What do the Welsh and process improvement have in common? Well, being from Welsh stock I’m pleased to tell you that besides Welsh cakes and a gift for singing we also brought you the invention of the = sign.
Back in 1557 Welsh mathematician, Robert Recorde invented the symbol allegedly after he got fed up with writing ‘is equal to’ at the end of his sums. He is also the proud inventor of the most bonkers word of all time, ‘Zenzizenzizenzic’, which apparently means ‘the eighth power,’ although that has nothing to do with this article but I felt compelled to share it with you anyway.
Process improvement is a key activity that forms part of continual improvement for all modern businesses. You may have heard or be familiar with Lean Process Improvement. This is the process of continually reviewing a process identifying waste or areas in a process map that can be improved. It is an ongoing feedback process loop that over time improves the business through better processes.
It is often the case that process improvement is best implemented by focussing on the small things first. Robert Recorde’s invention of the = sign has quite frankly saved us all a whole heap of wasted time by conveying information in a simple and efficient way.
As we look at process improvement in the modern world we have to consider the new kid on the block, automation or more precisely Robotic Process Automation (RPA) .
Robotic Process Automation allows anyone to configure computer software, systems, or a ‘robot’ to emulate and integrate the actions of a real human operating the system to execute a business process. In essence, an RPA ‘bot’ can log into applications, move files and folders around, copy and paste data, fill in forms, extract structured and semi-structured data from documents, send emails and so on. They are ideally suited to those annoying repetitive processes we all know and love.
Interestingly Forrester reports that while only $250 million in 2016, it is estimated that the market for RPA will grow to an astonishing $2.9 billion by 2021.
RPA is also making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). RPA on its own cannot evaluate the process or make cognitive decisions, it essentially remains static until the user decides a way to improve it. With ML, an RPA ‘bot’ could carry out more intelligent actions, such as eliminating duplicate entries.
RPA is being rapidly adopted by businesses the world over to improve their processes and make them more efficient. Removing the repetitive processes will free up staff to focus on more important activities that in turn bring greater value. Perhaps you can think of areas in your day-to-day business process that could benefit from RPA.
So the next time you’re writing your sums spare a thought for the Welsh who helped you improve your process by the use of the simple = sign and while you’re at it, please do try to use the word “Zenzizenzizenzic” in your next business meeting if you can.
Gareth Baxendale FBCS CITP is Head of Technology for the National Institute for Health Research - Clinical Research Network. Gareth is a chartered fellow of BCS The Chartered Institute for IT and vice chair of the BCS Health and Care Executive who promote good-practice in Health IT. Gareth is also a published author and regularly writes on topics spanning Health IT on leadership and adoption as well as technical good-practice. In addition, Gareth is also a Chartered and FED-IP assessor and SFIAplus reviewer.