Bad business processes are everyone’s problem, right? When a company is facing inefficiencies around every corner, everyone feels it, no matter what part of the organization you belong to. Significant delays, wasted time, and heightened tensions affect the entire organization.
But one department should be much more concerned about failing business processes than they already are: IT.
Not because IT started the fire, or is responsible for inefficiencies. But over the last two decades, IT has delivered answers to some of the most serious problems businesses face including collaboration, coordination, and data storage.
So, as the effects of bad business processes mount, it is only a matter of time before business leaders march into the IT department to demand a solution for their woes.
Some business processes occur entirely within a single department such as sales orders. Others, like employee onboarding, might stretch across multiple departments. When an onboarding fails, who is to blame? Is it HR’s fault for not coordinating, or finance and admin for being uncooperative and overbearing?
Even within a business process, each task needs to have a separate owner. And even for internal processes, it’s often unclear where handoffs occur as data moves from person to person or department to department.
When there is no clear owner, the IT department often becomes the default neutral arbiter to come in and develop a system that clearly coordinates the work.
Another sure sign of inefficiency is when the process is entirely avoided. Take the example of the marketing department approving new content. They have probably developed a sophisticated system where multiple senior people need to review the content before it goes live. But when deadlines fast approach, corners become easy to cut and the work goes out before the Marketing VP or the legal team gets a chance to review it.
When process workarounds are the norm, department heads want something that enforces compliance, and they know simple paper checklists won’t cut it. Their first thought will be to go to IT to look for a digital solution.
One of the clearest signs that a process is inefficient is if there is the ability to track items already inside the process. Is all the data floating around separately on spreadsheets and emails? Do people have access to see the status of their request?
For example, when the admin department needs to get an invoice paid from a vendor, they might send all the details to the procurement team. But three weeks later when they get a tense email from an unhappy vendor still waiting on payment, how can they check on the status? The procurement team might point to a massive and incomprehensible spreadsheet that is a nightmare to maintain.
IT will be the first call when it comes time for an invoice approval software beyond spreadsheets and email.
Paper by itself isn’t inefficient. But as more and more of our lives become digital, using paper-based forms for business processes makes no sense. If the sales team needs to fill out a paper form to start a travel reimbursement request, they are quickly going to be up in arms.
In this case, IT can find a universal solution for creating digital forms for processes, or each department will experiment with their own shadow IT projects until they find something that works for them.
The biggest tip off that inefficient business processes have reached a critical point is the level of chaos around that process. Vacation requests are a great place to get a baseline reading. How often are employees and managers tense, outraged, upset, or anxious about calculating and knowing the number of days they have available and getting approval to use them? If the system is shrouded in secrecy, chaos will abound.
This is another case where departments will come to IT looking for a solution, except this time it will be with pitchforks and war wounds.
If your IT department isn’t already inundated with requests to improve struggling business processes, it’s only a matter of time. And by the time department heads come, it’s nearly too late to start looking for the best solution.
IT leaders need to be ready with an organization-wide solution that allows business leaders to straighten out their crooked processes, but yet doesn’t add on extra work to an already maxed out IT team.
Thankfully, business process management tools have evolved greatly in the last five years to the point that there are trusted and secure options that can provide exactly the solution IT teams need.