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Podcast Season 3 Episode 2 – Business Process Management, Improvement, and Automation – The Signs

April 02, 2020 | BY: Neosystems
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Join our host Erin Keating as she and Marty Herbert discuss some of the signs that show you need to automate and how to recognize the pain points in your business. Also learn how BPI leverages the tenets of lean, six sigma, and automation.

Transcript

Erin Keating:

Welcome to NeoCast. Join us each week as we discuss challenges in government contracting, strategies, and solutions for your businesses. We’ll dive into managed IT, cyber security, workforce advancement, and much, much more. Sharing is caring and we’ve got top shelf advice to help you navigate today’s biggest challenges. Let’s get to it.

Erin Keating:

Hello audience of NeoCast’s podcast, we are excited to bring you episode number two. This is the series that we’re focusing on business process improvement, business process management, and business process automation. We’ve got our resident expert here again, Marty [Herbert 00:00:40], thank you for checking in again with us.

Marty Herbert:

Absolutely.

Erin Keating:

Glad to have you. Hope you’re surviving the COVID-19, we are all just bunkered in and I don’t think that this topic could have found a more relevant time for us to be thinking and talking through it because I imagine a lot of businesses are going to start going through all of these types of things.

Marty Herbert:

Definitely…

Erin Keating:

Yeah, absolutely. So in this last episode we tried to just cover some of the ABCs of BPI, BPM, and BPA. In this episode, we’re going to talk a little bit about what are some of the signs and again in this day and age, some of the signs might be more like huge red honking flags at this moment that you might need to automate or how do you recognize the pain points? How do you leverage BPI and attendance of several different types, Lean Six Sigma and automation, and how do you think about integration and data? So let’s just dive right into it. How does someone know that they need to do any of these things? How do they know they need to get into business improvement?

Marty Herbert:

I wish it was harder than just them existing.

Erin Keating:

Well, I mean do you? It’s good business for you.

Marty Herbert:

Well yeah, it’s funny because with any of these, in my opinion, everybody should be in a constant state of improvement and change. And I think you read some of the book from business journals to those big business books, you really hear a lot about improvement and constant change and constant improvement and all of these things. And it really is about if you are in the business of anything, you should also be in the business of being better at whatever it is you’re doing. That’s really kind of how I see it.

Erin Keating:

Right, and I think you and I have talked about before, but just how complacency can really lead to a lot of inefficiencies, so being on top of it really helps people to keep a close monitor on their situations. And probably, I’m sure you’re seeing it, that there’s some customers that are coming to you guys now looking for help because complacency had set in and they hadn’t necessarily forecasted that an event like this could have shifted them into overdrive at looking at their systems.

Marty Herbert:

Yeah. Yeah, I mean you think about it and sooner or later we get lazy, right? We know things are doing exactly what we think they should be doing and whether they’re efficient or not we don’t know until we start to take a hard look.

Erin Keating:

Sure. So what are some of the areas you tend to see that need the most help?

Marty Herbert:

I really think that some of these questions are just an everything question. No, but everybody needs help somewhere. A lot of companies are focusing and a lot of what we see is, “Wow, we are amazing at what we do… for our client.” They’re so focused on delivering results for their clients that they only really pay attention to what they’re doing internally as a last resort. “Oh, the bottom line isn’t as great as we thought it would be” or there are big shakeups in the industry, big shakeups in the economy in general or whatever, and all of a sudden they realize “Oops, we forgot about what it is that we have to do to continue to run as a business.”

Marty Herbert:

So I’ve been involved on both sides, whether it’s external focus and delivering to a client and trying to improve upon how do we better deliver to clients, or how do we better change the things that we’re doing internally to deliver better to our internal changes? But the internal changes really can have a far reaching impact across project delivery, client satisfaction, and it really comes down to the old adage, when you’re on a plane, what do they tell you during the session that nobody talks about and nobody really listens to? Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others around you.

Marty Herbert:

We see so many, specifically we see a lot of companies that are focused on things like accounts payable and procurement because they’ve seen a lot of inefficiency or perceived pain in those areas, and not surprisingly to me, because again my background kind of takes me across the organization, but we see a lot of quick returns on investment on things like accounts receivable and even in the HR area. So there’s a lot of different areas, but most of those things are internally focused because they need to be.

Erin Keating:

Right. And given all of the fast moving regulation and things that are happening these days, you don’t want to really be caught behind the eight ball of what your internal processes are.

Marty Herbert:

No doubt. Definitely.

Erin Keating:

So how would you approach a business process improvement project?

Marty Herbert:

Thankfully they usually approach me, which is great. The first thing I tell them is clear your head. It’s have that Zen moment. I like to go into a business process workshop, so usually the way we start is we sit down and we have everybody, and I mean definitely not in today’s environment, but we sit people down in a room and we usually we have a workshop session and we give them a clear idea that really you should be imagining what your process would be like if you didn’t have any barriers to success. So thinking about what would your process look like if you could build it from the ground up and it did exactly what you wanted it to do.

