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the importance of business processes

By Peter SG Carter

Why are Business Processes important?

There are some truths and sayings that stand the test of time. One I like is along the lines of:

“if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”

In other words, when you are looking for a different outcome, think about what you do and change it. Too often we think about the detail. We look at the activity we are involved with and try to find a better way of being more efficient. We may indeed be more efficient if we keep the stapler on the right hand side of the desk, or arrange the furniture better. In the office world, the ‘what you do’ should be broader than the activity, the document, the technology. The organisation should focus on the sum of all these and how they flow together in complete business processes.

Of-course the ‘different outcome’ we all crave is a business that is more efficient, drives down costs and improves customer service. A business process will therefore cut across the whole organisation and does not focus on the individual department. The ‘whole process’ must be looked at. Let’s for a moment look at the world of manufacturing: If the final sub-process is to move a car in to the paint shop and the paint shop can only handle 5 cars per day, there is little point in having 10 cars per day ready to be painted. This principle applies as much to case work in the office as it does to manufacturing.

So what else can we do to improve efficiency if not the process? An organisation is built on the three pillars of

People.


Having the right people, motivated and performing is naturally a key requirement to performance.

Technology


Providing the people with the right tools to do their jobs well is also vitally important. Computer technology has revolutionised the office environment, and with web technologies and mobile computing we are all becoming much more efficient for longer. The third pillar is

Process.


This is what holds it all together. The glue between the assets.

Process goes right across the organisation. A Sales process may start with marketing and production (lets set the targets right!). It may involve accounts (lets get the price right). It will involve sales (close the deal). Then it will go back to accounts (let’s get the invoice right and paid on time). Production’s input may involve the supply chain. Therefore our sales process will not just involve accounts receivables but accounts payable too.

I have heard that some processes “do not affect other parts of the company”. Whilst HR look after the employees across the organisation the question was asked whether their processes could be improved in isolation. I have worked with a number of HR departments, in manufacturing companies and large government organisations. Even in these HR processes, the whole organisation has been involved and affected.

In a recent project we were looking at absence management. These processes, whilst being monitored and managed by the HR department, needed line management to provide the information for interactions with employees. The process ultimately required external agencies (Occupational health, NHS doctors and Pensions fund doctors) to process cases through to a conclusion. If this project had only looked internally at how the HR department operated, then the organisation would not have delivered an improved absence management process.

For more information about issues typically found in business process and methodologies for improving business processes, follow the links to my related introductory articles.

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©2007 Peter SG Carter. Copyright and trademark information