Every business employs some sort of process for defining its objectives and executing on initiatives.
Depending on the vertical, your business might also employ automation tools to some degree in order to help you visualize where you can optimize inefficiencies, and create better engagement with your target audience. Whether it's an automatic payroll system that ensures employees receive salaries regularly and on time, or a predictive analysis tool that grabs customer data and establishes metrics for how to grow your top line and bottom line--there are a multitude of platforms that can assist you in automating a myriad of tasks.
But choosing to implement multiple automation tools can cause more havoc than it helps in many cases, which can result in a reduction in both operational efficiency and data quality--both of which are things you want to address by seeking a Business Process Reengineering solution.
So how do you automate to decrease redundancies in your business, cut the amount of time your employees have to spend on administrative tasks, and grow your bottom line without necessarily needing to hire a slew of new staff?
The answer is, as in so many things, to develop a detailed plan utilizing Business Process Reengineering methodologies--which can be used to streamline and integrate your current technology stack incrementally and in a controlled fashion. This will ease the process of implementing systems to cut the fat in your workforce, automate workflow, increase ease of scalability, and provide your business real-time data analytics you can use to trim expenses, build leads, convert customers, and grow your business.
Before you launch on this journey of implementing a technology platform that's been built with Business Process Reengineering methodologies in mind, however, make sure you know where you're going.
Here are four critical Business Process Reengineering questions you should ask to better target your business goals, and make sure you (and the firm you hire to assist you) create a digital platform that suits your unique needs and aspirations:
1) What do you want your newly developed digital platform to help you accomplish?
Have a clear sense of the processes you most need to automate or improve on so that you can choose the system(s) that best meets your business needs and goals.
Those might include form modeling, document integration, report generation, role-based accessibility and easy user assignment and reassignment, easily adjustable workflow automation, notifications via email, and automatic task prioritization. Ideally you have some quantified assessment of the labor and duration associated with the processes that you seek to improve. Start with those that will generate the greatest return on investment.
Once you have a sense of the processes your business needs to reengineer, then you can evaluate software systems that best meets those needs.
2) How much customization will your business need, and have you sufficiently planned for it?
The biggest problem most businesses face when they go to automate and optimize their current processes, particularly if this involves multiple pieces of software, is the integration challenges that commercial-off-the-shelf systems present. No off-the-shelf workflow automation, payroll, data analytics, CRM, or other software package is going to suit your needs absolutely.
Thus, you're likely going to have to employ your internal technology staff or hire an outside consulting firm to customize or build the software you need. Make sure you know from the get-go what kind of customization will make your business more efficient, what will be involved in making the software you employ workable for your business, how long it will take to implement and integrate with existing and/or other new automation systems--as well as the degree of learning curve involved in getting your employees up to speed on its use.
And, because many Business Process Reengineering plans implement a customized software platform as part of their integrated solution package, you should also make sure you have a strong integration test plan (as well as a back-out plan) that can be used before and during your implementation phase. The last thing you want is for your business to grind to a halt as some unexpected gremlin creeps in at 2 a.m.
3) What kind of data do you have, and what do you want to do with it?
Business is driven by data. What kind of data do you have, and do you have a handle on it?
If you're not taking advantage of the new age of machine learning, where software programs can basically take the data you provide them, plug it into algorithms, and actively analyze trends in your customers' needs and wants--as well as track changing markets--you're behind the curve. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, automated predictive analytics, anomaly detection, and natural language detection can help you better manage your company's financial resources, determine enterprise risk and regulatory compliance, improve customer service, and even better market and sell products and services.
HBR points to an array of inspiring examples, one of which is a Canadian financial services group that uses active biometrics software VocalPassword to identify customers who call in by their voices. This eliminates as many as four steps in the customer authentication process (if you've ever called in to check your credit card balance and have to provide your account number, social security number, date of birth, and a special password, you know what I'm talking about).
The result? The company reported a 50 percent rate of improvement in call routing.
While most business automation isn't quite this exotic, it pays to consider the return of implementing this type of system into your current digital ecosystem. VocalPassword allows businesses to process customer call-ins more quickly, while other systems--such as CRMs--can automate the sales process. The idea is to make data more accessible and more usable...in real-time.
4) How much do you currently spend on human resources to complete administrative workflow functions that could be reengineered? And how much more might you be able to do at lower cost with automation?
So just how many employees (or contractors) do you have spending significant amounts of their workday performing administrative and operational tasks that could be automated, or, at the very least, reorganized? Two? 10? 20? It's time to take a look.
Not only might you be able to streamline operations and reduce cost with the right technology platform, you might also be able to keep a better handle on business operations as your company grows. Scaling is frequently one of the most painful processes companies face. That's because they often don't have the technology in place to do it efficiently--and/or the more employees they bring on, the harder it becomes to keep everyone in the loop.
What is the lack of creating a business process road-map costing you? And what could it save?
Nucleus Research finds that for every dollar spent on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system implementation, returns can peak at a stellar $8.71 (2014). Run your own numbers through an online ROI predictor like Forrester's Total Economic Impact (TEI), and see the potential benefits of implementing a stack of technologies that communicate and work together via a framework of Business Process Reengineering methodologies.
What could you be doing more quickly, more efficiently, and more cost-effectively? A lot, most likely. Start asking your business some tough questions, and then start investigating how Business Process Reenginering could start providing the answers.