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The importance of design for automation

Jan 25, 2023 | 4 min read

When you want to realize the benefits of automation, it’s tempting to jump straight in, says Caleb Trantow, Roboyo’s Head of Delivery in North America – but take time to consider the importance of design.

You just decided that you want to build your dream home. You found the location, you dreamt up all the best rooms and features, and you found skilled builders you trust to make your dream a reality. Even better: the builders say they can break ground next week.

But hold on: they haven’t shown you the blueprint yet. They also said yes to everything you wanted and didn’t give any pushback or advice on things you weren’t sure about. Nor have they discussed anything about permits or regulation, or what other people who have homes like yours have done to have a successful build.

Do you move forward? Without a detailed approach to design, the answer is probably no.

Design for automation

The same is true when you’re working on an automation project. First, consider the importance of design.

Too often in development work, specifically in automation, in-house teams want to ‘start right away’, to realize return on investment (ROI) as soon as possible. There is pressure to use the budget quickly to get results.

The typical train of thought on how to achieve that is to start development yesterday. But this approach risks leaving you with lower-quality code, less accurate timelines, budget overruns, and unhappiness overall.

Understanding the ‘why’

Instead of focusing on ‘what’ you want to automate, try to ask ‘why’ you want to automate. After all, the quickest process steps to automate are ones that don’t exist – and existing processes may be complex, tedious and outdated.

That’s why, at Roboyo, we focus on analysis and design phases early in the process to better understand your business goals – and develop a solution around that.

If the answer to “Why?” is “Because we’ve always done it this way.” that’s an opportunity to do things better. Process improvement – for example, using lean management and Six Sigma consultancy – can yield results.

Bad process means bad automation

We all know the term ‘garbage in, garbage out’ when it comes to working with data. But it’s also true with processes. A bad process will lead to a bad automation.

Many consulting firms will work with a client to understand the ‘as is’ process – and simply automate that process, click for click. They have a developer on the ground automating quickly and things are looking great – but fast forward a few weeks, and you start to see missed requirements, or delays developing code for a complex section of business logic that maybe didn’t even make much sense to do in the first place.

When that happens, delays start to add up – and that dreamy three-week promised timeline starts to look more and more like a nightmare.

So what happens next? Developers are pushed to hit the timeline and come in on budget, so corners start being cut and requirements are missed. As for quality support documentation? Forget about it.

Later, in user acceptance (UAT), this code passes the ‘happy path’ test and looks good in a demo video that has a bizarre number of jumps and cuts. You decide to move to production because you promised your boss it would be done by now – but cracks start to show. The process is breaking every other run, and it turns into a support nightmare.

You wanted this automation to be the first of many similar processes, as part of a scalable solution – but the code is so hodgepodge that it’s unlikely you can reuse any of it.

The result? You become disillusioned with automation, you find the juice is not worth the squeeze, and the journey is over before it even began.

Technical design comes first

At Roboyo, we do things differently. We wait to bring in developers until we are confident in our understanding of the business needs and have a thorough technical design to satisfy customer requirements. We do this by:

1. Understanding your process

For example, we might work directly with you and find that today you do steps A, B, C, D and E – but also recognize that the complex report you create in step B is not being used by anyone at the company.

And that human review in step D? Perhaps it’s not needed anymore, because the automation ensures consistent accuracy. So the development timeline would be shortened because there are fewer steps to automate.

2. Identifying the ‘future state’

We work with you on the future state of your solution – designing not only for the process that you want delivered three weeks from now, but the other 10 processes that are going to be built with similar functionality.

The idea is to create a standard process across all 10 paths – and to help ensure consistent inputs and outputs so that code can be reused, and future automations can be scaled quickly.

In the longer-term future, you may also have a vision of hyperautomation – a process ecosystem where multiple automations work together, multiplying benefits. So it pays to consider what processes share similar design criteria in order to reach the next level of transformation.

3. Devoting time upfront

At Roboyo, we spend time upfront with our process design and technical experts to help ensure we are building a solid foundation to scale from.

We aim to build a clear picture of business needs, and a clear path of what needs to be done, with roadblocks identified and removed.

This means we can be confident in our timeline when we start development, because we took the time to see the forest through the trees.

Honest and consistent communication makes development deadlines easier to hit – while at the same time you can gain confidence and see the potential of automation.

Boost the ROI of your automation programs

Automation has amazing benefits, not only in time savings, but quality of outputs, quality of life for employees, and increased capacity for executing critical tasks more often.

It’s tempting to jump right in and try to grab all these promised benefits on day one. But slow and steady wins the race – and with patience, planning, and focus on design and scalability early on, automation can achieve those ROI benefits you see on the sales slides.

Need help with design thinking?

At Roboyo we work with you to reach the Next Level of digital transformation ­– and create the technical design you need to get there.

Book a meeting with one of our automation experts today.

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