Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fix the little things, and get big results

Workflows are just not big enough for us to pay attention to any more. Why bother fixing things that just involve a handful of people working to get a job done?!

Most business process practitioners experienced the days when a business process was represented in reality by a paper workflow. The movement of work from one person to another represented the process for specific work to get done, so we called it 'workflow'. The word workflow seems dated. Despite this, the paper workflow still exists, although in many cases the workflow has become email based, with just a piece of paper to be signed by the customer. 

Business process management, both methodology and technology decided along the way that it needed a bigger piece of the pie. If you just transfer work from one place to another, surely that's not very exciting. Every professional needs more than that. Let's make sure we can measure the process in a way that was never needed before, analyzing it to a level of detail that could be considered obsessive. Let's model a new improved process and simulate its inside workings so there are no surprises. Let's step it up another notch and implement the new process with tools that could run real-time stock trading.

None of this stuff is bad, just for many organizations (okay, all organizations), there are simple workflows that are run on paper or email. They don't need much analysis and they don't need simulation. They certainly don't need a 6-digit piece of software to run them. These workflows are common: accounts payable, check/cheque requisitions, complaints handling. Business process management wants to think big and be big. So nobody ever focuses on the fact that some of these processes have an impact through the value chain on customer satisfaction. 

So while we are trying to fix business processes at an enterprise level, don't forget fixing business processes, oh hell, call them what they are, WORKFLOWS, at the departmental and team level. Its amazing (although it shouldn't be) how picking off some of these smaller items can help a company be significantly more profitable through better customer service.

A post from the Improving It blog
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