The effort to improve a business process seems easy enough. Map out the required information flow. Create a list of the parties involved. Understand the security and legal requirements. Crank up the visual workflow tool and get started.
Sometimes it does work that way, but sometimes each of these steps reveals deeper issues, missing data, incorrect data or inaccessible data. Don’t be discouraged, these issues can be solved and you can achieve the ROI that you desire. Read on for a few ideas on how to succeed.
Like any good construction project, the key to success is a strong foundation. BPA, business process automation, invariably depends on connections to one or more company systems. For instance, you probably should not approve a customer loan extension without having reviewed their payment history. In the world of BPA this requires integration to the loan management system so that the online request programmatically includes a payment history report (matched based on loan number). Always confirm the ability of existing systems to be accessed (API’s) or to push data to other applications.
These connections and interrelationships also mean that the underlying data must be clean and in a format that you can work with. A simple example that highlights this issue is of course paper based data. If the automated process will rely on a review of historical information, but your historical information is all in paper, your process is not going to be very automated. Likewise, if an approval step requires that you compare the loan request to all others from the same NAICS or SIC code, you are out of luck if you were not historically capturing that data. Understand where the information resides and make a plan for what is missing and needs to be gathered before proceeding.
The bottom line is that you need advanced planning when looking at automating a process. We have many examples of information that is needed only being available in the original documents and that data was never captured.
When entering information about a new customer, new vendor, new employee, etc. into your core systems, remember that you need to capture the right information. Focus on the needs of management, but also sales, engineering and all other departments. Even consider the needs of business partners and your accountants or consultants. Think about the data needed to understand customer behavior, data needed for financial and taxes reporting and regulatory requirements, even data needed for managing employees. The upfront effort is far less expensive and it opens up the possibility for powerful and productive BPA.
The data is only one piece of the process. You will still need to set security, map out flow and find the right workflow tool, but that will all be easier when your data is present and clean.
Millennia Group would be happy to work with you to get your foundation solid and to help you achieve significant ROI on business process improvement efforts.