What is Process Automation?

A (business) process is a defined workflow of actions and has an explicit start and end point. The goal of process automation is the eliminate manual actions and to tap the full potential of:

  • Increase in efficiency: An automated step runs faster and therefore reduces the throughput time of a process
  • Increase in quality: Manual steps are always error prone

Our Offer to Automate Your Processes

Our goal is to automate business processes through small, dedicated web applications. In many domains, a standard software solution is already in place to automate the most important and complex processes. In our expericence, there remains a number of small, but error prone processes which are not integrated, because it is too expensive to customize the standard software. The solution is a micro application, which can (but doesn't need to) be connected to the standard software.

We call this Micro Process Optimization.

Case Study

The case study illustrates a concrete example of a micro process optimization and shows the benefit. The approach is to replace most of the manual activities of a process by too automation. That way, the workload will be massively reduced and the quality increased, by eliminating handling errors.

The case study describes the problem and solution of a real-world example.

Initial Position

A Swiss university of applied science has implemented a standard software solution to support administrative workflows. While the core processes are well supported, there are often requirements for smaller processes to be supported by IT as well. It shows that in many cases, the internal IT is often not flexible enough, too slow or too expensive.

In this concrete case, the process to manage the number of projects that students of the university need to initiate and run needs to be optimized.

Workflow:

Students initiate the process by sending a project proposal via email to the university office. They describe title and scope of the project, additional team members, contact persons, invoice address of the company, a preferred advisor and additional data. All this information is sent to the university office where the data is manually transferred to an Excel file. The emails will be sent several times with updates about team members, scope changes, etc. The office then tries to match the project offers with available university advisors. Each change needs to be reflected in the Excel file and communicated back to the student.

Each year, about 80 projects need to be managed and equally assigned to advisors, sorted by topic. The workload was finally to high for the university office. Additionally, there have been problems with data quality, caused by missed or missunderstood emails or handling errors. Also, there was no formal confirmation to the students that the changes have been accepted.

Solution

The existing email/Excel based process was replaced by a small web application. The web application provides a login page for the students to enter new and update existing projects by themselves.

On the other side, the university office has an administrative access to the web application. Projects can be searched in filtered lists, as well as viewed in the detail view mode. The projects are either directly edited within the application (assignment to advisor, update of data, release, close) or processed further via Excel export.

The web application and its database are provided as a hosted solution on inforelations infrastructure. That way, inforelations does not provide a technology or prodcut, but a process outsourcing. The university does not need any additional know how or IT infrastructure.

The collaboration with inforelations is transparent and also visible to the students. Sensitive data is well encrypted and protected.

Conclusion

The solution has been successfully implemented on November 2009 and is online without any interruption since then. The workload has been massively reduced, and also the students appreciate the new, more transparent process.

The strategy of inforelations in the field of process automation is explicitely not to provide an integrated software solution, but to implement customized micro applications as a service. By being small and dedicated, these applications can be managed over the whole lifecycle without problems and effort. They integrate well with existing solutions and infrastrucure, as inforelations will provide interfaces to databases and applications as required.