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Business Process Software

In this article we discuss how Business Process Software actually saves on your bottom line.

In the obvious situation a staff member’s entire role can be automated. As a result that staff member’s knowledge of the company can be utilised and they could be moved into a more vital position. Another less obvious situation is the simple value of the man-hours of individual staff members. If the Business Process Software only helps to cut back a portion of their work then they are able to use those man-hours for more important tasks. As a result those man-hours that “disappeared” can be said to be earning the company the dollar value of what that staff member was being paid. To demonstrate this we’re going to use a few case studies.

In our first example a business was transferring data from an old Custom Relationship Management system (or CRM) to a new web based CRM. The sheer amount of data was incredible. In order to transfer the data they hired three Data-Entry temps to manually insert the data. It was costing $20 an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and 9% superannuation on top of that. This totalled $872 per temp, per week. The project was looking to last at least another 12 weeks, for an approximate cost of $31,000.

A program was written that collected the data from the old system and automatically entered it into the new CRM. As a result there was no longer a need to hire data those data entry staff. This meant that within a few days ALL of the data was input into the system. Not only did the company save over $30,000 but they were able to very quickly implement their new software, meaning they saved even more money by utilising the new system straight away.

A less obvious example had to do with reporting. At the end of every week the sales department was required to create a report that detailed the calls their sales people made as compared to the sales they made. This data was collected from both sales software and phone software and input into a pre-made spreadsheet. Every week it took 2 hours of processing time, amounting to one-hundred hours of time spent on reporting every year. If we estimated the sales manager’s pay rate at $30 per hour, that means that these reports were costing them $3000 per year.

$3000 per year of value might not have seemed worthwhile but the company considered something very important. How could that manager have used those extra 2 hours every week to improve the performance of his sales team? An extra hundred hours a year to review sales calls, provide training, or have a talk to his sales people about their concerns proved to be a far greater incentive than the simple dollar value. This does not take into account the fact that there were five sales teams each of which could use both the added value and the added hours compounding the benefit of Business Process Software.

An even less obvious example was a call centre that dealt with a high volume of calls every day. At the start of every call the staff members asked the customer for their account number and would then input it into their CRM. A simple solution was developed that would use the customers phone number to search for their account details and automatically displayed the customer’s details on the screen. As a result instead of the staff members asking for the customer’s account number they were automatically able to greet the customer with their name.

While they could have added up all the seconds, minutes and ultimately hours this would save every year the call centre considered something else. Customers who were forced to call back multiple times would be always be frustrated at having to go through the same process every call. They started feeling like they were a number and not a name. This lead to a rise in satisfaction from frustrated customers who were now being greeted by name each call. Which was worth far more than a few man-hours from call centre staff.

A final example came from a security company. Their roster system was a simple Excel spreadsheet that would calculate how much security staff would need to be paid. This was complicated because of penalty rates that would apply, as staff would often begin shifts before midnight and not finish until early in the morning and during this time penalty rates would very often change. But they had a concern, it was against the law to have a staff member on duty who’s licence had expired or been suspended.

A small application was implemented that allowed the company to create their roster through a new user interface. The application would check to make sure that their shift would finish before their licence was due to expire. It would also check before each shift to make sure that in the meantime the licence had not been suspended. In this scenario the security company did not value the time saved from the user friendly roster system but the risk management applications of the the new system. They valued the cost of the Business Process Software against the cost of a fine for violating stringent compliance laws in the security industry.

Business Process Management – A Means to an End?

I am working as Executive Management Advisor for many years and many clients and assisted them to restructure their organisations and to develop or restructure Business Process Models (BPM). There are many typically used methods which a Business Analyst may use when facilitating business transformations and they have all got fancy, if not scary names:

. CATWOE: Customers, Actors, Transformation Process, World View, Owner, Environmental (and Regulatory) Constraints;
. Five Why’s;
. HEPTALYSIS: Market Opportunity, Product/Solution, Execution Plan, Financial Engine, Human Capital, Potential Return, Margin of Safety;
. MOST: Mission, Objectives, Strategies, Tactics;
. MoSCoW: Must have, Should have, Could have, Would like to have in the future;
. PESTLE: Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, Environmental;
. The famous SWOT: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats;
. Six Thinking Hats;
. Six Sigma;
. VPEC-T: Values, Policies, Events, Content.

All these impressive acronyms help to describe an individual approach; the aim, however remains the same: business process engineering, which is regarded to be the backbone and most important foundation for every well managed organisation – regardless of size by the way. The optimization process requires human intervention and skilled, insightful, ideally experienced professionals.

