A typical Process Workshop Agenda

Process workshops are an important tool for anyone running process discovery, documentation or analysis projects. They are powerful because it’s one of the few chances that teams can get to talk about how they work together and how they can improve. Whether you have time to prepare in advance or you are on the spot, here are Skore’s top tips to run a great process workshop agenda.

Remember, the output of a workshop typically consists of:

  • an agreed description/ visualisation of the process
  • a list of improvement opportunities
  • a list of requirements
  • set of actions for the team to complete

While documenting a process may be something you are familiar with, running a workshop can be quite challenging, and if you don’t have a good structure to work to, it can be even harder. It’s key to get the agenda for your Process Workshop ready.

Need to learn more about Process Mapping? Read our guide to everything here

Here’s how we would go about organising the process workshop agenda.

Before the Workshop

Make sure you’ve agreed the scope of the process and attendees. Provide the agenda, ensure the room has been booked and all the equipment you need is there and working.

Introduction

Introduce yourself, and why you are here. You are likely to be new to a team of people who know each other very well already. You are the outsider and you need to start breaking down barriers and be clear about who you are from the very beginning.

Objectives and Expectations

Make sure you go through the process workshop agenda and discuss expectations and timings. Discuss what you hope to achieve, why you are doing it and check that everyone agrees. You can talk about what you want to cover in the meeting but its also just as important to make sure everyone know what you won’t be talking about.

Ground Rules

Its always a good idea to go through some basic rules that will apply to your workshop. Make sure that the attendees understand that everyone in the workshop is equal. If you have a person of authority attending then it is very important that they also back this up. Often team members are reluctant to speak up in front of managers. If you are not getting much feedback you may want to consider if this is why.

It’s also important to make clear that there are no phones or laptops in use, you need everyone’s undivided attention. If its urgent then people need to step away from the room and make sure there are no distractions. Make sure you are in control of the room, so there is only one conversation going on at a time and this is clear. Any major issues needed to be parked after 5 minutes.

Skore Process Map
Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Guidance

Explain the approach that you are using and how it works, show examples if you have them. Even if people are comfortable with process mapping there is nothing wrong with showing them again how the workshop will work.

Design Principles

If this part of a wider programme of work there are likely to be some guiding or design principles, make sure you go through these at the beginning of the workshop. List existing standards and reference materials they have. The organisation may have a generic methodology or approach that the business needs to use and its important to adopt this culture, don’t try to change it here.

List and review content your attendees already have, but you may find that they can’t think of things on the spot, especially if they don’t use them very often. This may come out more during the workshop.

Start with the Scope

Discuss the scope of the process and ensure everyone is still aligned on what you’re going to be focusing on.

Map the Process

Capture activities, roles, inputs and outputs – take a look at our blog article for more inspiration … Make sure you capture ideas, risks, issues and actions as you go.

Walk Through

You might not finish everything in the workshop, don’t worry if thats the case, but make sure you walk through what you do have by reading it aloud to everyone.

Agree Next Steps

Discuss actions and assign owners to each one. Make sure you agree timetable for next steps if possible. Its important everyone comes away knowing what is happening next.

Process Workshop Agenda Ready!

Your basic agenda as prescribed by Skore. You are ready to run an awesome Process Workshop. Give it a try and let us know how it went by commenting below.

Skore is the Process Mapping and Analysis Software Platform. With Skore you can can map processes at the speed of conversation in live workshops, generate instant reports and dashboards and share with everyone. Sign up for a free trial below

Practice what you Preach. Using Skore in Lean Process Improvement

In the early days of Skore we didn’t set out to build a Lean improvement software. We just wanted a way to make process discovery workshops easier, quicker and more engaging than the traditional method using brown paper, sticky notes and a lengthy writeup. 

Initially I was surprised by the resistance displayed by Lean teams when presenting the capabilities of Skore. However I quickly realised that this had nothing to do with Lean and everything to do with human nature. Humans, generally, don’t deal with change very well. Change brings uncertainty and that makes us uncomfortable.

Ironically It turns out that it doesn’t matter even if you’re in the business of change and transformation, you’ll just as likely rail against the uncertainty that change brings. Competition, although, is a great motivator and recently we’ve seen more and more Lean teams turn to us when looking at ways of improving how they deliver their own work.

Make your Process Discovery Lean – How Skore is different. 

