As the contracted project manager at a client site, I was asked to put together a team of individuals to collectively analyze the current business processes in the operation in each of their facilities. The first of three steps in our approach entailed researching and documenting the “as-is scenario” in each of the locations and create Visio Diagrams that would be used to map out the operations breakdowns that existed. Step two would be the presentation of the gaps and issues in the business process followed by our recommendations for potential changes and options for the group to consider. The third and final step would be the creation of the remediated new process with diagrams, documentation as well as follow through on the new system integration with staff.
The criteria we required to be gathered by the client during the first phase was simple – a map of the workflow, the task performed in each step, the people involved and what their part entailed in each step (for future regrouping of tasks) combined with what screens, reports, excel sheets, outside data, etc. were used during the process. This is what we consider to be basic transaction flow information. The client was left with a detailed list of what we needed for our analysis, and a follow up appointment was scheduled for two weeks hence.
When we came back to the group after two weeks expecting to have this workflow data accumulated by management and staff, we received from them a list of 5 criteria, with little to no detail, for each site. Our data sheets were practically empty and our road map to analyze was nonexistent. What didn’t they get? After two weeks, we had virtually no data with which to make our business process assessment, and the company seemed confused by our needs. Our realization was that many people do not how to go about the process of data collection. Keeping this in mind, it’s really not difficult to understand how business processes can not only go awry, but disintegrate within the daily grind to run a business.
As technology and business process experts, it’s easy to take for granted that each of our clients either A. sees their business process with the clarity we do or B. really understands what we need of them in order to reduce their overhead costs and improve their bottom line. That, as proven by this client scenario, is obviously not the case.
As a business management consultant, there are a few lessons here:
- Don’t assume that everyone has equal knowledge of tasks asked of them or even what you expect from them as a subject matter expert.
- Just because people know the job they do doesn’t necessarily translate into something that makes them an expert in how to present it.
- When acquiring this type of data, be very detailed in what your expectation are in terms of deliverables and continually monitor progress for even the simplest of tasks.
What we had thought was a straight forward exercise to improve the client’s business process turned into quite a learning experience for this old dog.