Inefficiency in business processes never happens suddenly; it creeps in over time. Like the makeshift electrical work done on a rebuilt old home, processes are changed or developed out of necessity, fear, or forced compliance. And it doesn’t take a professional electrician to tell you how inefficient these ad-hoc solutions can be.
Inefficiency is death by a thousand cuts. Each slice may not seem like a deal breaker, but over time, it can cripple the core of a company.
IT leaders have earned the position of being the eliminators of inefficiencies in many areas of business. From building custom database solutions, to implementing ERP and CRM tools, IT has become the service team to call when you want it done right.
But can IT leaders also solve inefficient business process problems that are so ingrained into individual departments?
5 Process Inefficiencies IT Needs to Provide a Solution For
1. Manual Errors
Nothing says inefficient like completing a process, only to find that it was done incorrectly. Whether a requirement was missed, an attachment not included, or a PO number incorrectly copied, human errors can be big problems.
During a study at UNLV, 215 students were given 30 data sheets with six types of data to process. These students made an average of 10.21 errors when entering the data manually.
Human errors can be either cosmetic or catastrophic depending on the business process. A single error on an invoice or contract might cost a company millions of dollars. But a thousand smaller errors as a result of bad proofreading and sloppy habits can have an equally cataclysmic effect on a company.
2. No Visibility
Another sign of inefficiency that comes up in regular business processes is being unaware of where items are. Where is that vendor payment? Whose approval are you waiting for? Does anyone know what happened to that customer enquiry?
Many companies can map out what their processes ought to look like, but as soon as requests start down that START funnel, it’s anyone’s guess where they are until (or if) they come out the end.
When your processes function like black holes, requests get lost. When you have no visibility into how your processes are running, you can’t improve anything and are left hoping that restarting things will fix it all. Deadlines are missed, customers and vendors grow impatient, and tensions rise.
3. Wasted Time
Losing time is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about inefficiency. When costs are paid in daily or hourly increments, having processes stalled for no apparent reason can be a huge waste of resources.
If you have inefficient processes, they consistently hit snags, roadblock, and logjams where they sit for days or weeks at a time. Tasks are often not optimally aligned and you are either waiting around for something to do, or forced to work at breakneck speed.
4. Circular Communication
One of the first tip offs that a company tolerates inefficiency is in their communication channels. Once an item is ready to move to the next stage in a process, how is that person informed? How often does the item get sent back to someone in the workflow? How often do you have to repeat information to several people at different stages?
If you have a healthy mix of “No one told me” and “I told you so”, then you probably have an inefficient communication system. Processes should funnel communication down a flowing stream, but too often, it looks like a whirlpool.
Chaos comes in many forms, but it is often best seen through stress, tension, anxiety, and panic around the office. This can come from too many people being involved in the process, unclear roles and responsibilities, and the lack of good communication.
How often are items escalated in a given process? Does everyone know who owns each step of a process? Whose responsibility is it to manage the entire flow?
How IT Can Be a Process Efficiency Hero
While IT often tries to avoid the inefficiency that exists around the office, it sometimes experiences it firsthand. Good business process practices should be enough to quiet the worst inefficiencies in a company, but like so many other areas of business, technology has provided a great tool to assist.
Departments often come to IT seeking a solution for their process woes, and that’s when IT can really offer something that works. Business process management as a disciple has come a long way in the last five years, and there are new tools out there that can help kill off the chaos and inefficiency around your office.
IT will be called on to solve process inefficiencies and needs to have a great answer ready to go!
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