In our efforts to improve the effectiveness of  process discovery workshops we looked at how processes are described. A number of notations and approaches are available but we wanted something simple. Not to remember a lot of symbols or explain them to others and certainly we didn’t want to waste time discussing their meaning. So we reduced the shapes we use to 2.

Skore’s 2 shapes – the What and Why box

We did want people to think about the value of their work so we introduced the Why box. This ensures that for every piece of work that we describe in Skore we need to have a discussion about why we do it. That discussion could be 15 seconds, or it may take 15 minutes, but it’s essential to know whether the work is adding value or not.

Example of Process Step using What and Why box taken from Skore’s Software Platform

We created a software interface easy enough to use in a live environment and capture a process at the speed of conversation. This is done on a screen in front of people while they describe the process. We recognised writing sticky notes distracts from the flow of information from participants.  Whether re-writing a spelling mistake or having to completely rearrange all the notes on the board because they missed an important step out somewhere.

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Of course the by product of this ‘process improvement’ is everything you capture is immediately stored digitally. There’s no need to take photos, roll up the paper and transcribe it into various formats afterward. Content is shared instantly at the end of the workshop. In a recent example one of our partners saves 2 days of follow up work for each workshop they run. At around 100 workshops per year  – that’s a significant saving of 200 days.

Using Skore going forward.

Finally Skore addresses the waste issues concerning the ongoing management of documents following a workshop. Huge amounts of information are gathered, not just process flows. Roles and responsibilities, risks, timings, costs, delays, questions, actions, issues, the list goes on. All are documented somewhere and relate to specific parts, or steps, in the process. They must be updated and kept in sync. Skore stores this directly against the process so that any change you make will instantly highlight any dependencies and be reflected through all the information. 

Using Skore enables Lean teams to ensure that their information gathering and process mapping is efficient and effective. Surely Lean consultants themselves should be able to recognise that sometimes we all need to change and embrace the new ways, even if that means recognising that Lean approaches can produce wastage too. 

Skore Digital Discovery is cloud based software that enables you to align your people, processes and tools. A process discovery, insights and improvement platform with a live workshop tool, it reduces the capturing processes stage from weeks to days. Skore’s Lean Assess module identifies value add and non value steps in processes and calculates savings for your organisation. Click here for a free trial.

As-Is vs To-Be: Where do you start?

THIS BLOG WAS UPDATED ON 07/07/2020

Where should you start with As-Is To-Be? It’s a thorny question and one that divides analysts, consultants and clients alike. We recently raised this discussion point on LinkedIn here and sure enough there were plenty of views on the subject. So – should you start mapping the As-Is or should you go straight to the To-Be?

Some analysts swear that you can NEVER start any project without first mapping the As-Is. Others argue that mapping As-Is is a waste of valuable time and you should jump straight to the To-Be. 

The truth is, as with so many things, it really depends on a number of points. To help you understand more about it, in this article we explore those factors, drawing from our experience working in process management, to help you decide the right approach for your project.

So lets start at the beginning….

What do we mean by As-Is and To-Be?

In general we are talking about business processes and the need to understand them. 

As-Is process mapping is about understanding the here and now. It tries to answer the question;

What is happening in this process right now?

How does it work today?

It’s also often called the Current State and isn’t just always the process but also includes lots of other data and information from a business.

Want to learn more about process mapping and how to make it easier for people across your business? Check out our process mapping guide here.

To-Be process mapping is where we start to explore the future; 

How should this process work tomorrow?

To-Be process mapping is also commonly called Process Design or Future State mapping. It might be that we are making minor improvements to an existing process, or designing a process that doesn’t even exist today.

The disagreement many have is whether there is value in spending time documenting the As-Is or whether you should jump straight to the To-Be. This decision really depends on the individual project.

Develop and Manage People Process
Example of a Skore Process Map

Things to consider when making this decision.

Define the type of project

The type of project you are about to embark on will sometimes indicate where to use As-Is versus To-be. If this is a greenfield area for the business, something that’s completely new, it’s likely there is no existing process to look at. In this case there is no As-Is to map.

Consider whether this is just a new way of doing things, or a completely new value that’s being delivered. If this is a completely new service or product being delivered to a client there may be little precedent for how it should or could be done. This is different to providing the same service or product but in a contrasting way.

In the second case it may still be worth performing some sort of simple As-Is review to make sure that previous problems are avoided. For example your organisation may have traditionally used a third party to deliver the service and now you’re bringing it in-house. An As-Is review will help you learn the lessons of the past.

