Five Considerations When Planning for Workflow and BPM

We get to work with some really innovative and interesting companies. Before we talk at any level of detail with a potential customer, we do a significant amount of research to learn more about their business, industry, organizational structure, and where they have had success. It is sometimes challenging work, but is always incredibly helpful, as it gives us a foundation to understand that organization and to identify both needs—and wants.

The truth about a company and its culture, however, does not usually come out until we have had a chance to meet with the people who will be implementing the workflows and organizing their business processes to work in this new way. We find IT managers and systems architects to be motivated, goal-focused individuals who are bent on doing things better. They have given serious consideration to the work they are preparing to do, and take pride in the foundation they have laid for that effort.

We also have observed that so many of the managers we talk with operate from a similar set of ideas and guidelines as to what they want to accomplish.

Following are five things we have heard that our customers do when planning for workflow implementation. We feel that they comprise a wise and judicious way of moving forward—and invite your feedback!

  1. Establish lines of communication: Before positive outcomes can result from changing your business processes, the’ beneficiaries’ of this change need to know they have a voice —and will be a part of decision process. While all companies have tools for communication (email, meetings, wikis, internal portals), only those who have defined processes for how and when things are communicated actually realize the benefit of this collective input. Allowing people to have a voice and giving them the proper channels to hear that voice is pivotal to successfully implementing any new concept, methodology or product.
  2. Distinguish between business and technology requirements: Ideally, there is an alignment between tech and business goals. In implementing workflows, however, there may be differences in what each group identifies as ‘what’s needed’ —and who has the expertise to provide ‘it.’ The business side needs to be very clear and detailed about who will touch the workflow activity and what results should come from it. That needs to be articulated to the tech team who needs to ensure integration with existing apps and the roll out of a usable interface. By identifying, up front, where the responsibilities reside and what expectations there are in terms of deliverables, these groups can better support one another to achieve their common goal.
  3. Seek failure: Most smart companies do not truly seek to fail, but they do encourage innovation— and that sometimes results in failure…at least, until they get it right. That IS smart. If everything goes according to plan the first time, we may not be fully prepared for when there is a glitch in the workflow, or a document type is not allowed, or our reports miss an important metric. During planning and implementation, kick the tires. You will find probably not bring down your entire business with even a dramatic mistake. More importantly, you will learn more how your stakeholders will use their new business processes. THAT is valuable information!
  4. Eliminate redundancies: The whole point of doing this is to make your business more efficient. With that in mind, it makes sense for you to give serious thought as to where bottlenecks have occurred previously and seek to eliminate them through ‘smarter’ workflows. Building a more efficient communication, approval and routing model into your workflow provides users with a more efficient way to operate —and a more agile way to conduct business.
  5. Prepare for phase 2: You will not know what you cannot do until you begin doing what you can. Smart organizations plan with the future in mind— and are inclined to leave their process management to grow and change with them. If you become a victim of success with one project, you will likely get requests to adopt similar processes and workflow to other projects in other parts of the company. That opens the door to new processes, activities and decisions — and that can be exciting and exhilarating.

Each organization’s needs are unique — paying attention to these five things will help form a mindset that prepares you for success and adaptability.

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