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Face it, people muck up

There are some areas in a business where relying entirely on people is not a good idea.

Take those dozens of little daily processes that have to be done, but are boring, repetitive and time-consuming. If a document doesn’t reach its destination because someone forgot, or was too busy on other tasks, then an order may not get despatched, important maintenance may not be carried out, or bills may go unpaid.

The problem is, people screw up all the time, and then they waste a lot of time trying to fix the screw-ups.

Business process management (BPM) is all about removing that prime source of stress: managing those many small, repetitive, but important tasks where errors can easily occur. The best BPM software has been designed to take into account that human beings are forgetful, inconsistent, and relatively poor communicators.

The beauty of good BPM software is that it can automate so many of those little tasks, and can be set up to issue reminders to ensure they’re done. It can also deliver information to managers and to different departments via their desktops, to give them whatever data they require, in real time.

A computer servicing company, which is a client of ours, does its work on contract and that work is governed by very tight service level agreements (SLAs), which include things like response times, resolution times, and acknowledgement times. The manager told me he was always on his service people’s backs to see what they were doing because he didn’t have any visibility as to what was going on. They, in turn, were cheesed off because he was always over-managing them.

Now, with BPM software implemented, he gets an SMS alert whenever there’s a problem. The business does 150-200 calls a week and he averages about two SMS messages a week. His staff like him more because he’s not on their backs all the time.

A good BPM system allows you to set up your own rules, to fit your processes. Another client, which services air-conditioning plants, has to carry out regular, stringent health tests. Poorly serviced air-con systems can harbour transmittable germs, and the consequences of tests not being carried out could be severe. BPM ensures the tests are carried out and reports sent to the right people. If there’s something amiss, it ensures a follow-up test is done, and the alert process is escalated if action isn’t taken.

BPM software, therefore, helps you to work smarter – not just by automating processes and issuing alerts, but also by showing you new and better ways of doing familiar tasks. You’re not reinventing the wheel; you’re discussing and documenting the wheel. Often when you do that, you find that people are doing things they shouldn’t need to do, or they’re doing it in an inefficient manner.

Once you’ve got your processes documented, be sure to share them with other key people in your business. Everyone has their own personal ‘pain points’, and they’re bound to mention things you’ve overlooked. Just by sitting down and talking about it – even before you put it in the system – the manual process is being improved.

So if daily business is stressing you out, maybe it’s time you got your BPM sorted.

Cameron Hallmark is chief product officer for Greentree International.

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