A process is a uniform series of steps that you can repeat to complete a given task. In that sense, everything you do to manage and operate your business is a process.
An example of a Business Process that most of us do every day is to physically open the office in the morning: we approach the door, insert the key, turn the lock, open the door, turn off the alarm, and turn on the hall lights. We might have a second process to prepare the work environment: adjust the office temperature, put up a pot of coffee, turn on the copier and printers, turn on more office lights, put the phone system in day mode and check the general voice mail box.
This over simplification is to demonstrate that without realizing it, we are creatures of habit and perform the same processes on a regular basis to complete a set of tasks.
Problems arise when we do not follow a consistent set of procedures to provide a uniform result. They can also arise when procedures are overly complex and have not been updated to take advantage of new technologies.
This is when you need Business Process Consulting
The need for a consistent Business Process becomes evident in the following scenario: Two Salespeople at your company each take a phone order for some merchandise.
Salesperson “A” properly uses the “Phone Order Form” that has space for the Customer Name, Address, Account, Phone Number, Email Address, Date, Purchase Order Number, Quantity, Item, Description, Item Number, Unit Price, Total, Shipping Address, and Terms. As Salesperson “A” has followed the Business Process for taking a phone order, all of the required information has been properly collected to assure accuracy in completion of the order from Entry in to your system through Shipping.
Salesperson “B” decides to use a blank sheet of paper and only gets the Customer Name, and the item, order quantity, and pricing information with the intent of looking up the rest later.
Since Salesperson “B” did not use a “Phone Order Form”, he has put the company and customer satisfaction at risk because necessary information is missing. Furthermore, as a Salesperson, he probably will not follow through on “filling in the missing details.” More than likely, he will leave it for the Order Entry department to locate the missing information. In the worst case, someone else will have to contact the Customer to complete the order and it will be delayed.
This is an oversimplification demonstrating what happens when Staff does not follow a Business Processes already in place.
A change in technology could easily standardize the preferred way to take a phone order. An Online Order Entry System would allow the Salesperson to find the customer account, verify the information mentioned above, and only enter the quantity and item details. Updating the Business Process to take advantage of new technologies improves efficiency while simultaneously reducing manual errors.
To demonstrate the practical value of Business Process Consulting, try this exercise. Pick any procedure in your business: (i.e. opening of the mail, applying payments to customer invoices, or making the daily bank deposit.) Ask the person doing the task, “Why do you do this particular task this particular way?” You might be surprised to hear the following response, “This is the way I have always done it.” (Or, sometimes, “This is how I was told to do it.”)
The real question you want to ask is, “Can you think of a better, more efficient way of doing the task?” In the majority of interviews when I ask the above questions, I get a resounding, “Of course there is a better way!” (But, nobody ever asked me for my opinion.)
You have just taken the first step to becoming your own “Business Process Consultant.” By simply starting a discussion with your Staff members about how they perform the tasks that are part of their normal job function, you can immediately get ideas about possible changes that may increase efficiency which will improve productivity and therefore your bottom line.
The advantage of using professional Business Process Consultants is that they bring a more formalized, independent objective review to the Project. Sometimes we cannot see the “Forest for the Trees.” Outside consultants have seen many forests and many trees.
The key benefit is that while reviewing the Business Processes and interviewing Staff, the experienced Consultant will be able to listen, discuss, and document the current procedures and make suggestions about possible improvements within each department. Finally, Staff people are generally more comfortable talking with an independent outside party vs. internal management.