Perform pre-project diagnostics or root cause analysis

An area where As-Is process mapping is particularly valuable is where a project is yet to be defined. Perhaps a problem has been identified but not fully understood. Alternatively there may be a desire to investigate the possibility of improving an existing way of working.

Analysis is required to understand the problem better and establish whether a project is needed to find and implement a solution. In this case some form of As-Is will be important to complete. 

Have clear goals and objectives for the project

It goes without saying that a project should have clear goals and objectives, these can help determine whether As-Is mapping is required. 

The project description should indicate whether the problems are already understood, or require further investigation. If the existing problems are clear and agreed by everyone then As-Is might not be required. 

As-Is can be useful for building a plan as it will help you figure out how to get to your To-Be. You can use it to identify gaps and how to fill them. Sometimes your As-Is can be done after the To-Be for this purpose. 

Find out more about how Skore works here

Review any existing information

If you have already established that you need to understand As-Is versus To-Be first, you still may not have to create it. Check whether any existing documentation exists, for example, process maps or procedures. 

Ask stakeholders to review these for accuracy and analyse them to understand the gaps and potential opportunities. Even with existing documentation there are likely to be gaps that need mapping out. Sometimes the documentation may be so far out of date it’s quicker to recapture the latest process. 

Shows a part of the Skore Process Map with a comment and not on it.
Notes made on part of a Skore Process Map

Understand the team dynamics

This is an area that can easily trip up a less experienced business analyst. What people say, how they act and what they think might not match others. It’s common for one person to confidently tell you that they understand the problem. When in fact their view of the problem is different to that of others. 

In these cases there is always a danger that these different view points will cause problems later on. If different stakeholders have different views on the cause and size of the problem they will place different values on the solution. This will make it extremely hard to get people to buy in and implement the solution successfully. 

As-Is mapping can be an extremely powerful tool for aligning people on the current problems and potential solutions. It allows people to discuss the work that happens today and highlight the issues in a relatively safe environment. Care should be taken not to map too much detail if it’s not required. The object may just be to align people on one main problem and/or solution. 

Don’t go into too much detail

How much detail is required? That will depend on the project so this is why having clear goals and objectives are so important. If the project goal is to automate an existing process then enough detail is required to understand the requirements.

If the goal of the As-Is mapping is designed to align stakeholders we normally apply the 80/20 rule. You’ll get 80% of the answer in the first 20% of the effort. Consider whether getting 80% of the way there is enough for you to continue. If it is, and it normally is in our experience, then you could save yourself a lot of unnecessary time.

Use the right tool for the job

If you have to map As-Is / To-Be or both then you’ll need to consider the right tool for the task. There are lots of process mapping tools and methodologies available. However, one of the overriding concerns for any team embarking on As-Is discovery work is the amount of time it takes.

Skore has been designed specifically to make process discovery and analysis as easy as possible for the widest possible audience. It can be used in live process capture workshops to map a process at the speed of conversation. Participants can see the process come alive as they describe it. This means no additional time is required to write up the process after the workshop and because it’s web based, the processes can be shared instantly.

In addition to the visual flow of the process, Skore supports various types of analysis that will help you quickly understand a process. Data such as roles, durations, costs, risks, requirements and many more can be captured against the process and generate instant insights. This not only makes As-Is capture much quicker but also helps rapidly identify opportunities for your To-Be design. Skore takes the pain out of mapping a process and allows you to start benefiting from your process mapping from the start. 

Conclusion – As-Is vs To-Be

You can therefore begin to understand that  the question of whether to use As-Is versus To-Be is not completely straight forward. In most cases you will need both.  The real question you should be asking yourself is how much time, or how much detail, do you need for your As-Is?

It’s worth spending time considering this up front before embarking on lengthy and costly As-Is process mapping exercises. You may be able to save an awful lot of time if you understand the right level of detail required and have the right tools to do it from the very beginning. 

Where should I start with RPA?

THOSE WORKING IN THE RPA SPACE ARE USED TO SPOTTING GOOD OPPORTUNITIES FOR APPLYING ROBOTS. HOWEVER IT COMES THROUGH EXPERIENCE AND IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS. WHERE DO YOU START WITH RPA?

Skore’s Process Mapping and Analysis Platform enables you to identify potential opportunities for RPA. However, often organisations are reluctant, the response being “we’ve tried that before but it didn’t really deliver the return we’d hoped for.”

