Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Business process improvement should not be scary and ugly

Focus - essential and difficult. With so many exciting opportunities to chase and things to do, it can be incredibly hard to focus on the ones that are necessary and may lead to greater success. I'm not suggesting that you or I are disorganized or easily distracted -- I just think that having to burn time on the essential but dull items of a running a business seem like such a waste. That's why I try to focus on using available services that can do some things cheaper and easier than I can, and automate (or at least simplify) those things that I can not (or do not want to) outsource.

In a way, that has been a goal of business process management (BPM) software for a while. The modeling of a business's processes has been made into something that can be done by the experts internally, while outsourcing the execution of it to a lump of software and hardware. The problem with this is that the business process management software that allows such a thing really does not exist. "What? There are loads of BPM software products!" I hear you cry. I absolutely agree - there are load. And they all do the same thing. They convince businesses that they can take control of improving their processes with the business experts they already have, draw a pretty picture, then you're done. You try it for real and reality kicks in. The salesman's shiny shoes are no longer gracing your office corridor, and you are stuck with a 3-6 month software project to get the first process running in a real environment. "I wasn't sold a software project" I hear you cry again. No, absolutely true. The truth of BPM software is that it just becomes a software project to get any useful level of solution in place. Its powerful stuff, but complex, ugly and all consuming of the resources you throw at it.

Have you noticed that there are many software solutions delivered directly online that don't need a software project to get them to work? That's because they have to be fully configurable as there is no option for the software developers to dig in and blow your budget. Salesforce.com used to be a great example, but they've bowed to the financial pressure of appealing to the techies, and now they're all about their force.com development platform. Taking that leap could be like jumping from one software development nightmare to another.

"So we are all stuck with email to run our processes?", you ask. No, I don't think so. I would like to show you an alternative, based on the familiar use of online email (like Gmail or Yahoo mail), but in a way that can capture data and documents, and control a workflow process in a way that email just can't do. It is something I have been working on for a while, and I'd love to show it to any supervisor, manager or executive that wants to improve the way their business runs, but does not have the time or energy to make it happen. And if you have a business case but not cash up front, that's fine too. Let's talk about a risk/reward structure (though the price-tag will not blow out your Amex card each month, so you probably won't need to).

There are some things that you are better off letting external resources help with, because they can do them better and cheaper. Designing, improving and running the solutions that manage your business processes is probably one of them.

A post from the Improving It blog

To implement workflow and process automation in your business today, visit www.consected.com

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