As an employee and as a consultant, I’ve heard a similar refrain from companies throughout my career: “we can’t automate this process because it’s too complicated.” That sentence is probably true, but not for the reasons you might think.
Automation is not the art of stringing multiple complex steps together to save time. Instead, automation’s primary roles are to force simplification, increase quality, and manage changes.
Before you can attempt to automate a process, you have to have a good idea of the end-to-end flow of your ideal business process flow. Attempting to automate will force you to understand the current process and define a better process.
Automation ensures a process can be performed identically every time. Reducing variations in a process increases the quality of the process. Automation also allows more steps in a process than a human would consistently remember.
When a process is automated, it’s easier to manage changes. Users are happy to use the automated process that saves them time, which means the process can be tweaked.
It may seem crazy to spend 8 hours to automate a 2-minute process. True Laziness™️ is not using your mental focus on remembering a random 2-minute process.
Cooptimize Automation Examples
As a new company, there are a lot of processes we need to define from scratch. As part of the process definition, we are also setting up the process to be automated. Here are things we’ve automated so far:
- Website forms load into our Power App and respond to the submitter.
- Email contacts and the related Account can be centrally stored by BCCing our bot, Kat 🤖.
- Documents are auto generated and sent for signatures.
Defining all these Power Automate flows is captured in the screenshot below.
One Cooptimize Example
Let’s break down one example of a process we’ve built. An initial important Business Scenario we have is:
As a Relationship Builder, I must remember to log a bunch of Contact and Account info in the Cooptimize App so I remember to follow up with people later. I will definitely half-bake this task. I refuse to do this process from anywhere but the email program of my choosing.
Recording contacts meant defining a process by constraints instead of by features. It had to be a simple email step, and we came up with CC/BCCing our bot (Kat 🤖).
We also decided to document our processes in Visio Online as it has nice a Teams integration.
Creating Accounts from emails is tough because only the email domain is available. We found a fantastic “Free at Low Volume” API called BigPicture that returns a wealth of information by only sending in the Domain.
Not only did this API automate getting the basic company info like Legal Name and Website, the Quality of our information also increased. By automating this process, we also were able to add the Company Logo to the App. No way would any user take the time to do this manually.
Our original design only supported putting Kat 🤖 in the CC line of the email, not BCC. But we didn’t have to go around to all two of our users and ask them to change their process. We fixed the automation rules and BCC support was activated.
Depending on the nature of the change, you might not have to even inform users there has been a change.
There are many more automagical steps happening in this process. As a user, I only have to remember one step – add one extra email account to emails I want parsed. Everything else “just works*”.
*Ok…it breaks a bunch of times at first, then it just works!.
We’ve been initially focused on setting up our internal Cooptimize Apps. Now we are switching our focus to Data Lakes, Azure Synapse, and Power BI. There are many benefits to moving to Data Lakes, but there are also many deployment tasks that need to be simplified. We’re putting our Automation skills to work to help everyone achieve Laziness Nirvana!
Great write-up! I especially like the flow naming convention you use 🙂