Why improve the business process?

Over 40 years of work in the business community with an emphasis on business process improvement has given me two important insights:

a. No type of automation or business improvement will occur without the active participation of motivated, creative, imaginative  individuals.

b. These same people  abhor change because change is disorienting.  Change takes us out of our instinctive frame of mind  and requires us to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it.  It also requires us to imagine how our proposed changes will impact others.

Let’s identify the top 11 reasons that continual business process improvement makes sense and is, in fact, a vital part of a dynamic and successful business enterprise. In the spirit of a famous television comedian, we start with reason number 11 and work our way up to reason 1.

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11. You can design your work flow for maximum efficiency.  For example, say a standardized, packaged software solution requires you to go to 5 screens and make 8 clicks to accomplish a particular objective.  If this is something you do often, you can design the system to streamline the activity.  How about one or two clicks to get the job done.

10.  Many of us use two or more software solutions in our daily work.  Often, these solutions require duplication of effort.  They require you to enter information two or more times.    If this is true, it is worthwhile to think about an interface between the two existing solutions.

9.  You and your staff have entered a vast amount of data, often as a by-product of your routine activities.  What is the best way to make use of this data?  How about data mining.  Determine what information can help you make better decisions.  Then go about extracting and working with this data.

8. Sometimes you see all the information you need, but it is not presented in the right sequence.  You cannot, in effect, see the forest for the trees.  Think about whether a different presentation of this information can help you see trends and patterns more clearly.

7. Systems can perform calculations that it would be impossible to do manually.  Some kinds of calculations are not just voluminous, they are hard to do.  Let’s instruct the computer to perform the calculations for us.  Great examples of this are  rate of return calculations, regressions, valuations, or any other types of performance measurement or trend analysis.

6. Another reason to automate the business process is to prevent operational error.  Some procedures in your office involve many steps, either manual or automated.  Let’s automate these steps to save time and to minimize the likelihood of operational error.  Chances are, if your staff needs to perform several steps to accomplish a task, on occasion some those steps will be omitted.

5. A sound business process will provide audit trails for any information that you enter or change.  At all times, you should be able to drill down on a specific number and see all the activity or transactions that have contributed to that number.

4. The key to productivity improvement is delegation.  You need to delegate tasks to your staff so that they will learn and you will be freed up to envision new and better ways to accomplish tasks or use information.  If, for example, you use spreadsheets as the basis of your business process, your staff can help you out, but there is a very high likelihood that they will make mistakes.  And it may take you longer to review their work and find their mistakes than it would take for you to do the work yourself.

3.  We should continually review our business process as it impacts employees, customers, and third parties.  How can we deliver information through the internet to improve the timeliness and reduce the cost of communication.

2.  Of course, use of the internet as a communication tool is a two-way street.  We can also use the internet as a data capture tool.  We can have our customers and clients do our data entry work for us.  As Chase Bank, Lands End, and American Airlines have discovered, our customers are also our data entry clerks.

1. What do all of these business process improvement ideas have in common?  They enable us to elevate ourselves from the operational morass and help to keep our mind clear of minutia.  Let the computer and the process handle that.  We are now free to focus on the creative aspects of our job.  The ultimate business process is one in which we arrive at work each day, turn on our computer, and it tells us what tasks need to be performed today.

How you can benefit from cloud computing

You hear it from all directions – Cloud Computing is the Future.  But what is Cloud Computing, and how will it affect your business?

Narrowly defined, Cloud Computing is the use of servers accessed over the Internet.  Rather than housing a dedicated computing facility at your location and at considerable fixed cost, someone else will do it for you.  Cloud computing is typically paid for on a monthly subscription or pay-per use basis.  Because you are sharing the costs with dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of other cloud customers, your proportional cost of the total cloud solution is a fraction of what comparable services would cost in your dedicated environment.

Once you sign the contract with the cloud hosting provider, you will instantly have access to the following benefits:

  1. Increase your computer capacity incrementally as needed.  In essence you replace your fixed cost with a variable cost.
  2. Replace fixed cost software licenses with monthly license fee amounts that are a fraction of the total license cost.
  3. Rely on the cloud host to provide firewalls and security at a lower cost with capabilities that far exceed that which you could do on your own.
  4. The cloud hosting facility will provide reliable backup services.
  5. The speed of the communications line provided by the host typically exceeds that which you can provide on your own.
  6. The specialized staff and cost of this staff that is required to run your data center is largely eliminated.

An appropriate analogy is that when you build a house, you do not include an electric generation plant in the basement or garage (granted that during severe thunder storms it is nice to have a portable generator handy).  You let your local utility provide the power. Similarly, companies will gradually begin to migrate their business applications to the cloud.  Over time, as more and more applications become cloud-based, the proprietary data centers will diminish in size.

You might be surprised to learn that Amazon.com and IBM are two of the largest cloud-based providers in the world.  So this is not some fringe segment of the IT industry.

In addition, some forward-looking software providers have eliminated the buy and install software task altogether.  We are seeing companies like Salesforce.com and Netsuite.com offer their software exclusively on a cloud basis.

How can your company harness this cloudburst?  Which of your applications are candidates for the cloud?  Where are these cloud resources and which ones are the most reliable?  How will these applications talk to the rest of your business systems?

Like all things IT, there is a gap between concept and reality.  At Business Logic, we can help you manage your cloud.  In so doing, we can help you to maximize the benefit and value of cloud computing to you and your organization.

So if you are wondering how SaaS differs from PaaS, if MSP is better for you than UC, give us a call.  We can make sense of it all, and help you translate acronym confusion to bottom line results.