If we look at statements like this more closely it’s actually because the processes in question are complicated. They are selected for a number of reasons; multiple systems, numerous copy and paste activities, repetition and high levels of human interaction. Most importantly these are considered low risk in case anything went wrong.

However whilst low risk they are clearly of low importance too. Only a vague scope is agreed before the team go to work building a robot.

Teams may initially be pleased that the amount of copy and paste they previously did is greatly reduced and the volume of items they can handle has increased. However, the number of exceptions start to increase too, at a higher rate than the volume increase. In addition, there is an increase in rework… items that didn’t make it successfully to the end of the process and need to be redone, often manually.

In other words organisations fix one problem but create new ones. On balance there is only a small return on investment and the whole RPA initiative runs out of steam before it’s begun.

So, how do you avoid these common mistakes? Where do you start with RPA? Understanding which processes are right for automation is essential for success. Every organisation will have a different view of what’s important. Time and cost savings are obvious benefits but you must consider the impact on customer and employee experience. 

Therefore the first thing you should do is start to capture and analyse your end-to-end business processes. You need to get people aligned and identify everything that needs to be improved before applying automation. This drives out the requirements and other improvement opportunities.

RPA Business Case Report
Example of a Skore Robotic Assess Report

Remember capturing business processes doesn’t have to be time consuming, using process mapping it can be achieved rapidly, with high levels of engagement and immediately outputs a report of what to automate and when. Skore’s Robotic Assess module sits on top of the Digital Discovery platform and will also produce a robust business case for each process. This helps you prioritise them into a pipeline of work.

If you want to get the most out of RPA you need to pick processes that are easy to automate and return high value benefits in the shortest time. At least until you’ve established your RPA capability and are able to scale it. Using process discovery will help you identify those processes rapidly and prioritise them efficiently.

Craig Willis is one of the founders of Skore, the Process Mapping and Analysis platform that enables you to align your processes, people and tools with ease. Skore have launched Robotic Assess, a module that allows you to easily assess and understand where to start with RPA. Find out more.

Missed our recent RPA webinar? If you still need to learn about process discovery, sustainable RPA implementation, how to scale and building a robust RPA business case click here to request a free copy.

My top 3 tips for awesome Process Mapping Workshops

Process Mapping Workshops haven’t moved on in the last 20 years…

When you mention process mapping workshops to most people they’ll think of standing around brown paper with pens & post-it notes, talking about the same thing over and over and over. The more arguments there are, the better the workshop right? Can you accept that they are successful and collaborative workshops based on this experience?

However, as Process Mapping software grows in popularity, here are Skore’s top tips to make your process mapping workshop engaging and enriching.

Want to learn more about Process Mapping? Read our guide to Process Mapping here

Why use Process Mapping Software?

People love post-it notes right? You don’t get the same engagement looking at a screen?

Wrong. Paper-based approaches aren’t slick, moving dozens of post-it’s around because you’ve suddenly remembered a step is a daunting task. Plus, rolling up the paper and spending days translating them into a digital format results in two major problems:

  • Workshop output has a half-life. The longer between the workshop and the delivery of the output, the less impact it has.
  • It’s very difficult for one person to successfully translate what was captured into an accurate representation. Couple this with the time it’s taken, you lose engagement as people don’t relate to the output

Whatever success you’ve experienced engaging through a workshop will be lost when the reporting doesn’t match up to the conversation you had two weeks ago.

Our Top Tips for Process Mapping Workshops

  Use a common language

Even if you’re clever enough to have learnt BPMN, no one is going to be impressed with your use of connector symbols, diamond, squares, etc… Keep it simple, people don’t want to have to learn a whole new language to engage in the workshop. Keeping it simple and accessible means the whole organisation can be engaged in change – not just the process experts. Simple process language explained

  Don’t jump into the detail

It’s all too tempting to spend hours focusing on one part of the problem. You’ll get a far better picture if you start at a higher level, then break it down into the detail as needed. It also means you can get the right people in the room at the right time. Using software means you can drill down into the detail easily later while keeping the process map to one page. 

Hierarchy of Skore Process
How a Skore Process Map Drills Down

  Share it instantly

If you’re doing it right, the content should be shareable by the time the attendees are back at their desk. You want them to be able to review it whilst it’s still fresh in their minds, make that comment, ask that question. Also, they’re more likely to share it with people that didn’t make the workshop, gaining a wider level of feedback.

