How to Conduct a Use Case Discovery Workshop

By Friedrich Sulk

Change can be scary. It’s even scarier when it happens in the workplace, and when automation is involved. No matter how it’s presented, the night before a meeting about automation, someone will drift off to sleep with visions of job-stealing robots dancing in their head.

Managing the change effectively can help. A big step in that direction happens in a Use Case Discovery Workshop. If you’re not familiar, this workshop is a session in which employees from various teams discuss where and how intelligent automation can be applied inside a company. Which business processes are the most manual and error-prone? Which would be easiest or most cost-effective to automate?

Running such a workshop well is critical because it helps leaders create impactful change. It also sets up your company for long-term success with automation. Since the meeting brings together employees at all levels, from assistants to analysts and engineers, automation directives can come from the bottom up — as well as from the top down. A good Use Case Discovery Workshop ensures that all voices are heard, meaning people will find future automation projects less intimidating. 

A main goal of the workshop: identifying high-value, easy-to-implement automation opportunities. Following the 10 steps below will give your company a ranked list of use cases, along with their value and difficulty. It’s your company’s first draft of an automation road map.

For more materials, including a worksheet and detailed slide deck, contact at Robiquity.

Step 1: Set goals. 

The general purpose of the session: find highly specific use cases for intelligent automation inside your company. The use cases should contribute to your broader business goals, and in the end save you time and money. 

Some questions to help break this down: 

• Which business processes take the longest to complete?
• Are certain tasks extremely error-prone?
• Are your employees repeating some tedious tasks over and over?
• Which processes could be most easily streamlined with technology?

Step 2: Gather the right participants. 

By the right participants, we mean subject matter experts in your company who have their hands in business processes daily. Let’s say you invite the manager of the finance department but not rank-and-file workers within it. Later, when you want to automate an accounting function, you may have difficulty with implementation and buy-in. 

As you collect participants for the workshop, there could be a dominant personality or top executive involved. Ask that person to stay quiet during discussions. Ideally, you want between 6-20 total participants in a Use Case Discovery Workshop, and you should allow for multiple small groups.

Step 3: Present an overview, and inspire the group to think big.  

This is where you lay out goals and objectives, and explain why they’re participating in the workshop. A key here: inspiration. Remind the group that this is a chance to speak up, use their knowledge of the business, and drive real change. Often you can kick this off with a creative, mind-opening type presentation. Encourage people to be ambitious. Most Use Case Discovery Workshops last at least 4 hours, depending on the agenda. Leave plenty of time for in-depth discussions. 

Step 4: Split up. 

An important facilitation technique: splitting everyone into groups of 3 to 5, so that they’re encouraged to pour out ideas (none too small or offbeat). Small group discussions prompt individual participation and input across the board. 

Step 5: Ask questions. 

True brainstorming will remove barriers with questions like: “If there were no constraints around…___, what would you do?”  Participants should throw out ideas for improvements they’d like to see in the short term, and over time. 

Step 6: Tally effort scores. 

For each idea or use case, have every person in the group score the difficulty of implementation. This can be broken down by role. For example, technical employees might say that integrating new tools with their current systems will be difficult, while business employees may believe implementation will be easy. 

Step 7: Tally value scores. 

This is the same exercise, but with a value score at the end. Ask everyone in the group to assess how much the improvement would benefit the organization. 

Step 8: Prioritize ideas. 

In the end, you’re looking for use cases with the highest value score and lowest effort score.

Step 9: Discuss barriers to implementation. 

Have each member break down requirements for implementing a change, based on their role. Will you need a certain level of security for the project to meet compliance? Will you need more or different data? Additional employees? This is a good time to note anything that would be needed to make that idea a reality. 

Step 10: Collect data and get to work.

Have each group input all ideas into a Google form or other shareable document for analysis. In a single session, companies frequently come up with between 30-60 use cases, but the sky’s the limit.