The Business Process Lifecycle

The Business Process Lifecycle

Business Process Quiz
  1. Do you know why business processes are important? Yes / No
  2. Have you documented your business processes? Yes / No
  3. Have you integrated your processes into job profiles and business systems? Yes / No
  4. Is the performance of your processes regularly checked against a standard? Yes / No
  5. Have you reviewed and improved any processes in the last month or quarter? Yes / No

If you answered No to any of the questions, then there is work to do.

The truth of the matter is that it is virtually impossible to answer ‘Yes’ to all of those questions all the time. That is the nature of the ‘lifecycle’ of business processes.

Unfortunately business process improvement is often understood to be a once-off, standalone project which is periodically implemented every few years across the entire organisation. This perspective is flawed. The level of process ‘maturity’ in different parts of a business will differ. The speed at which processes need to be reviewed and improved in various parts of a business will also differ. The impact on each business function with shifts in the market, legislative/regulatory changes or technological advances will differ, which means the process lifecycles will be ‘out of sync’ across the organisation.

So how should process lifecycles be managed?

  • Establish the underlying foundation by knowing who the process serves or why it is necessary.
  • Know how the process will deliver with the available resources, such as people and systems.
  • Ensure there is alignment between the business areas that participate in the process.

And how is the process improvement tackled?

As the expression goes, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” Focus only on one functional or operational process at a time, knowing which stage of the lifecycle the process is in. Making these ‘isolated’ improvements seems counter-intuitive, but it is more important to successfully complete smaller process improvements more frequently in each area of the business than to simultaneously attempt broad improvements across the entire business.

Lastly, who should be involved in the process improvement?

It goes without saying that the management and employees who work with the processes must be involved in any improvements at any stage of the lifecycle. Insufficient leadership and sponsorship during the project will result in poor results or failure. Involving the right people, i.e. those with the experience and skills, is critical for success. With regards to using external or out-sourced resources, there is no right or wrong answer. This will depend on the objectivity and capacity of the internal resources to identify the processes most in need of improvement and which stages of the process’s lifecycle needs to be improved.

Blogs: Digitising a Business

Digitising a Business

Thinking about what part of a business needs to be digitised? Wondering how to start and to make the change lasting? Not sure when the digitising journey should start? Read on for a few tips on what to consider when digitising a business.

So why digitise?

There are many reasons why a business should consider digitising. The below list highlights a few of the advantages:

  • The initial collecting of information can be done more consistently.
  • Error checking and data corrections can be done programmatically and is much quicker than manual checking.
  • Accessing, utilising and sharing digital information is quicker and can be more easily formatted for specific use cases.
  • Storage is more efficient compared to hard copy information and managing backups at multiple locations is easier.

Who should go digital?

Anyone and everyone! In today’s information age there are fewer reasons why it is not possible to digitise any business. Although there are some practical limitations which make it difficult for some businesses, it is important to not assume it is impossible to digitise before evaluating what is the art of the possible.

What should be digitised?

Here are a few examples of what can be digitised in a business:

  • Customer and supplier information such as contact details, pricing, agreements and transactions.
  • Product information such as descriptions & attributes, pricing and stock holding.
  • Centrally stored operating policies and procedures, which are searchable and can be ‘intelligently’ organised.
  • Employee records like contracts of employment, training records and performance records.

When to go digital?

Immediately and always! It is unlikely that there are businesses today that have digitised nothing. More businesses are digitising every day, and there are more ways to digitise parts of a business that couldn’t be digitised before. So to wait to digitise a business means getting left behind.

How to digitise?

Certain things are needed to start and successfully complete digitising a business. It is crucial the following are addressed prior to and during the digitising journey:

  • Management ownership and sponsorship.
  • Business process integrity and efficiency.
  • Change management and team training.
  • Appropriate infrastructure (i.e. hardware and software systems).
  • Sustain and ongoing system support, data maintenance and ongoing staff re-training.
Blogs: Situational Assessments – Key Considerations

Situational Assessments – Key Considerations

A situational assessment involves analysing information that has been gathered for a specific purpose, drawing conclusions, formulating any required action plans and then implementing those plans. Situational assessments can be applied in many different contexts. The assessment can be used proactively or reactively, for example for strategic planning or for crisis management respectively.

There are plenty of articles on situational assessment available which explain ‘what it is’ and ‘how it is done’. This article assumes those topics are already understood and instead of re-emphasising those points, below are some key factors to consider when conducting a situational assessment.

Area of focus: internal or external?

When performing a situational assessment, it is important to understand where the area of focus is. When the area of focus is internal, for example personal goal setting or reviewing a business’s operational plans, then the assessment process must be tailored accordingly. An external area of focus, for example a marketing survey or customer needs analysis, will require different sources for information gathering and participant involvement to an internally focussed assessment like an employee survey.

Timeline: the past, present and future

Situational assessments can be triggered by past events or due to present circumstances. They can also be performed in preparation for future events or anticipated scenarios. Consciously acknowledging the timeline when commencing an assessment, not only helps the steps of gathering and analysing data, but influences decision making during the process and the formulation of any plans or the setting of any goals.

