Success: Not a One-Time Measure, But an Ongoing Improvement

PhilHeinemanDatabankby Phil Heineman | 5/4/2016

A process is never as effective as it could be. In a quickly evolving world, we shouldn’t expect any of our business processes to remain stagnant. They’ll likely change over and over again, growing into something better each time. A living model of continuous improvement is the key to remaining competitive, and workflow technology should be flexible in order to adapt accordingly.

The business should drive the technology – not the other way around.

Oftentimes, when people see a need, they’ll seek a technology or process solution that fills it. This is a fine plan, until we see the path commonly followed:

Staff identifies a need, then lets their IT group or vendor know. The IT group or vendor then begins looking for a product, but somewhere along the way the goal tends to shift from addressing the identified need to getting the product rolled out. The next thing you know, people that do not intimately understand the need are driving decisions, workflow process, and critical business rules. Eventually, potential business users are being asked to change their process rules in order to conform to the product. I think of this as the tail wagging the dog.

Involving the right people is critical, but there’s more to it.

Think of the benefits lost the moment the project shifts away from the people that originally identified the need.

Some would say that involving the business users more in the selection process is the way to go, and they’re not wrong. Enforcing that the end users dictate how the technology supports their business will much better align the solution to the need. More involvement from the business users is a critical step, but it isn’t enough.

The designer might not know to ask certain questions, and the business user might not know to share certain information, even if they’re willing. This will cause gaps every time. Sometimes the gaps are so large that the solution isn’t usable. Other times, the gaps represent sacrifices that need to be made by the business.

The pressure of creating a rigid solution can stall your progress.

Business rules and operations change over time, and locking in processes may limit your ability to continue to improve in the future. When your business users see what you’ve built, they’ll think of new ideas on how to use their solution – every time.

If you put off using the solution until you run out of ideas, you may find you’ll never be done. On that same note, the longer you go, the greater the chance that previous information is out of date. The pressure of creating a rigid solution can get you caught in the trap of forever building and never using. If you never use the new process, you’ll never gain the benefit.

A technology platform that can be changed on the go is critical to ongoing success.

The key to pulling off successful process improvement is a technology platform that can be tested and changed on the fly. Continue to ask the questions, “What can we do better? What can we do next?”. Don’t assume you’ll get every nuance right out of the gate, and don’t force yourself to develop, deploy, and migrate with each change. Involve your business users early and continuously.

You should find new processes over time, and your business users should find new perspectives on existing processes. In order to fully allow your business to drive the technology, the technology platform must be flexible enough to change with each idea. This enables you to grow and evolve without needing to re-code or worse, migrate to another solution entirely.

Philip Heineman is Director of Training at DataBank IMX, an organization dedicated to simplifying business processes. Phil began a focus on adult learning, cognitive science, consulting, and engineering related to technology in 1998. He is passionate about fostering life-long learning and empowering adults to reach their goals by building their skills. Philip is a current MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) and CTT+ (Certified Technical Trainer) and has been since 2000. In addition, he also has earned A+, Network+, MCP, MCP+I, MCSA, MCSE, MCTS, OCI, OCWE among others.

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