From our Friday noon memo #8:
Sometimes a simple story can tell more about what goes wrong with IT and business processes than a comprehensive study.
Today, at a business lunch, a member of an important organization shared a nice anecdote about their new booking system for twenty meeting rooms. The former process consisted in simply calling a secretary who wrote down the name, date and time in a simple file that tracked room occupations. Many systems work like this and it doesn't really matter if it is a hand-written list, an MS excel file or something else. In other words: The tool doesn't matter, the process does.
What happened next? For whatever reasons someone decided to replace this by a more sophisticated IT tool. And as it happens in many similar cases, people found that it would be nice to store more data than just the name. There might by many good reasons for doing so, but this is not the point. These necessary (or perhaps nice-to-have) requirements changed the process as follows: now, the secretary on the phone asks for all the additional data, such as name, department, telephone, email, meeting purpose etc. All that before checking the room availability! After typing all that in, he or she might find out that no suitable room is available. Result: Three minutes data entering effort for nothing – and people who are annoyed.
What does this anecdote teach us? Here are three tips for deciding whether to make the most of, or dispose of, some IT applications:
- Processes first, IT second. Always analyze and streamline the business processes before implementing a tool.
- Keep simple processes simple – even if you add another IT system.
- Listen to the people that are directly involved in the process. How would they do it, ideally? This might not always be as you would see things, but it will help make an informed decision and provide an opportunity to improve the process at the same time.
Now, do you know why this is so often ignored? Comment on this blog and let us know.
Till next time. Volkmar