1 min read

The Key to Profitability: Reduce Process-Generated Waste

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 18, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Businesses run off process. They succeed with good process; they flop with bad process. Process is everything. Process is what renders a company efficient, maintainable, or a huge godawful mess.

We’ve said before that the profit’s in the process. It’s true. As a company you may sell the coolest product in the world, with sales topping 1 million per day, and flop due to poorly-built internal processes.

The fact is, processes can generate expensive waste within an organization – waste more costly than what most of us consider our greatest expenses (hardware, space, etc). Take this for example – and note that this is stripped down intentionally and doesn’t account for much of what’s taken into account when improving process. If one process isn’t well-defined, and causes 50 employees to spend 1 hour completing a processes that could take 1 minute, that’s 50 employees x 59 min x (average employee salary ÷ 2080 hrs/yr). Assuming the salary divides to $20/hr, that’s nearly $1,000.00 of waste every time the process is performed. If the process happens daily, that’s 246 days x $1,000.00 ($246,000.00) of waste annually from just one business process. You get the idea.

The key to profitability isn’t just sales or reputation. It’s sustainability inside your business doors – the ability to provide long-term economic well-being to your company. That’s why a part of our mission is to “leverage technology to help businesses do more with less – promoting sustainability by reducing process-generated waste.” It’s the same idea as reduce, reuse, recycle – instead of reducing physical waste to promote a more sustainable environment, reducing process-generated waste (time, money, misc business resources) promotes a more lean, efficient, sustainable business environment.

To summarize: Businesses are made up of thousands of processes. Each process is intimately linked with other processes. If one process is completely inefficient, it impacts other processes negatively – and the costs of inefficiency add up in a sort of domino effect that can be invisible to the business. Ideally, every process should be predictable and repeatable, doing the most with as little resources (time, money, people) as possible. Technology is often how that’s executed successfully – and the more business processes a technology supports, the more valuable it is.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process reduce sustainability waste company
3 min read

Don't Let Your Software Dictate Its Own Life

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2011 11:00:00 AM

It’s natural for us to neglect maintenance. It works like this:

  • You have a problem that needs to be fixed.
  • You neglect the need for awhile because it’s not “bad enough” for you to spend money on it.
  • The problem worsens; the need intensifies. Extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The need is prioritized. But the solution is too expensive.
  • The problem worsens even more. Tons of extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The money spent on temporary solutions nears the total cost of a solution.
  • You purchase a solution to the problem.

Now, after all that trouble, money, and wasted time, the last thing we want to do when we procure a solution is devote work to maintaining it. It’s true with any solution. When you buy a new car, you don’t want to deal with changing brake pads during your first month of ownership. When you fix a problem, you are physically and emotionally pre-disposed to exalt the solution as ultimate redemption and not think about the problem. The problem is fixed. There are no more problems.

But you can’t do this with software, even though every ounce of yourself inclines you to. Even if your business spends $1 million implementing a new do-it-all software solution. No matter how much you paid, the cost doesn’t mean your maintenance / future planning responsibilities don’t have to exist. If you don’t actively ensure your software is:

  • integrating effectively with your business processes,
  • integrating effectively with other software / systems,
  • adapting to future needs,
  • responsibly maintained,
  • used properly by employees,
  • compliant with industry trends and best practices,
  • and kept cost-effective,

…you effectively (and unintentionally) make your software fail. Indeed, in most cases, new software that becomes obsolete to the business within a year of its implementation is often the result of:

