Wiser Connections Blog

Are you processes working for or against your business?

Sonya Weiser - Saturday, November 17, 2018

I’ve been appointed to provide business process mapping services to ACH Group, one of Adelaide’s largest age care providers. Why? Because ACH Group is introducing new information systems and needs to ensure that the processes the systems support are efficient and effective. This raises an important question for everyone to consider – are the processes in your business helping or hindering your outcomes?

A world of pain

In software engineering there’s a maxim we live by – “garbage in equals garbage out”. This is usually said when referring to the quality of data that’s entered into systems, but applies equally to the quality of business processes that are supported by information systems.

If your processes are inefficient and clumsy, spending money on new technology alone cannot fix the problems. You must address the problems with the processes first, then consider how information systems can help automate the processes.

I often hear about organisations suffering through a “world of pain” when change is imposed on their employees by putting in a new information system then expecting people to enthusiastically adopt it. Unfortunately, the team who’ve put the new system in place often forgets to consider how it will impact the day to day operations of the people expected to adopt the change. If the processes and procedures haven’t been examined, then people might be expected to change their current work practices, without having been consulted about the changes.

Where to start

Trying to select a methodology for business process mapping can be overwhelming and confusing. There’s a lot of hype and marketing surrounding this field, with sales people insisting you must use their brand of business process mapping methodology. There are large organisations in Adelaide that have spent money on training all of their employees in being a ‘white belt’ in the Six Sigma methodology, which while well intentioned I believe is not money well spent.

Business process mapping is all about common sense and communication. What you’re trying to achieve is to create a picture that illustrates how people use information and systems perform tasks in their day to day work practices. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:

  1. Begin at the beginning.
    Discover what sets off the start of a process. For example, a customer phones the call centre with a question about the product they’ve purchased.

  2. Who does what.
    Set out your process map as a picture with parallel rows that contain the tasks done by different people. These are referred to as “swim lanes”, with the obvious analogy to swimmers racing along the length of a pool. This splitting of tasks can quickly show you where there are hold ups, with people waiting for someone else to finish a task before they can start on their own part of the process.

  3. Low hanging fruit.
    Creating a picture of “how things have always been done around here” can illustrate to people problems with the current process that can easily be fixed, for a low cost – what we refer to as the “low hanging fruit”.

  4. Engaging people in change.
    Working with the people involved and mapping out their current processes provides a perfect opportunity to build excitement about change, asking them how a new information system could potentially help them solve problems that have been annoying them for years.

Want to know more?

Get in contact with me today, I’m always happy to meet up and have a chat over a coffee!

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