Don't just automate, innovate!

By Steve Weissman posted 11-19-2012 12:10


Properly conceived and implemented, information technology lets us save time, money, and resources on a daily basis by allowing us to automate the more predictable, repeatable, and painful of our fundamental activities. But this can be a double-edged sword, for even as it makes our operational lives easier, it can lead us to settle for automation when there is innovation to be had.

Take, for example, the payables process, which for many organizations is sufficiently clunky that missing the due dates is a monthly concern. In these cases, simply bringing the process to heel represents a major improvement by enabling the avoidance of late-pay penalties, and intelligent automation can be – and is – highly effective. But the innovative among them will take this to the next level and actually go out and request early-pay discounts from their suppliers, secure in the knowledge that the enhanced efficiencies of the new solution will support the rapid turnaround needed to benefit from any such arrangement.

This may not sound all that amazing given how solid the logic chain is, but I can tell you after spending years in boardrooms and classrooms that the kind of creative, holistic thinking embedded beneath it is all too uncommon. People up and down the organizational chart are so enmeshed in their daily details that they often never get around to thinking about the bigger picture – and since today's automated solutions are generally so effective, there isn't really a reason to because the feeling is that they’re working just fine.

The exceptions to this rule were at the heart of my old Process Innovation Awards, which some of you may recall as being a user recognition program that ran for fully 10 years in my Kinetic Information days. And as much as I would like to think that a sufficient number of organizations today understand the distinction between automation and innovation so as to make such a program obsolete, it is clear from my recent experiences that this is still an area in need of support.

Where in your organization do you see room for innovation beyond the automation you've already applied? Our inquiring minds want to know, so please comment below or, if you're shy, send me an e-mail so we can work it through together.

#innovation #BusinessProcessManagement #automation