Marty Herbert:

That’s usually our target, knowing that we may or may not get right there because I mean there are limitations, right? There are cost limitations, there are time limitations, we have to get something done to be able to get some kind of a return. But if you’re aiming for that type of process, then you end up with a process that’s in the near term really meets your needs and in the long term will continue to improve. Then from there in terms of a business process improvement project, we’re usually following the DMAIC method to help them kind of walk through what that looks like.

Erin Keating:

Now there you threw some acronym knowledge on me. Okay, go ahead. What’s the DMAIC method?

Marty Herbert:

DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. It really goes by a whole host of different names, monikers. The fundamentals are really found throughout what the Lean Six Sigma approach is. But I’ve heard it before, plan, design, build, validate, and deploy. It’s all the same thing. It’s really about making sure that you walk through what it is that you want to do. You know how you’re going to improve it. You then figure out how to improve it, you do the improvement, and then at the back end of it, you control it. So it really is BPI and BPM like we talked about before, it’s really the merging of those two things from beginning to end.

Erin Keating:

Okay. Well you just threw a lot of acronyms at me, a couple of terms, I’m not familiar with, where does it all come from?

Marty Herbert:

For me it could just comes from a combination of experience and training. My team and I, we went out and we got certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. It really provides a core foundation for what our approach is to every project that we take on. And at a higher level though, what Lean Six Sigma health is really in conversations like this where we’re trying to inform people about what is possible. So this goes clear back to high school, but if you remember the bell curve, it’s that, right? The core tenets of what Six Sigma are, are related to the bell curve and oh, I still get chills thinking about standard deviation.

Erin Keating:

Don’t bring it back, no!

Marty Herbert:

I know, I know. And our teachers always told us that would be the case. Sooner or later you’re going to need this.” And sure enough-

Erin Keating:

Right. I’m just thankful my kids aren’t old enough right now that I have to be teaching this at home.

Marty Herbert:

Exactly. Exactly. That’s six standard deviations is this Six Sigma is really what we’re trying to control for and really, this is a point where everybody kind of goes, “Wait a second, wait a second, you’ve got me, my eyes are glazing over. Forget about it.” So really in layman’s terms, the easiest thing to remember is what we want to do is remove as much variability and error from our business process as possible.

Erin Keating:

Okay. So we talked a lot about automation, workflow, automation, robotic, all of these different types of things, but at the end of the day, as we’ve said, to err is human and we are human. So how does that fit in?

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, it’s really the key truth, right? We’re all human, the human factor in all processes, you really can’t ignore it. So if you think about whether it’s improvement, management, automation, it’s really about making sure that you provide a user experience that is one that your users can assimilate, right, to borrow a word from Star Trek. If they can assimilate the information that they are given to be able to do their business process in a way that they can continue to do it the same way that is controlled and in line with our change management strategy, then they will be successful.

Marty Herbert:

So all of these disciplines, regardless of what it’s called or what approach you take to do business process improvement and management, all these disciplines fail without the basic core understanding that change management at the front and back end of the process improvement is a key to success at the human level.

Erin Keating:

I have to say, taking off my podcast or host cap and putting back on my old cap of head of marketing and communications for a couple of different firms, this is exactly what we did on the front end. I can give you some insights that “Hey, when you’re dealing with an organization that might be begrudgingly moving towards change, you can remind them that when we’re thinking about our products forward facing, we discuss user experience, why wouldn’t we want to also work on your user experience with our internal processes?”

Erin Keating:

So I think it’s really, that’s what it drew up for me, is user experience is thrown around so much, but it’s usually thrown around as an externality. Who is our end result? And it’s not talking about the sheer frustration you might be going through as an internal employee of a company and how much that user experience really matters from productivity to inefficiency to even just attitude and motivation for employees.

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean I can remember, I mean even 10 years ago I was working on a project and they actually had the leader of the project was a user experience person, but that was 10 years ago and for so long now the user experience side has become, like you said, an afterthought. It’s become a, “Well yeah, we’re going to do it. Why? Because we tell them to do it that way.” And if you don’t make it relatively easy for them you still have a job to do. If you don’t make it relatively easy and relatively painless, then they’re not going to want to. So that’s going to help derail your process changes and your process improvements real quick.

Erin Keating:

So speaking of that, what are some of the other keys to success when you’re trying to make for a good business process improvement project?

Marty Herbert:

Thankfully with the ones that we’ve done and the ones that had been the most successful, the first thing that you have to do is you have to make sure you get an internal process improvement champion or champions, depending on how many processes you want to be improving upon. They need to be really… You think, “Oh well a champion, they’re going to be top of the organization and all of that” and it’s really not what we’ve found. What we found is they have to be somewhere in the middle.

Marty Herbert:

They have to be at a low enough level in the organization to interact and really kind of sell those improvements to the masses, to the people that are actually doing the work, but they have to be at a high enough level that they are respected and that they can really drive that change to management to say, “Hey, we need your support.”

Erin Keating:

100%, I agree with that. Yeah.

