Business processes are important. Staff train on them. They keep quality consistent. They direct your resources, guiding your work force. So you have to understand them.
But how well do you have to understand them? The answer is different for every company.
Business Process Management (BPM) is a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s also a heavy lift. How much time and money do you want to spend analyzing, mapping and modeling processes?
As business consultant Dale Albrecht says in Forbes, you don’t want to under- or overinvest in processes. But when it comes to clumsy or broken processes, some troubleshooting you simply can’t afford NOT to do:
Identify Painful Processes
Everybody has imperfect processes. You may not even know what’s wrong, but you know things could be done better, faster, smarter.
Name that problematic process. Is it a standard business function like “client onboarding”? Or is it “That thing Bob does to populate that spreadsheet”?
Summarize the process. What are the parameters of the process, the start and end points? What are its outputs? How important are they to the operation?
Once you determine a process needs to be saved — and is worth saving — that’s where someone like me comes in.
Document the Process (aka Understand the “As Is”)
My job is to help you fully understand your problematic process as it currently exists, and collaboratively develop a much-improved alternative. This entails identifying all the resources needed to execute the process (inputs), documenting the steps currently performed, in what order, and by whom, and validating the purpose, necessity and extent of desired output.
How do we do it? There are many discovery methods: work groups, interviews, observation. You always hear how important it is to have “the right people at the table.” I absolutely agree, but for my money, one-on-one interactions consistently deliver the most valuable insights.
Shadowing is one of my favorite fact-finding tactics. Sitting right there, alongside an employee at their workstation, allows you to really dig into the what’s and why’s of the process. Outputs that seem mystifying when you’re viewing them after the fact all start to make sense.
“Why is this random piece of information always in this unrelated field?” Oh! Because Bob needs that data, but there’s no proper place to put it, and he doesn’t have the authority to change the name of this field. If the person I’m shadowing doesn’t know the “why,” I track down someone who does.
The final documentation can be presented in any format that makes sense to you. A process diagram built in Microsoft Visio provides helpful visuals for understanding exactly who is doing what when. You can put the old and new process diagrams side by side and see the efficiencies to be gained.
Design a Better Way (aka Envision the “To Be”)
Throughout the process documentation journey, I watch for ways the process might be performed better. Can we cut steps? Reduce manual inputs? Combine? Simplify? Streamline? I even capture physical resources currently employed outside the digital platform (think Post-it notes and document flags) and explore ways to replicate their utility within a new, improved process.
Once we’ve improved your process on paper, it’s time to consider how best to automate its components. A wealth of tools and approaches are available to help, everything from Microsoft Flow to robotic process automation. This universe of potential tech solutions can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, thorough process documentation brings clarity and order that helps experienced automation engineers chart a clear path.
Gartner just bestowed a name upon this exercise of selecting, combining and coordinating automation offerings. They’re calling it hyperautomation, and they’ve named it one of 2020’s top ten strategic technology trends.
Reap the Rewards
Your processes don’t have to be problematic. Your organization can work smarter. Indeed, productivity breakthroughs are waiting to happen. All you need to do is identify where it hurts. The road to improvement starts there. Then, bring us in for an outsider’s perspective!
Justin Dubreuil has been solving business problems since he was 13. His mom managed a medical office where Justin helped the good doctor build an IT network and install workstations in each exam room. “I’ve always had an innate sense for what a business needs, and if it isn’t obvious, I’m driven to figure it out.” That’s probably why his older brother was successful in persuading Justin to switch his major from environmental science (park ranger career track) to business management.
As a business analyst, Justin has painstakingly documented and optimized countless processes across several industries. His affinity for working with health care providers continues. In the national push for electronic health record adoption, he helped a thousand different Maryland providers achieve “meaningful use.”
When he’s not reengineering business processes, Justin unwinds by rising to any and every cooking challenge presented. He’s known statewide for his ribs, smoked pork and pit beef, coming in top ten in the Maryland State BBQ Bash this year. On the weekends, he gets to fulfill his park ranger dream, enjoying the great outdoors with his wife of 10 years, their 8-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, two black labs and trusty old English bulldog.