Everything begins with an idea - Earl Nightingale, Author & Radio Speaker
One of the most important things in your automation program - the gasoline in the automation engine - is the automation ideas themselves! When the workforce has absorbed the true “art of the possible” with automation, they’ll have lots of ideas for things that should be automated. A solid intake process will ensure people are encouraged to submit ideas and your CoE will have what they need to quickly determine next steps. Let’s talk about some features of a healthy intake process!
Features of a Good Intake Process
Ultimately there is a delicate balance you’ll want to strike for your intake process. Your objective is to get the key details of the idea to the Center of Excellence as quickly as possible, while ensuring sufficient detail is provided so that it can be quickly assessed and next steps defined. Let’s make it simple - here are 3 features to consider for your idea intake process!
#1 - Make it accessible
Where are automation ideas going to come from? I think you’ll find they can come from anyone and anywhere in your organization. So make sure as many people as possible in your organization can submit ideas! In our organization, we have a common platform accessible to every employee, and we simply provided a button for “Automation Ideas”. It’s front and center for every employee to submit ideas whenever inspiration strikes!
#2 - Make it simple
Have you ever been asked to fill out a survey - maybe a request for customer feedback - and were stunned by the amount of feedback they requested? What impact did it have? The answer is that if you are like most people, you abandoned ship, didn’t bother filling it out, and moved on. The store/company doesn’t get your feedback because they made it too complicated. If you want to encourage the contribution of automation ideas, it has to be simple. Think in the amount of no more than 5 - 10 questions the idea contributor needs to fill out. Focus on information the Center of Excellence really needs to know about the idea when first submitted, nothing more and nothing less.
#3 - Make it complete
Remember that balance we talked about? Here it is - it needs to be simple to submit an idea, but sufficient information needs to be provided about the idea in order to perform an initial assessment. If insufficient information about the idea comes to the Center of Excellence, it will generate back-and-forth questioning with the requestor that could be avoided.
Defining The Idea - Example
Without further ado, here is an example of the information you might want to capture on their automation idea:
- Idea Submission Date
- Idea Contributor Name
- Idea Contributor Organization/Business Unit
- Automation Consumers - who will use and/or benefit from the automation? # of people?
- Idea Description - what’s the idea?
- As-is process document - is the request to automate an existing process? Provide a link to the documentation.
- Business value - what positive impact could the automation generate? Can it be quantified?
Conclusion & Actionable Takeaways
How will someone submit the ideas? What system / technology / platform should be used? In the START phase, define requirements for how your ideas will be submitted - hopefully this article will help you with that. Do you need a specific platform to collect the ideas? We would suggest initially looking around your organization. Is there already a platform that could be used? Many enterprise platforms (ex. Sharepoint or Microsoft Forms) can be very easily configured for this purpose while you get your automation program up and running. As you move through your program and your requirements evolve, you can revisit and, if necessary, move to a different platform to collect ideas and submit them to your automation pipeline.
- Consult within your organization - what systems / technology do you already have available that could be configured for idea intake?
- Describe your requirements - what information will need to be provided when people submit an idea? What might be mandatory? Optional?
- Consider what other stakeholders might need to be engaged as ideas are submitted to provide additional details/perspective. For example, if someone from Marketing provides an automation idea to help Finance, you might want to engage the process owner/steward in Finance to help validate/shape the idea.