Using a process mapping software, and our tips, will help you engage on a whole new level. You’ll be able to get to answers quicker, demonstrate instant value and move the audience onto the next stage sooner, be it future process improvements, system implementation, or something else.

Skore is the Process Mapping and Analysis Platform that enables you to map processes in live workshops at the speed of conversation. Create instant insights and dashboards and shareable to everyone. If you’d like a free trial, let us know.

Are you continuously improving your processes?

How often has this happened? You map out and understand key processes for a systems implementation or organisational change. Identifying the opportunities, requirements and constraints you deliver the much anticipated improvements. Then, the processes get filed away and largely forgotten. How therefore, can you continuously be improving your processes if they are not engaging your organisation? 

Fast forward a year, the next change is around the corner and you know the processes are already captured. You retrieve the documentation, dust it off and discover the world has changed more than you thought. Despite all your hard work in that last year, not one person has been responsible for continuously improving your business processes and they are out of date. 

Does this sound familiar? If this has happened to you then read on. Learn how to develop a sustainable process framework that ensures the processes are not only kept up to date but more importantly deliver considerable value above and beyond the original project. 

Skore Process Map
Image taken from the Skore Digital Discovery Platform

Chart a new direction

Instead of filing the process documentation away for use in some future project, think about how it can be used to deliver more value to the business today. In the short term, for example, it should provide training material and support to those involved in the change.

Explore other initiatives in the business that would benefit from having clarity on key processes. A good place to start is with compliance, standards, customer experience, continuous improvement and operational excellence. Identify the key people in these areas and share the work that has been done to see how it could support their goals and objectives.

Creating the processes is one thing but keeping them up to date will probably require new processes to ensure feedback loops are closed and content actually gets updated when required. Consider what infrastructure you need to put in place from the beginning to encourage this culture and help you improve your processes continuously. 

Next, think about how this gets communicated to the business. Make clear what the benefit is for each team, the individuals in those teams and how it helps them to do their jobs better.

Empower the business

Once the processes are defined think about the people in each team who own and look after them. Identifying the process owners is essential as these are the people that will have the final say on what gets changed.

Identify champions responsible for gathering feedback and ensuring something happens with it. A system, such as Skore, helps here by gathering comments and managing changes to content. However someone has to be responsible for making happen. Therefore you need a ‘go to person’ in each team that everyone knows to ask.

Learn how to share a process across teams in Skore

Sense and respond to change

With the key stakeholders identified and the processes mapped start putting it into action. Well mapped processes provide a common language for teams to have focused discussions about what works well and what can be improved. For this reason we recommend that teams start to include a process review in regular team meetings. Continuously improving your processes should be a team effort not individual.

These can be once a week or even once a month but it’s worth taking 10-15 minutes in each team meeting. Review one or more processes and ask those simple questions; what’s causing us to slow down? What could we do better?

This may, or may not, lead to a change in the process. Either way the team knows and is reminded about how it works. Processes actually end up being tweaked more regularly as teams become more familiar with them. The processes become a reference point for experimentation and identify potential issues long before they become a reality.

Embedding simple process reviews into regular team meetings significantly increases the agility of the team and maintains high levels of communication and trust. These regular team meetings offer you the opportunity to ensure processes are improved continuously. This is better than at the last minute or because something has gone wrong. 

Continuously Improving Your Processes

There are clear benefits to reusing processes in this way. First the ability for a team to sense and respond to changes much quicker. Second, when that next transformation programme inevitably comes around, the processes will be up to date. The team will already be aligned and have a much deeper understanding of the need for change. Sustaining processes not only saves you money when you kick off a change programme. It can also increase the performance of the whole business. Your organisation must stay agile and continuous improvement of your processes is key to that success.

Skore is the process discovery, insights and improvements software platform. Skore allows you to map processes in live workshops at the speed on conversation. You gain instant insights into your organisation and engage and collaborate across teams.

Why do we map processes?

Why should you bother to map processes? Without this crucial step a project or programme is at risk of falling apart. It all starts with Process Discovery – the key to a successful process map….

Let’s start with the basics; we map processes to help understand how things work today, or to design how things should work in the future. A process flow chart provides a visual representation of a set of activities and outcomes. These are often difficult to read in a text format. It’s especially useful to map a process where a process has multiple pathways, where different things happen in parallel, or different events can trigger different sets of activities.

