I’ve been in the business of process automation for nearly 30 years.  I’ve experienced just about every acronym, or new jargon language, assigned to content management and workflow that you can imagine.  Remember these; Business Process Re-engineering, EDMS, DMS, OCR/ICR/OMR, UCM, and ECM?

Of course, now it’s “Content Services” and “Digital Transformation.”  Ladies and gentlemen, with all due respect to the really smart people that come with these phrases, I call bullshit.

If I go to another conference, or attend another webinar, where the “expert” is talking about how artificial intelligence is the key to successful “digital transformation,” or “you better focus on innovation and disruption, or you’ll get run over,” (queue the Netflix, Uber stories), I’m going to throw something at them.  I believe we are calling them “futurists” now.

The Fundamentals

I have literally lost count of the number of organizations I’ve helped, or tried to help, on projects to automate a business process, that have absolutely no grasp of the fundamentals of business processing.

If you’ve consulted a client on a process automation project, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Maybe you’re asking; “Dave, what do mean?  Of course we know how our own processes work.”  That usually comes from someone that doesn’t know their staff routinely prints out emails, or picks up paper faxes, then scans them into another solution – after they make a copy for their paper folder, which gets stored in an Iron Mountain facility, because it’s “required.”  Don’t think that’s happening?  Think again.

The Right Solution, The Right Way for The Right Reasons

Some may get the impression that I’m “anti-technology,” but nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m all for using technology to improve business operations – as long as it’s the right technology, used in the right ways, for the right reasons.

McKinsey says that 67% of all process automation projects still fail.  I say “still,” because that was the percentage of project failures back in 2000.

We can all agree that the technologies around business process automation are much better, are more advanced and much less expensive than they were 18 years ago.  Yet, projects are still failing at the same rate – why?

The answers are more obvious than you might think.  One reason is that people are not properly trained, nor do they have the experience, in the art of properly automating processes.

That means they don’t understand the basic fundamentals of the right way to do it, nor why they’re doing it, or how it will affect the organization in the long-term.  Successful projects are more about having a clear vision for the organization (or department), a clear focus on the exact goals and a basic understanding of P&L.  That must come from senior management.

Believe it, or not, technology is a small piece of the puzzle.  Why?  Because there are so many great options available now, that it’s easier to choose a technology that will perform the functions you need.  But, just because a product can perform a certain function, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.

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