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So much software is functional. Literally, functional: it accepts input, executes a function, and generates output. Thats a workable proposition if the software is embedded in a procedure that a need or adds value. The danger is in losing sight of the overall objective (for example, sell more products) and in taking the software function itself (update a database) to be the goal. This is what differentiates a process from a function. It is also a critical success factor in automated software and a key feature of a good automation application designed to make software effective as well as efficient.

Business process design is the place to start. Smart automation software then allows the use of automated software modules.

Business Process Modeling

Take your pick. Techniques for business process modeling range from formal BPM languages to sticky notes on a whiteboard. Whats important is that the technique used lets you clearly map out your route to a useful goal from a defined starting point. Automated software modules may form part of the underlying support to make the process happen, but this is defined in stage. An overall automation application to make it all connect up may offer a way to record and visualize the entire process, and keep it permanently available for reference. Automation Anywhere, for instance, does this with a graphical workflow utility for users to draw out the route to the goal, and then use Automation Anywheres macro-recording, scripting, and conditional logic capabilities to make everything hang together.

Management, not just Mechanization

When automated software is simply mechanized software, it becomes a rigid sequence of activities that makes , and therefore, management difficult. It is possible to schedule software tasks using capabilities built into some computer operating systems, but without making provisions for conditional actions, failovers, or management alerts. An automation application should make all of these possibilities available, ensuring that the end-to-end process runs smoothly and correctly, but informing the relevant people of any exceptional events. Building in the right management tools, such as the capability to generate reports in standard formats like MS Word or Excel, or send notifications by email are two of the auxiliary process management functions in Automation Anywhere.

Optimization of Automated Software

Some automated software may be modified internally, according to higher-level business requirements. However, when this is not possible, for example in the case of packaged or shrink-wrap software, it is the automated use of that software that needs to be modified. In this case, it is important to use an automation application that is both powerful and user-friendly. Automation Anywhere, for example, offers a smart macro recorder to allow for immediate capture and re-capture of keyboard and mouse actions. It also has a powerful script editor to allow experts and non-experts to change the scripts that drive the entire process. This adaptability for different users is an important point. Enterprises can then apply the policy they prefer about authorizing people to modify processes: IT specialists or more business oriented employees who know the process well, for example.

Business Process Reengineering

Sometimes an organization may want to apply the Dont Automate, Obliterate! approach endorsed by reengineering guru Michael Hammer. The underlying concept is not that automated software should be automatically eliminated, but that the process should be examined first of all to make sure it is relevant. Irrelevant processes must go; relevant ones need to be streamlined for optimal productivity and efficiency. BPE typically suggests that control of the process needs to be located with the people performing it or directly responsible for it. This is another reason for an automation application to be accessible to people who know what results they want to achieve, but who are not necessarily computer scientists by training.

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