Business process automation has become one of those buzz word phrases that is steadily losing its meaning, but to me it’s really concise and meaningful. Working in an environment where the primary goals are team efficiency, collaboration and user adoption, it amazes me how many consultants and employees alike don’t even know what the business they are automating truly does.
So many times I’ve been in a requirements gathering meeting only to find that the team giving me the requirements don’t understand the bigger picture. By this I mean not what we are automating, but why we are doing it – What is the business really trying to achieve with this project?
While on the Goldman Sachs programme recently, we were referred to a Simon Sinek TED presentation,”Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. This is an excellent talk for both business founders and growth seekers, demonstrating how understanding your customer perception helps you to communicate your business values more effectively. If you have the time (approx. 18mins) it’s well worth a watch.
I always say that with IT, anything is possible. The answer is always “yes, we can do that”, and it is our job is simply to identify the best way to get it done. I can’t believe then that I’m alone in thinking about the ‘why?’ What is the business we are automating? What are their bigger picture goals? And how can we use this automation to get them closer to meeting them?
I’m not saying that I think we can solve all the business needs with this one requirement for automation, but rather that if we – and by ‘we’ I mean both internal and external resource – don’t take the time to fully understand the business behind the process, then we are more likely to get stuck in a painful and unproductive loop, reworking the exact same requirements, and not making much tangible progress towards our bigger picture goals.
Finding the ‘Why’
Asking better questions is no doubt the key to this. Instead of “what do you need?” , “what should the user experience be like?” and “who needs access to this?” we should first cover “why do we need this?”, “why will this make a difference to the business?” and “why does this business process exist in the first place?”.
By getting to the heart of an organisations goals, issues and processes, we are better equipped to realise their entire bigger picture. Once we understand the reasoning of the why, we can build a practical solution with the what. The user stories will make far more sense when considered in the context of their ultimate business goals, which are far more important to support than the only perceived business need.
In a world of rapidly evolving technology and business practices, the ‘what’ will continuously change and adapt, but the ‘why’, the core driver of any organisation’s processes, remains constant.
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