Dear Lee: We will replace our main software tool in the next two years. I have promised a big benefit from our big software investment.
I know process redesign can save us thousands of hours and deliver more value to our customers and board. But should we wait until the new software is in before redesigning our processes? Or redesign our processes now?
Tangled in Priorities in Indiana
Dear Tangled: What a thoughtful question! The chicken before the egg? The cart before the horse? Sorbet as a palate cleanser or dessert?
I have been asked this question several times in the last few months. Some background is needed.
Usually, software providers begin installation by asking for the work steps to be automated by the software. You could provide the current version of your process.
However, many times critical processes are built through decisions made over many years. For example, an auditor’s comment prompts an organization to add a double check to ensure payments are accurate. Then the next auditor sees more risk, so another double check is added. Yet another double check becomes part of the process in response to an error.
Another example: Your organization confirms client investments by paper. Then some clients want email confirmations, so that step is added to the process. But some clients don’t want email confirmation, so confirmations are stopped for those clients. When your organization implements a client portal, clients can see their investments online. Now you are operating four different investment confirmation alternatives.
Over time, these changes slow a process down and eat up capacity. And these layers may or may not deliver what clients or your organization need today.
Leaders of complex service organizations, including public and private foundations, have weighed in on the question of which should come first: a new software install or process redesign. The leaders I talked with said they do process redesign before a software installation so they can clearly identify and automate the right process—the process that will give them the biggest return on their software investment.
What is Process Redesign?
Process redesign is a change in work steps to improve outcomes. One component of proven process redesign is reviewing and updating your business rules. Business rules are decisions made by your organization about what is delivered and how work is done. Business rules can include:
The Bottom Line
To answer your question, ask yourself: Which version of our process do we want to automate? The legacy process that has layers and layers of steps that no longer are needed? Or a process that gets us the results we need?
If you redesign processes now, before you install new software, you can build the work steps that deliver the customer experience you need. You can recapture hundreds or even thousands of work hours starting now. Other leaders have taken this journey successfully. You can, too!
Learn more about this proven process redesign approach in my companion blog, Process Improvement Approaches: Which One Works Best? And consider process improvement training so your team can successfully redesign processes to get results both now and after the new software install.
Great question! Let me know what you think of this approach, as well as your position on sorbet as dessert! Lee