Degrees of un-/controllability

It goes without saying that it is important during a situational assessment to understand what is within our control and what is not. A detailed analysis of events that were beyond our control is often not (accurately) possible nor is it always that value-added. When preparing for potential uncontrollable events, the output of the assessment process is scenario or contingency plans which assume a level of probability. Further to understanding what is controllable and what is uncontrollable, it is important to understand that in reality there are usually degrees of control (or not) rather than full control or no control at all. Know what degree of control we have, influences the situational assessment process, and especially the outcomes.

Blogs: The What and Who of Business Ethics

The What and Who of Business Ethics

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ethics is defined as “1. the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; 2a. a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values (emphasis added) and ‘moral principles’ are defined as “the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group (; emphasis added). Hence ethics can be paraphrased as a set of rules for good and bad (or right and wrong) behaviour valued by a person or a group of people.

When extending this to businesses, the following questions need to be answered. Firstly, who are the individuals or is the group of people that decide on the rules and that are ‘governed’ by them? The Institute of Business Ethics states that “Business ethics is relevant both to the conduct of individuals and to the conduct of the organisation as a whole. It applies to any and all aspects of business conduct, from boardroom strategies and how companies treat their employees and suppliers to sales techniques and accounting practices.” Although customers are not explicitly mentioned in this statement, their involvement is implied with the reference to “sales techniques”. The inclusion of customers is supported with another definition for business ethics, “Business ethics ensure that a certain basic level of trust exists between consumers and various forms of market participants with businesses.” (Investopedia). So the people who participate in defining the ‘rules of the game’ include the business’s employees, its customers and its suppliers.

The second, and perhaps the more tricky question to answer is what is defined as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? It is generally accepted the business ethics go beyond the legal requirements to which businesses must comply. Business ethics is about the discretionary decisions and actions. Referring back to one of the definitions for ethics, “a theory or system of moral values”, the right and wrong is defined by a set of values. Businesses need to define their corporate values, which clarify for all employees, and even external parties like customers and suppliers, what is ‘good’. It is important that when defining corporate values that businesses understand their customer’s values and even the values held by any participant in their market, even the competitors. If there is misalignment between the business’s corporate values and their actions, or if there is misalignment between their corporate values/actions and the values of external parties, then the business will probably be seen as ‘bad’ by those external parties.

So why is this concept of business ethics so important? Ethical businesses are trusted businesses. Unethical businesses are not trusted. A breach in business ethics means a breach in trust. Building trust takes intentional, sustained effort over a long time. Loosing that trust can happen very quickly and regaining it can be very difficult or even sometimes impossible. And ultimately, people don’t do business with others who they don’t trust.

Blogs: Is the “Office Paradigm” Dying?

Is the “Office Paradigm” Dying?

One of the rules for creating content for blogs or podcasts is to avoid topics that put a time stamp on the content. This article however is going to break that rule this time. Ultimately the content of blogs and podcasts is shaped by and created for the times we are living in. Significant events like the global coronavirus pandemic infiltrate every facet of our lives.

Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, is quoted as saying “Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high”. Taking this statement at face value, it is quite likely that the current “level of ingenuity and inventiveness” globally is at the highest level it has possibly ever been.

Businesses have had to change a lot very quickly, simply to survive. Normal and long accepted ways of conducting business have died instantly without us having a choice in the matter. For example, when engaging with new clients, the norm would involve face-to-face meetings. Now online meetings are the only option for the majority of businesses. Businesses and individuals also have to now adopt options which previously were not deemed the best way to do business or were considered as only applicable for certain industries or types of business. For example, some businesses embraced flexible working hours and work-from-home employees before the crisis arrived. Now many businesses are forced to adopt this model.

This is where the “inventiveness and ingenuity” during “struggles” comes in. It is interesting that many businesses are considering keeping remote working in some form beyond this crisis. These businesses are making some of the temporary changes more permanent, like renegotiating office leases, renegotiating conditions of employment and implementing more permanent technology solutions to support this model.

Now this article is certainly not suggesting ‘one-size-fits-all’ for remote working. The nature of this model does not suit many businesses and industries. However, there are business owners who have gone this route because they didn’t have a choice but they have seen the possible benefits of extending the approach into the future. Remote working employees spend less time travelling to and from the workplace each day and therefore can spend more time with their loved ones, whilst still doing the work required of them. In some cases employees are even more productive. Businesses have made changes which come at an expense to accommodate remote working employees, but they are also seeing savings which in some cases exceed the new expenses. The overhead savings in office space is often greater than the addition expense of the technology solution which enables remote work. Travel allowances and claims reimbursed to employees for business travel is also reduced and can easily outweigh the cost of online meeting platforms.

It is early days in this global health and economic crisis and no-one really knows exactly what the future will look like. Perhaps the world will return back to its original state? There is a lot of evidence to suggest this will not be the case, and there is enough for us to consider the question:

Is the “Office Paradigm” Dying?