  • Misuse / lack of proper training. Employees who lack a knowledge of what the software can do, how it works, and how it improves their work, they won’t be able to see the advantage of using it – and more importantly, they won’t be able to use it right. Document management software, for example, can quickly become messy and disorganized if employees don’t understand how it’s supposed to be used. That’s a major setback to progress – and could create a problem worse than the original one.
  • Poor adoption rates / internal advocacy. Closely relating to misuse, if the solution isn’t “marketed” internally, employee buy-in could flounder. Preparing employees for a solution is a key part of the implementation process. Few people love change, and businesses can’t expect employees to react well if change is spontaneously legislated from their point of view.
  • Lack of integration with business processes. If a software solution doesn’t integrate with business processes, it doesn’t improve an organization. Period. And the more business processes it integrates with, the more valuable it becomes. Great software improves process, and improved process makes the business more profitable by trimming costs.
  • Lack of integration with other software / systems. A single software rarely solves every business problem. Multiple softwares are usually leveraged for different purposes. Since business processes throughout an organization impact one another much like those of a living organism, processes are interdependent. They interact with one another across departmental lines. Process management software will therefore interact with other systems – making integration a must for success.
  • Lack of compliance with industry trends and best practices. Keeping up with software trends is crucial in this day and age. While it’s costly, it keeps your company marketable and ensures access to support services. Adopting a software that was last updated in 2002, for example, will render you irrelevant to the times, which speaks about your organization. Best practices such as ITIL are derived from industry-leading successes. They pave paths of success for others to follow. Staying on the cutting edge and doing it right are required to remain healthy and progressive. Not doing so can leave you in the dust.

Don’t let your software dictate its own life. Planning is as important the day after “go live” as it is the day before. A software that’s prepared for, well-maintained, well-integrated, and supported with forward-thinking will yield the highest long-term ROI to the business.

Topics: blog bpm business management practices process software tips tricks company compliance cost-effective itil organization
3 min read

Organize SharePoint: Transitioning from Folders

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 5, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

 

Humans have been coming up with new ways to organize their information for years. The need to find the information you need quickly has perpetuated for centuries. When information began to be digitized, that need transitioned into the digital world – and soon we found ourselves with a pile of virtual files wondering how to manage them responsibly.

Since the 1990s, the most common way to sort through this file pile – or at least the best way to arrange them coherently – was to put the files into a “folder tree.” Folder trees are complex hierarchies of file folders that, if you mapped them out on a whiteboard, would look like your typical Christmas tree – with the high-level folders at the top, slowing segmenting downward to reveal subfolders, and the subfolders of those subfolders, and the subfolder’s subfolder’s subfolder. Say that three times fast.

The problem with folder trees is that as a company grows, their folder tree can easily turn into folder sprawl. As the tree grows, files can be buried deeper and deeper – meaning the search for a particular file takes longer in most cases – not to mention the time it takes to save a new file in the right location. And the more time it takes to find something, the more company time is wasted. That’s inefficient.

“But what about the Search function?” you say. “Can’t you just search for the file?” Youcan, actually. But in order to find the correct file, you need to know all or part of the file name – which you can’t guarantee. In order for Search to be affective, you’d need to be able to search for the things about the file you DO know – like, for instance, when it was written, who wrote it, what it was for, etc.

That being said, a better way to organize information is to forget the folder tree altogether – or at least in theory. It sounds crazy, but if done right, it can make your information architecture far more efficient than you think.

The better way involves assigning relevant attributes to every file in your system – where each file has a set of attributes that describe it, telling us what it is, what type of file it is, when it was last modified, and who modified it. Consider a hypothetical worker’s compensation form, for example, stored in a content management system. If I didn’t know what the worker’s comp form was called, but knew it had to do with insurance, I could type “insurance” as a search query – and if “insurance” was a keyword or attribute of the form, presto. I’ve got it.

                                    Document Library in SharePoint

                                      HR Request List in SharePoint

Attributes should be unique to every folder, library, or department, users associate with documents differently depending on what they are. For example, this HR request list in Microsoft SharePoint looks a lot different from the Employee Agreements document library. For one, it stores requests – not actual documents. It’s meant to track requests made to Human Resources, so each request’s attributes tell who requested it, what type of thing was requested, some details, and its approval status.

By assigning attributes to every file in your system, you’re guaranteeing faster search times and implementing a more intelligent information architecture for your organization – avoiding the messy, high-maintenance folder sprawl we mentioned earlier. By making the search process more efficient and repeatable, you’re making your company more profitable long-term.

Good technology, good process, good profit. To more learn about that or tell us how YOU organize your stuff, visit our blog.

Topics: business library management sharepoint company documentation information intelligence microsoft organization

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