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Identifying Projects for Automation

Learn when to automate and when to proceed with caution. Read our guide on project assessments.
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Astute organizations look for ways to streamline business processes and reduce operational costs. Automation can provide a solution to this challenge. However, before embarking on an automation project, you should first take the time to perform a full discovery and benefit analysis on the process you want to streamline.

The Insights & Automation team at Forvis Mazars often is asked if a client can automate a business process. The immediate answer tends to be yes, we can automate it—and that’s more than likely true. Many current manual processes can be automated, but the better question is should it be automated. In some instances, that answer will be no—and that’s okay. In this article, we’ll provide guidance on how to identify projects well-suited for automation to help you move forward with confidence.

Assessing the Situation

Automating business processes should provide a positive return on investment (ROI) over the life span the automation will be in use. To help determine this return, some useful questions to ask include:

  1. How would the automation provide value to the organization?

    When asking this question, many answers will center around reducing repetitive work, along with cost and time savings. These are great responses and should be followed up with questions regarding the amount of time, cost, etc. It’s beneficial to ask these questions not only to the end users but to team leads to gather multiple perspectives.

  2. Is there someone in the organization who will champion the automation project?

    Projects tend to have better outcomes and longevity when an executive sponsor or motivated business user champions the project rather than it being a line item on a management to-do list.

  3. How often will the automation be used?

    Building automation for processes that are used sporadically or infrequently can be done; however, the use case and frequency of use should be included in your project assessment.

  4. Will this automation require additional resources that have additional reoccurring costs?

    When building automation, in some instances users will need additional licensing, apps, or other services. These items come with additional costs that a project owner should consider when assessing the ROI for the project.

  5. How much effort will be involved to automate the process?

    How much time and resources do you estimate will be needed for the automation project? The estimated time should include the discovery work of understanding the current standard operating procedure, mapping out the potential new process, development work, testing, documentation of the automation process, and support after deployment.

  6. What is the time frame for this project?

    Once the time frame is determined, you’ll need to review what’s realistically possible for your organization’s operations.

Determining Project Viability

Diving into these questions allows for an initial assessment to be completed and can help you determine the viability of an automation project.

If the initial assessment returns favorable responses, then it’s time to start learning more about the process to be automated. An important next step is meeting with the business users to watch how they perform the process in its current state and ask questions. Key questions to ask at this stage are where the data is coming from and are there defined rules for the process. These results can help you further assess the project’s ROI.

This step is important as variables can potentially change. The level of value for the project can change, as well as the level of effort required to automate.

Using a low, medium, high scale for both value and effort, an automation team can rank the project to assist in a final decision. High-value, low-to-medium-effort projects will typically produce the greatest ROI; while low-value, high-effort projects tend to result in a negative ROI. Low-value, low-effort projects can be automated to build confidence in using automation in everyday processes, even though there may not be a positive ROI.

At this stage, an informed decision can be made and justified if an automation project should proceed.

How Forvis Mazars Can Help

If you’d like assistance with identifying projects for automation, connect with us today. Insights & Automation at Forvis Mazars can assist with:

  • Advisory engagements
  • Power Platform assessments
  • Power Platform automations
  • App-to-app integrations
  • Outsourced citizen developer services

We have certified experience with Microsoft Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, Dataverse, Azure, and Solver. We are an award-winning Microsoft Partner and partner of Solver Global, corporate performance management software.

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