12 Questions to Ask Before Automating Your Processes

Guest post by Marc Ueckermann and Jamie Acott*

Today’s connected workplace means there are now many opportunities for better organizational performance and management. But what must companies consider before they embark on a journey to digitize / automate / optimize their workflows and processes?

Why automate processes?

Process Automation is digitization of any manual process in a way that centralizes and compiles information within an organization. That could mean anything from the implementation of a simple electronic filing system to streamlining all workflows in a department.

Use Process Automation to:

  • Minimize the risk of human error, along with its associated costs and inefficiencies.
  • Dramatically speed up completion of your processes so you can re-focus man hours on other tasks.
  • Track, monitor and report on your documents and processes.
  • Enforce accountability and establish a clear approval hierarchy.
  • Enhance governance, compliance and reliability.
  • Facilitate communication in your business process.
  • Be pro-active rather than re-active.

These benefits can be achieved in any department of your organization, including HR, Contracts, Mailroom, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable – and usually result in a significant cost reduction. For example, it could mean finding a way to strip out manual processes such as data entry, which will accelerate their work, delivering immediate financial returns and productivity gains across the broader finance function.

A study by Aberdeen Research found the typical Accounts Payable worker is able to process just 20 invoices in a day, whereas the leaders in this area were processing invoices four times faster than the laggards. Process Automation can also mean a reduction in costs of up to 90% according to management consulting company McKinsey.

What processes are the most manual/time intensive?

Every organization is different and has a range of processes specific to their culture. Analyzing company-wide printing trends and volumes by department is a great place to start figuring out what’s most inefficient. More often than not, companies striving to improve organizational performance management will identify an over-reliance on paper-heavy processes.

For example, if the Accounts Payable team tends to print 60% more on a particular day or week each month, this could suggest they are using paper-based processes to do an invoice payment run that could potentially be automated. The same could apply to departments such as Accounts Receivable, HR, Contracts, Mailroom and others.

Your MPS provider should be able to deploy software that helps uncover paper-heavy processes by interrogating the big data from your printing fleet, in order to pin down inefficient internal processes. Once this step is completed, you need to get into the detail of that specific process in order to achieve a clear understanding of the tangible and intangible benefits of automating it.

I’ve identified my inefficient processes, now what?

Once you know which processes to target, drill down further to capture more information that will drive a successful automation strategy. Use these questions to guide and structure your business case for Process Automation:

  1. What types of documents do you process? For example, they could be invoices, proposals, time sheets or forms.
  2. How do you currently store these documents? For example, it could be in filing cabinets, storage boxes or electronic formats.
  3. How many documents, both paper and digital, do you process? Per day/month/year.
  4. In what format do you create or receive the documents?  For example, they could be PDF, email, word files, post or paper.
  5. How are they being distributed, both inside and outside the business? For example, by email, website, fax or post. And how many people require access to these documents? In total and at any one time.
  6. What systems do you have in place at the moment? In terms of workflows, methods, equipment and computer programs.
  7. Do you manually input significant amounts of data into these systems? How many hours does it take and how many people do it?
  8. What level of automation would be acceptable when replacing the process? Bear in mind a fully automated process with no human interaction might cost more than a semi-automated solution.
  9. Are there any special requirements for this process? For example, they could include audit control, access control, regulatory and time constraints.
  10. How many people are involved in the process at the moment? Automating operations like data input could allow people to do other, more business-critical things.
  11. How do you manage or view this process currently? For example, management information or prepared reports. And how long does it take to prepare and view it? It could be “live” or “historic” data.
  12. Do you get all the management information that you would want? Specific information might help productivity or efficiency.


  • Process Automation can mean a reduction in costs of up to 90%, along with other benefits like visibility, control, agility, compliance and speed.
  • Analyzing company-wide printing trends and volumes by department is a great place to start identifying paper-heavy or inefficient tasks – MPS providers can deploy software to analyze your big data to accomplish this.
  • Take a deep dive into the identified inefficient process to quantify time and money that can be saved by digitizing and automating the process.
  • Regardless of whether you are currently in a contract, a good MPS provider will be able to help you with the process, while maximizing the ROI of your existing infrastructure.
  • Keep an eye out for the next article in this series – we will showcase the digital options that allow companies to improve processes once the initial analysis mentioned above has been conducted.

This post was originally published by Xenith Document Systems, a leading provider of Managed Print Services, Document Solutions and Workflow Automation in London, United Kingdom. They are a Xerox Platinum Partner, winner of the Xerox MPS Partner of the Year award in the UK, and NewField IT’s Systems Integration Partner of the Year in the UK.

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