Finally, you have approval to bring on a brand-new, expensive system to help do the most important work! Your team has been talking about it for years. The organization has committed to achieving substantial benefits from the big investment—commitments including everything other than your firstborn.
The Critical Question
You take a deep breath and wonder how you will put the new system in place in a way that fulfills all those promises. Putting a new, expensive system is place is not something teams do every day. In addition, it requires significant incremental work. Therefore, many teams look outside the organization for a skilled technology consultant.
One of the first questions a consultant will ask is, What steps do you want to automate through this system? Answering this question is critical. It makes the difference between delivering on promises and living with regret for years to come.
Some organizations answer the automation question by explaining exactly how work is being done now. This involves talking through the steps that happen when work goes well. But even a smooth progression through the steps may entail shuffling multiple paper copies, handing items back and forth until they are correct, and fielding phone calls from customers wanting to know where something is. Is that really the process you want to automate?
Recently a foundation leader shared with me that her organization spent nearly $750,000 on a new online, interactive grants system implementation. Yet after the software was installed, the employees continued to follow the labor-intensive processes that they were accustomed to. For example, they still made three copies of every grant check. They handwrote donor requests and then entered them into the online portal. They mailed letters instead of using the online portal or email features. Because employees didn’t capitalize on the capabilities of the new system, the team received very little benefit from their big investment. And everyone talked about how the implementation was a disaster.
Most technology consultants will help you map out and automate how work gets done now. And most system manuals will show you which screens and fields to use. But will these steps help you decrease the time and work it takes to serve your clients?
An Approach to Deliver on Promises
Some organizations go about new system implementation differently. They redesign how they do work before a new system is installed using proven business process improvement business process improvement business process improvement. Then, when their technology consultant asks what work steps they want to automate, they can speak with knowledge and confidence.
For example, recently a chief financial officer utilized a process improvement specialist over one week to help the team redesign processes shared his outcomes. “We designed the best process for us. Then, we pushed the consultant and technology to work for us, rather than bending to what the vendor said we should do.” This leader said that between process redesign and making full use of the new tool, they recaptured about 1,500 hours of work time, which they reinvested into serving the community.
Would recapturing work time while delivering better and faster results be valuable to deliver on promises to leadership and the board?
Check out this companion blog to learn more: Process Redesign—Before or After New Software Install?
Before your organization installs a new system, contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more about how your organization can get real value from your new system and processes. Learn how leveraging a process specialist for one week can help you deliver on your promises. Others have redesigned processes and installed new systems with game-changing results. You can too!
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