The success of an organization lies in the effectiveness of the business processes that are in every-day use. Critical business processes that are optimized and standardized for day-today work help to avoid chaotic operations and streamline the flow of information within the organization. Using the right software tools to implement the business processes effectively drives employees towards the areas on which they need to focus.
A business process is a series of steps undertaken by an organization to perform an activity. For instance, in a tower infrastructure company, there are standard steps defined to roll out a site, to install telecom assets or to maintain the site and installed tower assets. These interrelated standard steps required to accomplish a specific activity form the framework for a business process workflow. The steps to install telecom infrastructure form the rollout workflow while the steps to maintain the infrastructure form the maintenance workflow.
When digitalizing business processes through software tools, it is necessary to define a process that generates value for the business, has a finite number of steps, is adaptable to future changes, and is highly repeatable. As part of creating and deploying a robust business process, the following steps are necessary:
To create a new business process within a business process engine, you need to identify the components of the process using the following methodology:
- Start with identifying the activity for which there are standard steps that need to be followed. For instance, in the case of the tower business, the rollout activity includes steps such as identifying suitable candidate sites, conducting a feasibility survey, sending sales proposals to the telecom customer, starting construction at the approved site, and finally notifying the customer that the site is ready for telecom equipment installation.
- Identify the people or the user group that needs to own each activity of the process. Although some steps could involve more than one user group, there will only be one user group responsible for the step. This is the role to be used for the step.
- Define milestones to track the progress and SLA (service level agreement) for each activity. This can be done by looking at the historical work and understanding how much time will be needed for each step.
- Identify the screens that will be part of each step and what data is to be captured as part of the screen. Here you can look at the manual or paper-based data that is currently being recorded for each step of the business process. Identify data fields, their types (such as free text, drop-down values, attachments, etc.), rules around the data values, and whether or not they are mandatory.
- Finally, you need to identify the events that are part of an activity in order to connect all the steps and build a workflow. For instance, there could be steps in a workflow with only data being submitted from one step to the next. Some steps may need a user decision to be taken such as an approval or a condition-based decision. You also need to identify the steps that need to be run in sequence and those that can be run in parallel.
You may also want to define notifications such as emails, SMSes, or in-app notifications, as part of each event of an activity step. These can be useful to notify the next user group about upcoming tasks. However, it is advisable to avoid over-use of these notifications or else there is a possibility of filling up the user inbox with a lot of system-generated messages.
During the identification step, the following principles need to be considered:
- KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle: Don’t try to build a complicated business process that no one understands or can use. It is best to start with the simplest workflow.
- 80-20 rule: Start with a workflow definition that covers 80% of the activity. Don’t try to be too precise and cover 100% of the activity. Most business processes will have exceptions that are better handled outside the tool than trying to design workflows to handle every possible scenario.
To implement a business process through a software application, you need a tool that is flexible and robust to cater a variety of workflow scenarios. Configurability is the norm in today’s software applications. Gone are those days when developers wrote code to create on-screen forms and any changes required would require further code changes by the developer. With configurability you can easily model a business process with custom forms and rules, run through it iteratively, and make changes with speed.
Make sure the tool has the following features supported by a configuration engine:
- Configurable workflows to define the flow of the business process.
- Configurable forms to define the data screens that need to be part of each step.
- Configurable milestones that get completed on each event and corresponding SLA definitions.
- Role-based workflows and access control so that users only need to focus on the work they are supposed to do.
- Mobility-integrated workflows to enable users to capture field data and feed it seamlessly into the tool.
Once your process implementation is ready, walk through it with the business users and get feedback. At this stage, it is important to get buy-in from the business users to ensure that the processes are actually adopted. Although there might sometimes be resistance towards change, most people will accept the business process digitization as long as they see the benefits of reduced effort and improved collaboration within functional teams.
The success of a digitized business process relies on its users to fully adopt and start using it. Make sure your users have the necessary training and documentation to perform their activities using the software tools
Once you have implemented a business process through a software application, start monitoring the usage. There could be initial glitches which you might not have initially considered. Try to identify and rectify them at the earliest. Timely resolution of the initial glitches heavily depends on the tool you choose to implement the business process. A configurable tool will allow you to make changes quickly.
Based on the SLA information collected as well as feedback from users, identify how effective the business process is and see how each user group is performing. A well-designed performance-based dashboard can be used to quickly measure the efficiency and productivity of the relevant user group.
As you start receiving measurable data collected through your business process tool, try to identify the bottle-necks in the business process and resolve them by further tuning the workflow. Similarly, as business needs and ways of working evolve over time, periodic review and optimization must to be done to keep the business process effective. A configurable tool will ensure that your optimization actions are quick and easy to deploy.
Kick-start an initiative to start digitalizing your business organization. Look for configurable solutions to convert your day-to-day activities into actionable tasks and link together various elements of your functional areas for better collaboration.
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