In a recent conversation with a vice president, he threw his hands up in frustration as he told me how exasperated he was trying to figure out the cause of a customer crisis. He pointed at his email screen and explained that there must be over 200 emails regarding the situation—and not one clear thread of what actually occurred, who knew of the issue and who followed up with the customer. So, with all this technology in place, he asked, why was he getting the runaround?
Upon his request, I interviewed his directors and found that one of them is so tired of emails, he does not really look at them. Another director inconsistently replies to all or replies only to the sender. One director deletes email and attachments so it does not clutter up his inbox, and the forth director does not trust email, so he keeps a printed copy of all emails and documents received at home in his garage.
As the process guy, I dug deeper into the situation and further found each department had their own database or manual tracking system, different ways of indexing and maintaining documents, out-of-date procedural manuals and a fair level of defensiveness regarding other departments.
In speaking to legal, I was told that in numerous situations, they had to settle claims against the company as key documents could not be found. When I asked the records managers about the situation, they told me they really just handle post-processed documents, not active documents in shared network drives or email.
So, what's the answer? In reporting back to the vice president, I made the following recommendations:
1. Process maps need to be developed to document how departments need to work together and how common crisis situations are identified, communicated and resolved.
2. Look at the process from the customer prospective. If possible, remove steps that do not add value to the customer, and add in steps to increase value.
3. Establish process measurement goals within and across groups.
4. Automate the above processes with workflow technology, which will allow for:
- Development of structured workflow patterns
- Automated routing (if, then else)
- Parallel routing for review/action
- Measurements of what is completed and what is not
- Workflow viewers so transactions do not get lost in email
5. Update records schedules to be in compliance with governance goals.
6. Deploy electronic content management (ECM) and electronic records management (ERM) so that documents “received by email, created or scanned” can be:
- Stored in one place
- Indexed consistently
- Version controlled
- Maintained in accordance with their records schedule
You see, I told the executive it’s not about the technology defining the process; it's about defining the process first and then configuring the right combination of technology to properly support process work, outcomes and measurements. PS: I did suggest they kindly ask the director to return the documents stored in his garage back to his office.
George Dunn is the founder and president of CRE8 Independent Consultants and is a worldwide recognized consultant, speaker, instructor, contributing editor and author on business process innovation and improvement, paperless technologies and complex computer system replacement planning. He has over 25 years of experience in the advanced technology and process improvement industry. Follow him on Twitter @CRE8consultants.
*As planning for process improvement and paperless technologies must to be tailored to the specific needs of each organization, the information provided in this blog should be treated as an introduction only. Without a direct consultation of requirements, CRE8 Independent Consultants cannot assume responsibility for the use, implementation or results of information provided.