Interestingly enough though: according to my experience the perfect analyst should not be a specialist in the actual technical or scientific process. I was once asked what I did know about food technology and I replied “basics only”, but that I hoped my counterpart who was a Professor with a PHD, would be the expert in our team, as I knew nobody could beat his expertise. I am convinced that a consultant claiming to be an expert on the subject matter not only limits, it actually disturbs the project. A successful business analyst needs be able to understand each organisation, seeing the whole process flow with a neutral bird’s eye view.

It is helpful to comprehend a business process as an on-going living cycle which pictures how work gets done. By identifying the particular sequence of work events across time and place, with a beginning, an end and with clearly defined inputs and outputs the analyst identifies shortcomings and saving potentials. Critically reflecting how a business works typically goes hand-in-hand with a re-organisation and can – in my experience – achieve conservatively between 10 % and 20 % savings – without hurting anybody too much.

So this is the ideal set-up: a willing, supportive client, a (group of) skilled business process analyst(s) together with internal process experts forming the project team.

But despite perfect arrangements why do Business Process Management (BPM) projects ever so often fail or at least do not achieve the expected end result? We analyse problems, suggest solutions, accompany the transformation, manage the change and when it fails we feel pointing the finger at the client: “internal politics, nepotism, ignorance, the good people left, incompetence of implementing team, resistance to change.”

I won’t play the whistle blower. Of course I had similar projects. I had clients who only implemented the processes they dared to change and left out the rest – no wonder the project failed. I was asked to leave prematurely and then the client made all sorts of peculiar alterations. I learned my lesson: if my name is at stake, it is of utmost importance to see the implementation phase through.

My 25-odd years’ experience illustrates a more reasonable explanation for failing like this: once we leave, we barely get the chance to see our recommendations life over a period of time. Hardly ever we are hired to act as a permanent advisor; we are kept uncertain about the short, much less the long term success. Pretty much like the tax payers association; they write fancy reports where the tax payers’ money is wasted and by next year nothing’s really changed. The same with us: we actually do not leave an ultimate and tangible legacy behind.

What is needed? Currently I am evaluating a solution which might fix the problem, which I will share publicly, once done: a simple, reasonably inexpensive but workable solution which ensures that the processes are implemented as defined or if altered remain functioning.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – You Have to Have One to Create Your Business Process

If you own a small business or you are starting one, you will give yourself the best start possible if you develop a business process first. This process will represent the entire way you handle your company. Read on to find out how you can make your process a winner.

You need to make sure your customers get the same experience every time, I want to spend today talking about the process of your business. Too many companies are built around their employees and how nice it is to work for them, the amenities, and the help provided. Too many companies rely 100% in their people to bring the company to the next level.

Now, of course this sounds like I’m saying that employees are like a virus or something, but that’s not what I mean. I mean, that if you want to have a successful, rockstar-like business, where you are kicking the arse off of 98% of the other businesses out there, you need to have a PROCESS that you can plug people into. 

If your employees define your company and they go work next door for 50 cents extra per hour your business folds, period. That’s not a good position to be in. It’s almost likeyou are blackmailing yourself with your own business design. You’ve got to have a process. Even if you are an army of one, you need to have a process so that you can save the business from yourself. Sound weird? I hope so… but it should make more sense in a second.

You have to have direction. A business process begins with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and moves into a method or everything that the business does, a map that you can refer to when you get lost. These need to be in place BEFORE you open your doors, or in place as you are rebuilding your business.

This way, with a map, even if you are the entire business, you can refer to your vision and your overall goal to get you back on track when you get off course. Let’s say you build houses. You develop an ingenious PROCESS that will allow a team of 4 people to frame an entire house in 3 days. This allows your company to frame 60% more houses than any other team out there. You have this process before hiring a single person. You then hire the RIGHT people and plug them into the PROCESS. That way, if someone quits, you can easily find another person to replace them.

But isn’t that a little harsh? Aren’t we treating people like numbers? Not really. As a business owner, I dare you to treat your employees like numbers for a few days and see how they respond to you. No amount of process in the world will save a manager that doesn’t care about her people. The management is part of your process design too. Just think McDonalds. You get the same experience whether you’re in Alaska, Calcutta, or New Jersey. It doesn’t matter who is serving the fries,because the PROCESS is all designed on making that work.

I hope that motivated you into ACTION.

If you are already doing this in your business I commend you. If not, well now you know. If you want to learn the foundation of your process, you need to start at the beginning and you need to start with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).