Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanisation. Federico Garcia Lorca (1898 – 1936)

I recently worked in the IT department for an organisation that underwent a period of rapid growth and whose paper based manual processes could not cope with the rate of expansion.

To solve the problem we implemented a BPA (business process automation) platform using K2 blackpearl and smartforms as an addition to our SharePoint 2010 Intranet. We then started automating the processes that were causing the organisation the most pain.

Before unleashing a newly automated process on your company’s staff consider these points to ensure they can get the help they need in completing the process and that your development team do not end up responding to business process as well as technical issues.

1. Invest time with the process owner on administering their automated process.

Although we had developed online training packages for business process owners and administrators, individual coaching was needed to ensure that the process administration team were comfortable in the use of the tools and reports to effectively manage the automated version of their process.

2. Ensure those completing the process have a way of asking for help.

The company had a helpdesk system for reporting issues with IT systems only. Non-IT Business units that offered services did not have access to a centralised system for managing requests for their service. This caused staff that had a problem in completing the process to log a call with the IT Helpdesk which could not be passed to the business unit for resolution and so ended up being allocated to the development team who automated the process.

3. Make sure staff know whom to contact for help with the process and there is an easy way to do it.

Factor time in the project to assist the process owner with development of process specific training materials.In our implementation each process owner was responsible for authoring updated training materials for their automated process. It quickly became apparent that although they may be subject matter experts for their process some process owners were a little vague about some of the automation details. This led to more IT Helpdesk calls being allocated to the development team. (See point 2).

4. Run some lunch and learn sessions on working with tasks.

K2 blackpearl provides great functionality for completing workflow tasks, such as out-of-office, redirection, delegation, responding via email (SmartActions) and using worklist items. However there are some nuances that can cause some frustration and pointing some of these out ahead of time will help when the first few automated processes go live.

5. Publish a page on your Intranet so staff can find links to all your automated processes.

Have a discussion with your Intranet team about hosting a page where links to the automated processes can be published. We setup a SharePoint list with a title, description, a classification and the URL of the K2 smartform. These details were then displayed in a webpart on the Intranet homepage. A little advanced planning will save a lot of “Where is the link to the new leave form?” questions.

I hope that these tips prove useful in preparing for the launch of your newly automated business process. I am interested in hearing any lessons that you may have learned through your implementation experiences so please feel free to share.