Typically we map processes as part of projects or programmes such as:

  • Systems implementation
  • Standardisation
  • Compliance
  • Continuous Improvement

A good process will show the key activities, the outcomes and the roles that are responsible for those activities. More detailed processes can also include; responsibilities (e.g. RACI), systems, requirements, risks, issues and control points among others.

Need to know more about Process Mapping? Read our guide here

To map process helps us to understand how something works, or how we want it to work, but what exactly does it help us understand? What should you be looking out for when you map process? It breaks down into three things:

  • Alignment
  • Opportunity
  • Constraints

Understanding each of these will help ensure you get the most out of any process mapping exercise in the future.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Alignment

When capturing a current process, understanding how things work today, it’s important to ensure everyone is aligned. The team who do the process must all agree on how it is done. If it is done differently by different people, then you need to understand why it’s done differently and what the impact is.

This ensures that everyone is talking the same language early on and has the same understanding. They comprehend the problems they currently face, how they describe them and any future benefits to fixing it.

It’s vital to get alignment early, get everyone onboard, and keep everyone aligned by referring back to the processes throughout the project.

Opportunity

Looking at any process is a chance to improve it. It could be reducing cost, removing unnecessary steps, simplifying, reducing risk, speeding it up or any number of other things. When subject matter experts get together to map out a process visualisation, and create that common language it is much easier to talk about improvements.

Therefore the team needs to ask itself what the opportunities for improvement are. These could be very general, such as simply removing waste from the process, or more focused such as identifying specific parts of the process that can be automated by a system.

In large and strategic change programmes, opportunities should be looked at through the lens of the programme objectives. What improvements can be made to help achieve those targets?

Constraints

Whatever change you intend to make must be made within the constraints of the business. Some constraints will be more obvious than others, for example, time, budget and resources. It is process discovery, that is the discussion, visualisation and documenting of the process, that helps to reveal the hidden constraints that could trip the project up later on.

These could be anything that prevents the change being a success if not managed correctly. Issues and risks are the most common. A change may be held up simply if standards and compliance requirements impact an individual step. In discovery workshops you discuss the non functional requirements such as security or usability which are essential to success.

Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

Summary

Process mapping, and process discovery, are the key enablers to change of any kind, whether implementing standard ways of working or completely transforming how things get done. Process mapping ensures that you get alignment among the team, identify the opportunities for improvement and understand the constraints that could prevent you from achieving the desired outcome. Make sure with any discovery session you have considered these three dimensions effectively before moving on.

Need more help mapping processes? Try Skore’s Digital Discovery platform, it enables you to capture processes at the speed of conversation through live workshops and manage the data. Click here to find out more about our process discovery, improvements and analysis software and  simplify the complexity of your organisation. 

Chaos to Conviction – Essential Discovery for Successful RPA


Like any automation, when developing a new process in RPA a high degree of certainty is required to make it work.  Teams must clearly define exactly which screens to interface with, the exact data required and the correct manipulation, if you want to achieve successful RPA discovery.  

Get any of this wrong and your robot may be fast, they may be cheaper than a human, but the output renders it worse than useless, even potentially dangerous. However, the way humans work, especially in organic process, is rarely full of certainty. Processes can be opaque, overly complicated and difficult to explain. To bridge this gap you need a stable approach to RPA discovery.

A Solid Framework

Traditionally you could simply rely on an experienced consultant who’s done this before, however these are hard to find and can be expensive. A good analyst, or subject matter expert, should be able to achieve the same objective providing they are supported by a robust framework. 

This is so key because it makes sense of what can appear chaotic. Humans each have a unique way to describe what they do so one of the first things to do is to be able to standardise that output. 

As an example, in a recent project we looked at a global finance process that was executed regionally. During the initial discovery sessions one could have been forgiven for thinking these regional activities were completely different processes due to the language used and approach taken. 

By applying a framework we were forced to ask: where does it start? what happens? who does it? with what? and what’s the output? This immediately provided simple data to work with – essentially –  are they starting with the same input and are they aiming to produce the same output?

Using this approach meant that instantly it wasn’t us challenging the user but the framework itself. This simple technique avoids the user becoming defensive, or feeling threatened, when challenged about how they work. In our example our adherence to the Skore framework resulted in a successful process mapping exercise with the bonus of no egos hurt or relationships damaged.  

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

This first pass at discovery rarely gets you straight to the answer but it will start to make sense of what’s going on. Once you’ve established the start point and endpoint of one or more processes you need to understand how they actually work. 

