is possible that each step is pre-defined and put in one simple process path. With this approach, the workflow does not advance without all the required data. With this change, we avoid wasting time by waiting. Introducing this structured model can give some customers a 60% reduction in time. Simply by having a clear, defined process plan that provides all parties with the information of what’s required at each stage.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it
It is important to ensure the quality of the source data is reliable and complete. Incomplete data can cause more harm than no data at all. In order to solve this problem, one must focus on data organization. It is the first step to complex project automation.
What to do, if you do not have any source data?.. – Create it! It is a common situation, a company would like to improve a non-ticket or non-metric work activity but they don’t have the measurements to support the improvements. Before you can start with process automation, you need to have a measure for future comparison.
If someone receives work via e-mail that doesn’t directly relate to a Case, using a Visual Task Board is a great way of recording the work taken to complete the tasks.
With Visual Task Boards, it’s possible for the employee to record all activities. This data can then be turned into a report and shared with a supervisor to help manage the work volume. It also provides key data and information on the number of tasks completed and it’s possible to quantify the length of time taken for the tasks.
Starting the Analysis
Remember, the analysis should be based on the holistic situation with results, aimed towards shared, defined goals. Typically businesses set visions and targets so they are moving forward and making progress.
This image is based on the work of Prof. Mark von Rosing showing the characteristics of business processes and what’s included in these areas.
Automation should make work easier and faster, providing high quality and valuable outcomes for the effort taken to create automation.
For example, you can write scripts to trigger reminders for high priority tasks, automatically sharing them with the team so they’re not missed. Or we could implement onboarding configuration to trigger a series of tasks or populate information in another part of the process.
In order for process automation to be useful, it should be based on business-specific needs and knowledge, aiming at problematic areas within the business.
Knowledge is always disparate and sits in different departments and business areas. It’s important during the analysis to bring this knowledge together, for the benefit of the business. Thus, various stakeholders and contributors should be involved in discussions.
Continuing from the example of the onboarding process, once we have made the initial analysis and gathered the needs of the stakeholders, we are able to us core mechanisms of ServiceNow to measure the current way of working and analyse things on a deeper level. There are a number of platform modules that can be used to help. Namely: metrics, reports, dashboards and visual task boards.
These will help determine the level of automation that’s required and specifically where it will bring the highest value. It’s also possible to use additional products such as Performance Analytics (PA) and Continual Improvement Management (CIM).
An in-platform Analytics application for ServiceNow customers that need to create management dashboards, report on KPIs and metrics, and answer key business questions to help increase quality and reduce the costs of Service Delivery.
Continual Improvement Management
Used to implement service, process, and function improvements. An improvement initiative contains goals to measure success, and phases that contain tasks with specific actions to complete the improvement.
How to Analyse?
When there is a complete set of data, one can prepare reports and statistics, using data aggregation and focusing on the most time-consuming activities. Time management should usually be the main goal. ServiceNow provides a set of reports to expose data in a more appealing way. If one would like to compare statistics between similar sources, they should use the same style for both reports.
A good example is shown with the two variations below.
ServiceNow incidents with PowerBI:
Find the Root Cause and Eliminate it
In a report, we may identify some high-level problem areas, but it’s important to get to the root cause of the issue, before implementing any improvement.
How to level-up a solution?
Thinking hypothetically, and using the On-Boarding example we’ve started with, let’s look at a possible automation opportunity:
After studying the source date and completing an analysis of the problems and time spent during the process, we have identified that many new employees have to wait a significant amount of time to receive their contract paperwork.
From the analysis and discussions with various stakeholders, it’s determined that the reason for this issue is the HR department must take numerous sources of data and information, captured earlier in the recruitment processes, and manually add them to documents. A laborious and time-consuming task, that causes many delays.
With this issue identified, the project team propose an online form is used from the beginning of the recruitment processes. The form is completed by the candidate and the data captured is stored in ServiceNow. When the recruitment team decides to offer a contract, a simple checkbox triggers the data to be automatically populated into the contracts, thus saving time and avoiding data errors.
We identify a problem and work out how to solve it. We focus to improve quality or to find time-saving opportunities.
ServiceNow can help with this by providing a number of very good tools to analyse and drive a new solution plan.
Once you complete one automation project, you shouldn’t stop there. Every solution can be upgraded. Why not improve an improvement?… Never rely on one solution.
Businesses grow, processes become more and more complex. Therefore solutions and automation should evolve too. Every business is susceptible to changing environments. If the analysis is not consistent, the business risks becoming stagnant, potentially even obsolete in the future.
To assist with this approach, it’s recommended that analysis is part of an ongoing improvement plan. The plan should be reviewed constantly to provide possible opportunities to advance company processes and overall company growth.