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What is the first stage of an automation project?

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The first stage of an automation project, which can be simply referred to as problem framing, involves the identification and understanding of a problem so as to pinpoint what the automation project will address. This step is crucial because it forms the foundation for the subsequent stages of the automation project. But what exactly does problem framing encompass? Let's delve into that.

Why Problem Framing Matters

The importance of this first step cannot be overemphasized because a project without a clear problem statement is like a ship without a rudder. That's why the very first stage of an automation project focuses on problem framing.

At its heart, problem framing involves the breakdown of a challenge into its core components. It's all about understanding what isn't working and how that issue affects the overall function or output. By doing this, you can develop a crystal-clear image of what your automation project needs to achieve, and therefore, align your resources and strategies accordingly.

Conducting An Effective Problem Framing

Problem framing is not just about identifying an issue. It's about understanding that issue intimately - the whys, hows, and whens. A good problem framing process begins with a thorough data collection initiative. This involves gathering and analyzing relevant data to understand the breadth and depth of the problem.

Once data is collected, the next step is translating this information into insights. You must understand the implications of the data, expose opportunities for improvement, and identify the potential issues that might hinder accomplishment. To accomplish this, you might need to engage various subject matter experts and key stakeholders.

The final step in problem framing is defining it in a concise, action-oriented manner. This means crafting a problem statement that clearly defines the issue at hand, its impact, and the desired outcome. Your problem statement should serve as your project's north star, guiding all your subsequent actions and choices.

Outcome of a Successful Problem Framing

When completed successfully, problem framing can bring multiple benefits to your automation project. It essentially offers a roadmap that guides the entire project team along the journey. This roadmap ensures everyone understands the goal and their role in achieving it.

Besides offering clarity, the problem framing process can also prevent scope creep—a common issue that often leads to overruns in project timelines and costs. By keeping the team focused on the defined problem, you can maintain control over the project, ensuring it remains within the planned scope.


In conclusion, the first stage of an automation project, problem framing, sets the stage for the rest of the project. It ensures the problem is clearly defined and understood, guiding all subsequent steps of the project. Despite its critical role in the success of an automation project, this step is often overlooked or rushed. As such, project managers need to place a greater emphasis on problem framing to increase the chances of their projects' success.

July 28, 2023
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