Ask the Expert – Chris Gilbert, Senior Consultant, talks Business Processes

Each month one of Hart Square’s expert consultants will share their experience of delivering projects for our clients – what works well, and how to avoid potential pitfalls.

This month’s resident expert is Chris Gilbert, Senior Consultant at Hart Square.  Chris has been with us for 7 years, delivering major transformation projects for MIND, Action on Hearing Loss, Royal Society of Edinburgh, to name but a few.

In this month’s “ask the expert” article, Chris discusses the need to review your processes, not just implement new technology and hope for the best.

Technology projects – Don’t forget your business processes!
(or don’t wrap new technology around bad processes)

When embarking on a technology project, it’s often assumed that the project will also “fix” existing processes for users of the new system.

There’s also an assumption that your technology partner will give you all the help you need to make their solution and your business fit together, and more importantly, convince your staff that these changes will streamline what they do. Sadly, you are in for a great deal of disappointment on Go Live day when you realise that is usually not the case…

Your technology provider will deliver functionality but will rarely prescribe an efficient process and set of steps for you to follow to deliver the business outcome. Which fields you fill in, in which order, with what information is something that cannot be templated across each and every organisation but is something that is often poorly defined when moving ahead with a new system.

In the rush to embrace new and flexible technology that allows for in-house configuration, the flip-side is often lost… flexibility results in different ways to get to the same end-state and relies on your organisation having a clear idea of how your process will be enabled and streamlined by new tools.

The need to own business processes outside of the delivery of technology is critical in eliminating wasteful steps between teams (and within teams), streamlining processes, correct management of data, and reliable outputs (not only reports and dashboards, but serving up information to websites and bulk email systems).

Without those, replacing old tech with new becomes a way of providing a few new features and very little else in terms of productivity improvements.

Could the technology project also deliver business process change at the same time?

The short, sharp answer is ‘It could, But shouldn’t.’

That is not to say that you should have two projects working in silo from one another, but to expect the implementation of a new system, or upgrade of an existing one, to also include the delivery of future (or “To Be”) processes across all teams involved is to misunderstand the volume and type of work/skills required of each strand of work.

Revising and streamlining processes is a hugely beneficial exercise, and one that all organisations should build in as a rolling programme of review to maintain good practises, including the documentation of these, regardless of new systems and projects. This isn’t often the norm for a lot of organisations we’ve encountered though, and so making it clear what the technology project delivers and what it does not, can be an education piece in of itself.

However, using the technology project as a catalyst for this kind of business process review strand is a great way to both better understand how teams work cross-departmentally, and on their own, and use the implementation of a new technology to drive those changes forward.

Your technology project will benefit hugely from that work being undertaken prior to its implementation but running in parallel is also a possibility if you can align your timelines and ensure you’re not impacting the technical delivery of the system by revising processes and delaying the project’s key milestones.

Another significant benefit of mapping and reviewing these business processes are in your assessment and formal testing of the technology itself. Writing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) scripts is a tough job if as a tester you don’t have a set of processes to base them against. If you do though, confidence in the solution increases, further efficiencies can be recognised, and possible missed opportunities and requirements can be identified.

Embrace the change your new technology will bring but understand that it can only make your organisation’s processes better with your additional investment in this separate strand of work.

If you would like to discuss this further, please email Chris at info@hartsquare.co.uk

Key tips:

  • Don’t… expect that your business processes will be improved just because you are implementing a new technology
  • Don’t… expect too much of your technology partner. Typically, they will help you use the new technology – How efficiently you use it is up to you
  • Do… recognise that improving business processes takes focused effort and resource
  • Do… consider a separate process review and streamlining stage as part of defining your requirements