At East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust we have adopted a six-stage automation development lifecycle. After reviewing best practice standards and adjusting them for our needs, this development lifecycle is working for us. It allows us to deploy automation at pace while maintaining standards and balancing risk.
It is vital to establish a lifecycle that meets the needs of your organisation. This approach will not work for everyone but can be easily adapted where necessary.
Stage 1: Business Case
Our approach was to create a business case that would centrally fund an intelligent automation platform with sufficient capacity to support the first wave of automation. This business case highlighted benefits across a range of measures (cash, time, improvements in patient outcomes, etc.) and approved by the Trust Board.
For subsequent automation opportunities, a fast track business case template was created that would allow anyone in the organisation to seek help from the Centre of Excellence.
Before any new opportunity is assessed and developed, it is essential to understand why we are automating a process. What benefits will be achieved and how any time saved will be repurposed in support of existing business strategy.
Stage 2: Process Deep Dive
This stage is critical as all aspects of the process to be automated needs to be understood. ESNEFT have developed a technique to ensure process is accurately mapped, subconscious decisions identified, and the complexity and time to market aspects considered.
Stage 3: Process Definition Document
The PDD is of paramount importance and forms the basis of a contractual agreement with the requesting party. The PDD passes through various substages to ensure each step is accurately recorded, and exception handling is considered. The PDD is used as part of the first process test phase.
Stage 4: Build Process & Objects
In this stage, the actual process is developed. Team ESNEFT does not opt for the simple option. We develop 'intelligently' to ensure we achieve the lowest possible exception rate before the first run into go-live and that post-go-live support requires minimum input from the team.
Stage 5: Testing
The testing phase is critical, especially when automating processes that could impact patient care. Our multiple layered approaches have been very successful and lead to automation being implemented with confidence and certainty.
By the time we reach go-live, the team are feeling confident that everything will run as expected. Of course, we encounter unexpected situations and having a dynamic team in-house to deal with any eventuality is critical.
Future blogs will go into this lifecycle in detail explaining each stage, sharing templates and real-world examples.