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Corporate process improvement shouldn’t be a do-it-yourself initiative


Johannesburg, 20 Apr 2022
Read time 4min 50sec
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Denis Bensch, CIO, FlowCentric Technologies.
Denis Bensch, CIO, FlowCentric Technologies.

While C-level personnel usually have a holistic view of their organisation and understand how its processes fit together for the good of the entire business, the average employee’s perspective is more limited. They tend to focus on their specific job and don’t really understand how and where their efforts fit in to the whole picture.

But this doesn’t matter. All a business needs to concern itself with is that employees get on with the job at hand, doing what they need to before the next step in the process kicks in. Right?

Not so fast.

“When users don’t have context about how their activities affect the business downstream, they may take actions which negatively influence the business and their colleagues down the line,” says Denis Bensch, CIO, FlowCentric Technologies.

According to Bensch, it’s important that people don’t tamper or tinker with business processes in a haphazard manner, as these processes not only set the business apart from its competitors, they also ensure the company and its directors remain compliant with local and industry regulations.

The way a business does things can set them apart from their competitors; it improves efficiency and saves time, resources and money; and it supports knowledge transfer and simplifies the onboarding and training of new employees.

“Ultimately, the success or failure of a business can come down to how well, or badly, its processes work,” he says.

He points out that although some employees may attempt to circumvent processes for malicious reasons – theft, fraud, embezzlement or simply to cheat the system and earn extra overtime pay – human error, poor training or simple laziness can also upend them.

More commonly, however, process workarounds are adopted by well-intentioned individuals because the established processes don’t work well or because they believe that their way is better.

“Just because a process has been put in place doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to do something. Processes can be unnecessarily complex or rely on the incorrect or outdated technology. Add to this, poorly trained employees and the process can hurt more than it helps,” Bensch adds.

He maintains that before blaming employees for trying to circumvent processes, management should engage with them to understand their concerns.

“Businesses should regularly refine and improve processes based on input from employees and other stakeholders – and keep providing training along with change management. The key is to ensure that each process is necessary, easy to understand, simple to execute and adds value,” he says.

“Employees would be less inclined to tinker with processes if they have insight into the larger picture and how their actions can directly affect the outcomes of the entire process.

“At the same time, it’s important that businesses regularly assess their processes to ensure they’re not overly complex or poorly documented; and that the processes in place are well designed and effectively enforced.”

However, the line between good process and bad process – and between too much and too little process – is not always clearly defined.

On the one hand, ridged process enforcement could rob people of initiative. This is an important consideration for companies that thrive on a culture of innovation and agile adaptability. In addition, decision-makers can use process as an excuse to not make a decision.

On the other hand, process can help to prevent bias in decision-making and ensure that legislation is followed to a T.

“It’s also important to remember that processes and bureaucracy go hand in hand. Bureaucracy is not always a bad thing. Highly regulated industries like insurance, banking, pharmaceutical and energy benefit from using tightly managed and enforced processes to ensure compliance. In these instances, technology choice is critical because flexibility is needed to adapt to changing local and global legislation. Covid is an example of how quickly things can change around the world,” Bensch says.

“In addition, the maturity and size of a business will also influence the amount and complexity of processes needed. Small companies, depending on the industry, may not need as many processes as it is generally easier to manage small teams. Large, established organisations will have more processes as there are more people, systems, employees and suppliers to manage and co-ordinate.”

Using a BPM platform can go a long way to ensuring that processes are managed well within virtually any sized business, delivering a company-wide platform that’s able to integrate and operate across the value chain. It can simultaneously improve performance, business agility and intelligence, and data management, while helping to drive enhanced operational efficiency, accountability, policy compliance and management.

Other benefits of BPM solutions include improved risk management and governance, as well as controlled data accessibility.

However, Bensch warns that the benefits of a BPM framework can only be fully realised if it is implemented correctly.

“Choose the software carefully, making sure it is backed by a services team that can help with its implementation. And make sure that the business has enough money to complete the first round of implementations and deployments: like all software, if you don’t finish, you don’t benefit,” he concludes. 

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