Take each step in a process and break that down into the next level of detail. This ensures that all your work is captured in the context of the wider process. Continue the previous line of questioning until you can clearly describe the process as if you had done it yourself. This is much easier than it might at first sound, providing you follow the guidelines of the framework. You may need to repeat several times to achieve this but you can normally complete this in one or two sessions.

Apply the RPA Lense

Once you’ve captured the process you’ll already be thinking about which parts are suitable for RPA. It’s time to combine your solid process mapping approach with available software.

This helps to quickly identify standardised inputs and outputs, interfaces suitable for RPA, decision making and so on. Software will support your decision making to ensure you can do it quicker and more accurately. Build your business case by determining how much a process costs, how many full time equivalent roles are required, who will be impacted and the potential savings. 

Successful process discovery RPA business case dashboard created by Skore
Image taken from the Skore Robotic Assess Module

Capture and Approve the Detail

Finally, once you have selected the most suitable candidate for automation you can capture the step by step process. Again create a process map under the relevant step, capture the key stroke steps, along with screenshots, to develop a detailed design document in the context of the wider process and business case.

Conclusion

Through years of experience I’ve rarely come across anyone that can clearly articulate their own process when asked. RPA opportunities often arise as the result of some major shift or disruption in the workplace. Where workarounds prevail however, it is even harder for a coherent process description to arise. This means that RPA opportunities can often be tricky to make sense of and get right.

Too often what looked initially like a great candidate turns out to be overly complicated with too many exceptions. A strong framework, applied methodically, will weed out those processes and help you make more informed decisions. Don’t be afraid to take the time to go back and retrace steps until you fully understand the process. Repetition and reiteration are your friends in this. 

If you’d rather get the experts involved take a look at Skore’s Robotic Assess module. Our Digital Discovery platform will not only speedily capture your end to end processes but also provides insights to facilitate process improvements. Identify RPA opportunities, illustrate potential savings and demonstrate your return on investment to stakeholders all with the click of a button. Click here to request a demo.

Don’t drown in the RPA Sea of Opportunity.

Ensure your organisation’s preparations for RPA process discovery are watertight and ready for anything. Here are Skore’s recommendations for RPA process discovery success.

A previous blog (see here) explored the difficulties, especially in organisations new to RPA, in identifying good opportunities for implementing robots.

However, this blog focuses more on when you have some fantastic early success with RPA. Interestingly this leads to a number of different problems to consider:

  • how to quickly evaluate and prioritise the requests
  • how to collaborate with the requesting teams 
  • how to maintain the growing number of robots.

It was the perfect example to demonstrate that getting RPA process discovery right means this situation will happen sooner than you think. We recommend that you start thinking about the following early on in your RPA journey. 

Evaluate and prioritise requests

You will move from a hunting model to a servicing model. Instead of searching out for opportunities and candidates for RPA, you will be receiving requests from colleagues across the business.

Remember that very few people will have the experience you have in identifying these opportunities. Requests will vary from a near perfect fit to wildly unsuitable and will differ considerably in size and complexity. You won’t have time to do a thorough investigation into each one before deciding whether to engage or not. You need to make sure your team are as prepared as possible to evaluate these opportunities effectively. 

With a Digital Discovery tool, such as Skore, you can quickly capture a high level view of the process. By applying Skore’s Robotic Assess, you can determine suitability, feasibility and the potential business case.

Invoice Process Map

This can be done in a single conversation with the requesting team, or, you can even ask them to do it themselves.

The information is saved directly to the system and a pipeline of candidates is produced and ranked according to the potential benefits. Process discovery and evaluation is arguably the most important stage of the RPA model, do not underestimate it.

RPA Process Assessment

Collaboration with the business

From the time a request is submitted, until the robot is delivered, communication with the requesting team is essential. If you’re accepting requests and managing comms via email this is never going to scale.

Consider a task management tool such as Asana, Jira or Monday. These can be configured to accept requests electronically, manage projects and provide dashboards so that both the delivery team and the requesting team can see the status of the project at any time.

With the processes captured in Skore it’s very easy to indicate which steps are to be automated and tested. This can be exported to your task management tool to provide the framework to the project, if accepted.

Robot maintenance

Ongoing maintenance of robots is something that very few teams consider… until they need it. Very few robots can be built and forgotten. Robots are using systems and forms that can change. Robots themselves are software and will receive updates and improvements that need to be considered. Data used by the robots can change too.

