Getting an accurate Business Process Evaluation is the key foundation to making profitable change.
Most companies looking to improve Business Process Management have already made a commitment to change. Most of the time, it's due to serious pain, coming from either administrative inefficiency, profit loss, or serious structural change. The last thing they want to do is slow down and look at where they are. But they need to . . .
Process Evaluation War Stories: Part 1
For many reasons, businesses find themselves needing to change, and change significantly. The problem isn't changing. The real problem is changing profitably.
And the reality is, many organizations might already have key pieces of the solution. The problem is, they might not even realize it.
Each project really starts (and sometimes ends) with an evaluation. An evaluation needs to be a constant part of the process. Some of our key goals have been stated already here... The point of this article is to give you some scenarios that might help explain WHY this process is so important.
War Story 1:
Potential customer calls us looking for help. They say something like
"My tax person says they need me to get better control over my inventory. They cant make heads or tails out of the numbers I give them, and it takes us days (or even weeks!) to get them. And we are always late!".
Some of you reading this are already laughing because it's the very situation you are in right now. If I had to make a quick estimate, I'd say more than half our clients were in this very position. Any software "sales person" in this position is licking their chops and dreaming about what they are going to do with the commission. Why?
Because keeping track of inventory, on a basic level, is simple. Almost all software applications can do basic level inventory without much effort. It isn't the problem.
Inventory is essentially like a checkbook. You have In, and you have Out. Add them up, and you have a total. Do it by part number (or some kind of group) and you have some detail. Include a cost for each group, and you have a value. Of course it gets more complicated, but it also can get more and more automated as well. For any decent database application, the key elements are pretty easy to define, at least to get started.
The real problem (initially) isn't where you record the ins and outs, the costs or the details. The real problems are more like:
- Who is involved with inventory in the company?
- Who needs the information, and who provides the information?
- Who is responsible for checking and fixing problems?
- Who understand the basic point of inventory, and how it works?
- Are there any other users or processes that can benefit from tracking inventory (think scheduling, sales, financials etc...)?
- How able is the current workforce to support (long term) all the processes that go into tracking inventory?
Iv'e actually ended up refusing projects because it was painfully clear that the organization didn't need software (yet). No one in the organization had any real ability to grasp the myriad inventory processes, take responsibility for it, and maintain it over the long run. Simply throwing a new software program in just automated the failure they already experienced. All that would end up happening was even more frustration, waste of resources, and a bad install.
The real solution, based on this initial evaluation (which is essentially a "sales call"), is to document the current situation, and answer the previous questions. The real need is to map out a "What Is" rather than a "What Should Be". Once there is a clear understanding of the flow of materials in, through, and out of the organization, how the costs are kept, who is responsbile for which piece etc... THEN we can look at the overall goals. THEN we can work back upstream and design processes that work, and then map those processes into a software solution.THEN we can work on implementing a software system that autmates the process as much as possible.
Perhaps we find out the process is simple, and the elements are easily managed. Or we find key pieces need customization to make sure the end results are accomplished. Remember, all the moving pieces need to meet the requirements of "my tax person", which is how we got into the mess in the first place!
I realize this is somewhat over simplistic on one side, and overly complex on the other. Im using examples of real situations I have encountered to make a point. Automating failure just helps you fail faster. That's not a real solution.
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