You may have heard the adage,
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.
This applies to so many things. It basically means that if you need something or want something, you make it known. And, in many cases, the “squeakiest wheel” garners the attention that it is looking for.
IT departments will surely understand this concept. They have a pile of requests and as they work their way through these requests, they will oftentimes prioritize their work by the squeakiness of the wheel.
It should also be mentioned that inefficient processes and critical IT infrastructure may not be meeting the needs of users and IT departments are completely unaware of the gaps. The reason – users simply do not recognize that technology could be applied to streamline, automate and improve a process. So, these processes often continue without users ever mentioning their issues or asking for IT to assist in helping improve a process. The wheels continue to spin… slowly… but they do not squeak.
Many IT organizations are also overburdened, so some operate with a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. And, who can blame them. It may even seem counterproductive to spend time trying to tune a back-office business process that only effects a handful of users when you need to be more focused on applications and infrastructure that is used enterprise-wide.
The Power to Automate
Microsoft has recognized the challenges that exist across organizations, including back-office legacy processes that impact an organization’s productivity, ability to serve customers and profitability. Microsoft’s Power Platform was designed to allow users to optimize and automate without having to go to IT. Two products in the Power Platform suite enables no code, self-service app development (PowerApps) and workflow automation (Power Automate). Power Platform is enabling non-technical users to build their own applications and automate processes.
At Kiefer, we have a long history of helping organizations improve business processes and supporting digital business process transformation. We have used a variety of tools to automate processes for clients and have leveraged these very same tools to improve processes at the Kiefer office. Our very first “flow” that was built using Power Automate was a simple notification e-mail sent to all employees reminding them to fill out the weekly timesheet on Monday morning. This simple notification that runs automatically, improved employee time reporting by 80% and allowed our accounting team to process payroll faster.
We have built “flows” to automate a review and approve processes, assist in fulfilling public records act (PRA) requests, and speed up employee on-boarding processes. These back-office processes, and others like these, are critical to an organization and the self-service tools that are available now can be leveraged at a departmental level to improve processes.
Here are some things you might consider when giving thought to optimization and business process transformation.
End to End Optimization vs. Optimizing a “Step” In the Process
What is often missed when clients are considering optimizing a business process, is the fact that the process does not need to be optimized from “end-to-end”. Consider certain steps in the process and focus on the areas where a little tuning will result in big gains. Iterate and refine processes accordingly.
Optimizing Complex Processes
Optimizing complex processes are hard. As mentioned before, find opportunities that allow you to refine certain parts of the process and don’t try to re-engineer the entire workflow.
Small processes make up an organization
Think about all of the processes that are in place within your organization.
- Sales & Marketing
- Customer Service
- Management, HR & Finance
Each one of these business areas have processes that are critical. In many cases, inefficient processes in one department can negatively impact another business unit. A useful exercise is for your departments to document their processes and look for opportunities to improve their processes.
Understanding the Process: Making Way for Technology
While technology is useful in helping organizations optimize workflows, the most important step in business process automation to first document your process and not focus on the technology. The technology comes later, when we determine how to best facilitate a specific step in the process. What you may find is that in many cases, “people” are the process. When specific team members are the “process”, the organization may discover that the process isn’t documented and too dependent on a specific employee.
We Can Help
Kiefer can help you in improving processes, assist you in creating a culture that seeks out opportunities to improve and we can also help you in deploying the right tools and technology to support your goals. Contact us to talk to one of our Modern Workplace consultants.