Ensure that you maintain a catalogue of previously built robots and their current operating status. Use monitoring to notify you of potential issues that arise before they have a significant impact on the process. Plan maintenance windows to allow you to update robots as and when required.

Ultimately, robots are like any other system the organisation manages so it’s essential that you have clear processes to deal with outages, issues and general maintenance. Don’t undervalue this step in your RPA implementation plan. 

Conclusion

Get RPA right  and it has the impact to transform a business and it can happen quickly. When it does you need to be ready to take full advantage. Think early about how you’re going to scale production and maintenance and what tools you will use to plan, evaluate and review. This will save you a lot of trouble and lost opportunity when your RPA vision truly sets sail.

Skore Digital Discovery is cloud based software that enables you to align your people, processes and tools. A process discovery, insights and improvement platform with a live workshop tool, it reduces the capturing processes stage from weeks to days. Skore’s Robotic Assess module allows you to build robust business cases on RPA quickly and effortlessly. Sign up here for a demo. 


No Pains No Gains?

Should we start by capturing pains first in a process discovery workshop? Or are we just inflicting more pain on ourselves?

Last edited 01/10/2019

Too often we focus on the pain and not the process discovery. Typically people start with a ‘Pains’ session with subject matter experts followed by a series of process workshops.

However, how much pain and frustration do you create by completing this exercise? Time wasted discussing a pain that later turned out to be low priority or the really big problems that are dealt with that didn’t come out until later workshops. Of course by this stage you have already spent a lot of time and effort exploring solutions that were no longer relevant.

You may wonder why its done this way but the answer is predictable

 “we’ve always done it this way even though we know it’s the worst thing we can say!”

It’s not however,  just “pains” workshops where this happens,it is often seen with requirements gathering workshops. A team gathers around a flip chart and lists all the requirements / pains / risks etc that they believe are the most important. Yet when you dig into these they are either not as important as they first appeared, or those that didn’t seem important at first turn out to be the highest priority. This seems to be a common issue experienced in process workshops.  

Why does this happen?

Asking people what pains they experience, or what they require from a new system, are not easy questions to answer. On the face of it they appear straight forward. What do you not like about the current process? Sure you can answer that, but how you express it, how you perceive it, when it last happened to you and how you experience it are likely to be quite different to the next person.

It means that how you answer that question on any given day could result in a completely different answer. Combine this with a group of different people and you also have to contend with how loud someone talks, their individual personalities and the level of engagement in this particular session.

The psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’  describes ‘substitution’, a behaviour common in humans when faced with difficult to answer and ambiguous questions. The brain is inherently lazy and always finds the easiest way to answer a particular question. When asked about the pains you feel in a particular process you’re unlikely to think really deeply about this and will simply substitute an answer that you can easily remember – therefore the last thing that happened to you rather than the most painful thing.

Process Discovery
Image taken from Skore’s Digital Discovery Platform

How do we improve Process Discovery?

You must make it as easy as possible for people to express the pains they feel in context. This means creating a framework. A framework you can use to start with and which becomes the process to which the pains, or requirements, relate to as part of your process discovery.

Rather than starting with the pains session, it is important to start with defining and agreeing the process as it happens today. This provides a common language that the whole team can use. A common language to describe the pains in the same way, rather than multiple people describing the same pains in very different ways.

As the process is laid out it  will become easy for SMEs to describe pains and requirements in the context of the process. The prioritisation and sizing of the problem can then be captured live at the same time. This also makes it unnecessary for your team to have multiple workshops.

Skore Digital Discovery

At Skore we have specifically designed our platform to capture business processes live in workshops. Along with the process descriptions you can capture pain points and requirements, and quantify them, all in the context of the relevant step in the process. As the information is captured directly into the software there’s no need to take photos and write up notes afterward. It’s effortless as your pain points, requirements and quantification data are also stored in the same place so there are no more multiple spreadsheets.

Finally…

Instead of starting with a pain points or requirements session, you need to start with capturing the process. This gives you the framework with which to have a much more meaningful conversation about the pains and requirements in context. The conversations are not only more focused but the whole exercise is much quicker, keeping subject matter experts more engaged and on board.

Skore Digital Discovery is a process capture, improvement and analysis platform designed to simplify the complexity. Click here to sign up for a free trial and find out more about how Skore can revolutionise the way you deal with processes and transformation in your organisation.