Systems that are well designed and well executed are a hallmark of organizations that are growing and succeeding. They can make or break a business. Michael Gerber, in The E-Myth Revisited, says “Simply put, your job is to prepare yourself and your business for growth.” He then uses the franchise to illustrate the necessity to create systems that allow a business to run with consistency and without reliance on specific key people. Systems and processes in an organization create leverage. They allow us to do more with less. They create consistency in the delivery of our product or service.
Business Process Automation is one of those technologies that is best described as leverage-creating. It is truly a transformative technology. At CTaccess, we have been working with this technology since its early stages. In the process of helping organizations understand this technology and deploy software to help automate, it has become evident that there is so much an organization can do to design and streamline their process even prior to applying automation software.
Here are 5 Steps You Can Take to Create Leverage by Improving Business Process:
1. Identify processes that are high-value for improvement. High-value areas typically are ones that often break down, require lots of time investment, rely on a special person who would be hard to replace, have lots of people approving or contributing, or involve boring very mundane work. You may not even know how the process works. You might know that the work goes to Amanda and she does her thing. As you look at things, try to break them down into the small graspable pieces. A process that is an entire department’s work is most often too large to work with successfully.
2. Create a document and information inventory. Once you have chosen the processes you wish to improve, create an inventory of all documents and information flowing into the process, and those flowing out. Identify the purpose, quantity, medium, security requirements, owner, and storage location for each distinct document or piece of information. For instance, Amanda receives a PO. The PO comes from a customer to place an order. It is stored in the file cabinet next to her desk and moved yearly to long-term storage. She receives 200 of these per week. 50% are paper and 50% are electronic via email. They are secured to the Accounting Department and Customer Service. They are owned by Amanda and need to be retained for 5-Years.
3. Work with your team to map the process. There are many strategies for how to document a process. The key is not to get caught up in nuances of flow charting. Draw it out on a whiteboard or use sticky notes and move them around. First identify the starting point and the ending point. Then, fill in the middle. Once you finish take a picture. If you want to move them into an electronic format, that is just a matter of editing. The key is to get the logic down. Once you map one process, move on to the one next to it. Take a step back and look at both of them together.
4. Review the diagram and look for improvements. Now that you have the current state of things down, begin to question it. Identify bottlenecks, time killers, and transparency problems. Look for things that are just there because you have always done it that way. Take out the things that don’t add value. Update your process and try it out. If you meet objection from your team as we often do, suggest trying the new way as a trial, for a period of time. It is amazing what you will discover just from mapping the process and collaborating on improvement.
5. Consider adding ECM/BPM software. The good news is that having a document inventory and a process map puts you well on the path to choosing and implementing a software solution. Enterprise Content Management and Business Process Management software create huge value when applied well to a defined process. This software can move documents for approval, notify people when they need to take action, notify a manager if action isn’t taken, send documents for delivery, update multiple systems in real-time, make information instantly accessible, provide forms for entry of data, apply business logic to information flow and so much more. It automates your workflow so that people don’t have to remember mundane things and problems can be escalated easily. It frees your team up to do the things that require thought and action.
Whenever I think of leverage, I remember growing up on the farm and using the most basic of leverage tools, the pry-bar. My dad had a heavy iron bar that was actually the axle from an old car. It was hardened steel, and it could move anything. We used it to lift barn doors and set them back on the track, to break apart concrete, to lift the well cover, to move replacement barn beams into place, and so much more. It was one of the most valuable tools on the farm.
The leverage that comes through well-defined and implemented business process is as essential as that basic tool on the farm. And, applying BPM software to well-defined process is as transformative as replacing that pry-bar with the power of a hydraulic lift like the bucket of a skid loader. To get a copy of our whitepaper “10 Ways ECM Provides the Leverage to Automate Your Organization”, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you would like assistance with process development or would like to discuss BPM software, please contact us!