Digitalize your Procedures to Empower your Teams to Deliver

“Customers wouldn’t phrase it this way, but they are demanding from companies in many industries a radical overhaul of business processes. Intuitive interfaces, around-the-clock availability, real-time fulfillment, personalized treatment, global consistency, and zero errors—this is the world to which customers have become increasingly accustomed. It’s more than a superior user experience, however; when companies get it right, they can also offer more competitive prices because of lower costs, better operational controls, and less risk.” https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/accelerating-the-digitization-of-business-processes

Companies like Apple, Amazon and Google have made us users of apps that are really easy to use. Yet, this is not what you see in the business world. When a new Procedure is:

  • rolled out in a meeting;
  • and you are walked through Process Flow Diagram, with process steps in boxes and decision nodes in diamond shapes, with arrows linking each shape to boxes, possibly with swim lanes help to group processes and decisions that accrue to a particular group or department;
  • and you are presented with a paper document title Procedure for (fill in the blanks), to be filed in your filing cabinet, with detailed instructions to supplement the information on the Process Flow Diagram, but, as the two are not integrally linked, gaps exist;
  • And you are reminded of the location that you can find these files on your company server’s shared folder;

you are experiencing what is business as usual in many companies, agencies and institutions today. In 2018, we have many opportunities to improve the implementation of a new Procedure that result in ‘lower costs, better operational controls, and less risk’. I’ll review a few of the pitfalls of the ‘business as usual’ approach and I’ll also outline a method that helps you avoid these pitfalls and to use the lessons learned process to continually improve the Procedure.

Problems with the current paradigm:

  • Static and File-based. By now, in 2018, the limitations of file-based data management should be well known. I’ve discussed these elsewhere and there are tons of great articles on this topic, so I’ll avoid revisiting them here – let me know if you wish to talk over this issue.
  • Lack of consistency in defining a Process Step. A Process Step requires a single Role to be Responsible. Other Roles active on this step may be designated as Accountable or Consulted or Informed. If a step requires 2 Responsible Roles, it should be split into two discrete steps – one for each Responsible Role – as they each do something different. For example, an action or review by an Electrical Lead would be different from the Review by a Mechanical Lead. Getting this right is important for a couple of other reasons – it helps you get a realistic awareness of the amount (ex. hours and cost of indirect work) you have in your system for each role; and, due to the sequence between Process Steps, you know when each Role’s input will be needed. A typical Process Diagram does not have this disciplined approach applied to creation of process steps and decision nodes.
  • Manually Filled forms. Again, this issue is well covered in articles. In 2018, we should have on-screen forms, even (especially) for front-line, high transaction volume staff. Advantages of on-screen forms include logic to help the user not make a mistake. For example, if you are buying electrical wiring, the available vendor list would exclude lumber dealers. Building a clean, non-redundant manual form is just a difficult undertaking, which means that most manual forms have flaws that are annoying to the form filler. Flaws include requiring irrelevant and repetitive data. It’s a sure way to upset your staff, and erode their good will and attitude.
  • Manual Routing of Forms. Making the form filler responsible for selecting the ‘right’ person to send the completed form to, and to follow up on that form is a time-wasting, predictable, repetitive process that is ideally suited to digital automation or digitalization.
  • Notification Emails. The clutter and noise of your overflowing email inbox can easily obscure a critical request, that in turn causes someone to initiate a reminder. A digitalized process management system would issue timely reminders within the system.
  • Rigid Procedure. It takes a lot of effort to create, publish and train people on the Procedure. Making changes to it is tough, and so change is resisted, instead of being organic and normal.. Thus, lessons learned from using the procedure are seldom rolled back into a modified procedure. A digitalized process would provide an automatic auditing of changes so that revision control is easy to accomplish.
  • New Hires simply unaware. As new hires and contracts are not present for the initial roll-out, a system is needed that does not even need a rollout to be activated.

Not surprisingly, in 2018, there is a logical and relatively simple approach available, that addresses each of these problems, while improving the outcomes for the company and the job satisfaction of the teams involved. Its a mouthful, and I’d like to hear your suggestions for a better name or acronym. You need to implement a Collaborative, Integrated, Digitalized Business Process driven solution. Accessing this solution via 24×7 availablity in the cloud adds an enhanced degree of security, flexibility and low cost.

As an example, here is a view of how TeamWork Group’s TWIST service (TeamWork Integrated Solution Technology) addresses the problems mentioned.

  • Dynamic data access. Your data is stored in tables that are accessible to your entire team in real time. They can change and update data and the system keeps track of the data that was changed, so its easy to audit. If you do need to share access to a file, you can link it to your data. Access to data is managed by Roles and Security Groups. This is the Integrated aspect of the solution.
  • Business Process app. This app helps you build your strategy to manage different scenarios. You can, and should, use such a system to help you update your company procedures. This is time well spent as the benefits will be directly felt with lower overhead costs. Maintaining manual systems is costly! A Strategy sees all of your Procedures or Deliverables grouped into Stages. A Stage’s Deliverables must be completed in order to let you through the Stage Gate into the next Stage. The Process Steps that constitute a Procedure or Deliverable must be completed and signed off to ensure that each is done as defined in the Procedure. This is the Digitalization aspect of the solution.
  • Apps with Forms and Tabular entry. Each critical business function can have its associated forms and tables to help users get the mission-critical data entered quickly and without error.
  • Integrated Discussions – like in Facebook or LinkedIn. On completion of a form, the next step of the process is executed and the person who needs to know is alerted. They can reply or redirect the form to another person or Role in the team. The Business process ‘remembers’ who needs to be in the loop. This is Collaboration aspect of the solution..

We all use cloud-based apps all the time. They feel natural to use, even being easy without the need to read a User Manual (when is the last time that you read one?). Your team will feel and perform better when your in-house systems migrate away from file-based paper forms that are manually routed and that waste time in long wait cycles. This suggestion is not revolutionary – although it will cause upheavals as people learn to reach, less often, for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Visio to create a file, and instead use your integrated solution to obtain repeatable and sustainable results. This is evolutionary – it’s the logical move to the next step in improving the way you get business done.

Procedure creation and maintenance in this new world is far easier on your team and less fraught with wasted time, including needing fewer meetings to review procedures. Meetings can be for more fun reasons, like appreciation for a job well done.

In closing, Procedures are essential to ensuring predictable results. When they are well constructed and well utilized, with measurable outcomes and key performance indicators (KPI), they ensure fewer worries and concerns for the entire team. Digitalize your Procedures so that you can sleep at night.

Note: Product names references are the property of their respective owners