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, and that’s really the second piece of it, is the management support. Right? We have to have that champion who can have those interactions with the management support, with the sponsors, that type of thing, to really allow kind of for free-flowing ideas, solutions that just that happen and that then actually get implemented. So champion’s going to push those forward, management is going to look at them with a little bit more critical eye, so “How does this affect the bottom line, how do I get a return on my investment for this improvement?” But also to, we’ll call it loosen the leash a little bit and let them run with it. Let them go to the point where they’re within a controlled framework, they can make some big sweeping changes in a process when they’re needed and when they need to happen to really create better and more efficient processes.

Marty Herbert:

Then the third piece really is just an understanding of what the current process is, what it should look like, kind of, because again, that’s where me and my team would come in would be “This is how it should” and can look and knowing, again, go back to last time whenever we talked about the technology aspect of it, understanding how the process works with the system in relation to what needs to be accomplished by the process.

Erin Keating:

Interesting. So just in your experience, what have you found to be one of the most elusive?

Marty Herbert:

I think it’s funny that we’ve seen kind of a big shift. So the way that businesses work, when I started my career, there was really this push to these big huge ERP systems. It wasn’t just bookkeeping, it was resource planning, so it was everything.

Erin Keating:

Oh yeah, I remember…

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, it was the debits and credits, it was the vendors, it was the customers, it was the parts, it was the services. I mean you name it, everything was in these systems so that everybody was using the tool and whatever that tool was, was doing a lot of things. But thankfully he had a realization that these large systems are doing a lot, but they’re only doing some of them really, really well.

Erin Keating:

Definitely.

Marty Herbert:

And what we’ve seen lately, thankfully, is a shift kind of back to this purpose built system. So these purpose built systems are doing one, two, three things really, really well and they may or may not automatically connect to other systems. The best part about it is they’re able to, they just don’t automatically connect. You don’t just plug one into the other and magic happens. So there is this shift from the big overarching ERPs to the purpose built system and that’s really where we’re seeing a lot of the efficiency gains is just in the touch points between the systems.

Erin Keating:

So by efficiency gains, can you talk a little bit more about that? What do you mean?

Marty Herbert:

One of the simplest things that we do probably on a daily basis in a lot of different companies, a lot of what we see is just any worker having to enter the same information in multiple places.

Erin Keating:

Oh Lord, preach it. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Marty Herbert:

It’s mind boggling to me, somebody like me who has come up with technology and has seen it really my entire career, the way that it’s changed the things that we do in the way that we do it. I am definitely one of those people who embraces it, but we see some of those things where again, because of the shift from ERP to multiple systems, we now have, and I hate the term, but there’s hardly a better way to say it, the swivel chair from one monitor to the next monitor to the next monitor to enter the exact same data into multiple systems.

Marty Herbert:

That alone, if we can improve a process for any of our customers, that just allows them to enter information one time and use it multiple times, regardless of where they enter it for the first time and regardless of where they want to use it multiple times, that alone can save large amounts of time, cost, and really see a big increase in efficiency as well.

Erin Keating:

That’s awesome. Well I think that definitely, gosh, gives us tons to explore and to look at in the next episode, talking about how do you create some of that automation? How do you slow the swivel, if you will, and get people to be more efficient through these systems? Do you have any parting thoughts for us on this particular topic? Otherwise we will check in with you next week.

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, it’s amazing, the Pandora’s box that we’ve opened is really interesting. I know that we’ve got a lot to talk about and I can’t wait to talk a lot more about it. It’s so interesting for me and hopefully it’s going to be really interesting for our listeners too because there’s so many things to kind of unwrap and kind of peel back the layers of this onion.

Erin Keating:

I love it. And again, this is sort of my favorite thing about taking on this project for NeoSystem’s not having been in the industry at all is that I’m just learning so much. So I can’t wait to dive into how you are going to… I like this, I’m going to adopt this new slogan, “slow the swivel.” What do you think about it?

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, I like that. I like that.

Erin Keating:

I’m going to bring it, I’m going to call Elizabeth, “Let’s talk about slowing the swivel.” No, just kidding. But I look forward to reviewing all of those things with you in our next episode, but thank you so much for once again being here with me today and I wish you the best of luck in any of your client calls around this transformation and improvement in management right now, given the craziness that is happening and I look forward to connecting for episode three shortly.

Marty Herbert:

Great. Thanks, Erin.

Erin Keating:

Thank you, take care.

Introducer:

The NeoSystems difference. We specialize in serving organizations of all sizes. In today’s fiercely competitive market, is your organization constantly searching for ways to gain the advantage over competitors? Smart organizations are paying more attention to their strategic back office operations. NeoSystems offers scalable back office services and solutions to improve your organization with a team of industry experts, industry leading information technology tools, and an advanced technical infrastructure. From software hosting and security solutions to managed accounting services, NeoSystems custom built solutions and services that are tailored to fit your organization’s needs. Check us out on the internet at NeoSystemsCORP.com. That’s NeoSystemsCORP.com.

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