As I wrote in my post last week, data shows that for SMBs, the race is still on to develop and realize a true digital business ecosphere. Ultimately, the core of any business is composed of a system of Platforms, Processes, and People. When this system is not flexible enough to accommodate new business demands – or there is a bottleneck in the flow of inputting, receiving, or processing and taking action on data – the frameworks in place force users and customers to modify their behaviors and act according to contrived rules that are based upon weaknesses and gaps in process, rather than in harmony with the environment at large.
The roadmap to creating and improving value in your organization starts with discovering and understanding these weaknesses and gaps. If you bring cracks and imperfections to light, never fear! Business process influencer Keith Swenson succinctly put it this way in his podcast, “It is ironic, that to make a robust reliable system, you do so not by hiding problems, but by exposing all the problems as they happen.”
So how do your business processes stack up?
Reviewing your processes
Let’s get started. Robert Glushko and Tim McGrath have assembled some high-level questions that can drive the initial conversation, such as:
– What is the name of the process?
– What are the goals or purposes of the process?
– What industries, functional areas, or organizations are involved in the process?
– Who are the stakeholders or participants in the process?
– Are there any problems with the current process?
– How could the process be improved?
“Increased awareness of your processess dimensionality, invariably leads to an intuitive understanding of its Strengths, Weaknessess, Opportunities & Threats.”
Go both ways
These of course, are just the inaugural questions of a true process audit. Your quintessential goal is to identify and determine what the business does, in a hierarchy of detail from the topmost level, all the way down to where individual documents (and specific information components in document exchanges) are visible. To truly understand these processes, we need to examine this from both the top-down and bottom-up points of view. This ensures understanding and confluence of strategic focus, as well as the requirements for granular tasks and contingencies.
With a little Google-fu, you can find a wealth of resources for your process review. I like this handy comprehensive list of questions to improve processes published by the University of Michigan.
Also, check out Janne Ohtonen’s 12 Important Questions When Starting BPM Projects.
Where should I start?
I’m going to assume that you are not Google, and your company does not have unlimited resources. Examine all areas and departments of your business so you can determine the most efficacious route to the biggest dividend in improvement. What small changes can you make that will have the most effect? What would your ideal solution look like? Is it aligned with your business goals? How much time and capital will your business need to invest? It’s not enough to just identify processes for improvement; you need a feasible and reasonable plan to achieve that improvement. I’ll expand on this and include tips and methodologies on this subject in future posts.
The time is now
My post on last Friday underscored the fact that technology is becoming increasingly essential to modern business, and that those SMBs that make the technology leap will reap tremendous gains over their less progressive peers. With that in mind, ALL SMBs should take the time to reassess the value of their business processes and technology solutions on a regular basis. As TI CEO O. Liam Wright says, “Increased awareness of your processes’ dimensionality invariably leads to an intuitive understanding of its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.”