ENSURING SUCCESS FOR ANY WORKFORCE
Though companies are composed of several different and distinctive divisions – HR, sales, marketing, operations, finance and accounting, IT – inter-departmental collaboration is common. But perhaps the department with the most extensive organizational reach is IT.
The IT department is integral to an organization’s functioning and is responsible for supporting and enabling its success. It accomplishes this through a myriad of traditional IT processes, including the service desk, incident and problem managements, project management, release management and IT asset management. And it is possible to streamline these processes without sacrificing robustness.
In the fifth installment of the Business Bites Webinar Series, sponsored by Creighton University’s Heider College of Business in partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber, Anton Ames, MBA, instructor of business intelligence and analytics at the Heider College of Business, discusses how streamlining is beneficial when it is both efficient and effective.
THE GOAL OF IT PROCESSES
The goal of all business processes, IT or otherwise, is to provide value. In regards to IT, value is the enabling of connectivity, communication and collaboration.
Connectivity refers to IT’s responsibility for maintaining the electronic networks that facilitate operations and keep the people within the organization connected to each other as well as their customers, vendors, etc.
Communication is critical to relationships, whether these relationships are intra- or inter-departmental or extend outside the organization to clients.
And given that productivity is increased when different stakeholders work together rather than in their own silos, enabling collaboration is also an IT goal.
STREAMLINING = EFFICIENT + EFFECTIVE
A goal of most managers is to streamline processes to conserve the energy of his or her employees, save time and reduce costs. To streamline is to simplify – accomplishing in seven steps what used to take 10. It also is to optimize, to achieving more of an end result faster. Further, streamlining eliminates redundancy but jettisoning steps in a process that do not add value.
But, Ames cautions, streamlining cannot solely focus on efficiency. It must also focus on effectiveness in equal weight. Yet effectiveness is often sacrificed.
“Efficiency and effectiveness must work together, doing the right things (effective practices) in the right (efficient) way,” Ames says. “We cannot sacrifice quality. That’s counterproductive.”
CAN STREAMLINED PROCESSES BE ROBUST?
Absolutely, Ames asserts, citing a few very common examples: self-checking at the grocery store and paying at the pump at the gas station. Both are efficient – no more waiting in lines or walking in to the gas station to pay – and effective – you’re still buying groceries and filling your tank.
“Technology and automation streamline, expedite processes by removing unnecessary steps, roles and people,” Ames says.
Other examples include cloud services, which allow us to connect without physically being in the same place, and AI.
Case in point: package tracking AI employed by Amazon. Receiving a text that your package was delivered but your front porch is quite empty of parcels bearing the Amazon smile? No need to wait in a customer service queue. Message Amazon about your missing package and the company’s tracking system can locate, and re-route, your delivery in a matter of minutes.
And if your organization does not have the capacity to streamline using advanced technologies, you can outsource to the any number of companies that do, advises Ames.
WHAT PROCESSES TO STREAMLINE?
You are ready to make your business more efficient and effective. How do you determine which of your processes are candidates for streamlining? Select those with the most business value. Ames says to consider these drivers:
- Mission, vision and value – will streamlining enhance your mission or disseminate it to a great audience?
- Organizational strategy – will streamlining allow you to hone in on the key initiatives that will best advance your organization’s plan to achieve its mission?
- Resources – will streamlining increase availability of capital and personnel?
- Circumstances – is streamlining the result of or an adaption to extraordinary circumstances, such as the current COVID-19, and is this temporary?
In the case of the pandemic necessitating a shift to a remote work model, Ames believes a “new normal” will ultimately result.
“My prediction is that we’re not going to go back,” says Ames. “The dominoes have fallen” with employees wanting the convenience of flex time and corporations cutting back on unnecessary infrastructure expenses.
STREAMLINING IS A CONTINUOUS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT (CPI) PRACTICE
Deciding where to begin is often the most challenging stage of any project, and streamlining is no different. The good news is there is a simple “formula” to guide Continuous Process Improvement (CPI).
Begin with review. Make a list of the services your organization provides. This is known as your “service catalogue.” Identify from the list which processes are prime candidates for streamlining by determining what will yield the highest business value. Once you prioritize from the identified list, then you assess your current situation. Where do redundancies exist? Can multiple steps be combined? Can steps be eliminated without sacrificing business value? Then, adjust processes by implementing technologies to streamline to the desired results.
This is not a “one and done” practice. It is a cycle that should be performed repeatedly. Remember, the “C” of CPI stands for “continuous.” And with practice, says Ames, you will get better and better.
Streamlining is not a case of machines replacing people, Ames says. Consider the relationship between Luke Skywalker and R2D2. Skywalker is the pilot, the driver, of the starfighter. Who is helping him navigate? The droid, R2D2.
“The human and AI work together to stay on target to achieve the mission,” observes Ames.
This symbiotic relationship is just as true for any organization as it is for any Star Wars mission.
This content was developed as part of our Business Bites series, a virtual education opportunity sponsored by the Heider College of Business in partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber. Request additional Business Bites sessions to learn more.
This blog post was contributed by Anton Ames, Instructor, Heider College of Business. Prior to becoming a faculty member in the Business Intelligence & Analytics department at Creighton, Mr. Ames spent 20 years in various professional and executive roles. His background includes working as a VP & Chief Information Officer, Director of IT, Director of Application Development & Data Services, Project Manager, ERP Consultant, Network Administrator and other technology support roles. He also owns and operates the Anton Ames Group™, an IT management consulting firm focused on business process improvement.