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Podcast Season 3 Episode 5 – Business Process Management, Improvement, and Automation – Control

April 24, 2020 | BY: Neosystems
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In this series, we’ve so far discussed the basics of BPI and BPM, as well we have learned how to identify signs that a business is in need of evaluation and improvement. In episode 3 we reviewed what the process looks like and in the last episode we spoke with Change Management expert, Christi Fath. In the wrap up of the basics, we hear once again from Marty Herbert about the WHY and what is coming up.

Transcript

Erin Keating:

Hello, and welcome everybody to episode five of season three. This is the season where we’ve been focusing on the practice of business process improvement, change, and management with practice lead, Marty Herbert. Welcome again, Marty.

Marty Herbert:

Thank you. Thank you.

Erin Keating:

Thank you. We really enjoyed your colleague, Christi Fath, last week, to talk to us about change management. I think you and I keep remarking about how every time we’re recording this, we probably could be marking time of the quarantine by how many times we’ve recorded. If we’re on episode five, I think that puts us at week four of the quarantine, since we stacked two episodes in one of the weeks. So maybe we’re going to be everyone’s barometer for how many weeks you’ve been locked down. Every time you hear from us, you’ll know that, whatever the episode number is, that’s how many weeks.

Marty Herbert:

Yeah, it’s hard to keep track.

Erin Keating:

Exactly. So, we talked to Christi about change management. We’ve been talking about how all of this really is leading us to some sort of end point, what it’s all for. And the next half of the season, we are going to get to talk about tools, specifically, and perhaps even be talking with some of your clients to really explore some real life business-case scenarios where this has worked and what has been done. But for today, we want to tie it all together.

Erin Keating:

You mentioned in the alphabet soup, a DMAIC processed early on. I’m thinking we’ve gone through D, M, A, I, probably, so the C is what we’ve got left with here. I would love to just know, coming off that great conversation with Christi about change management and knowing what we know about the whole process, what have we been trying to do this whole time? What’s the point of this? Why is the company doing this?

Marty Herbert:

Well, the point of all of this really is to create a process, to implement a process that’s well controlled. And I know the first reaction is, “Oh, my goodness, control. You want to control me, and big brother.” But that’s not really what it’s about. What it’s about is repeatability. It’s about auditability. It’s about traceability. A lot of the time, what happens when we get to like you said, that last C, the C in DMAIC, it really takes on the form of standardized processes, documented procedures, and a lot of followup strategies.

Marty Herbert:

The ultimate goal really for Neo Systems is to take everything that we learn during the engagement and make sure that the process champion or the owner of the process, whoever that is, knows what they have and where they’ve come from. Because it is change. It is a process of change, and it is also a process of a process. It’s really all part of this overarching control piece of DMAIC; design, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Control’s at the end because that’s really what we’re trying to do is make everything standardized.

Erin Keating:

Right. Well, we were talking before we got started with recording about the various school systems right now that are really… Some are struggling, some are thriving, but everybody’s having to rethink their processes with having to take children’s education online fully. I imagine, when you speak of control and standardization, I’m thinking about having every teacher, every principal, every person who is interacting with all these families, to understand same procedure, understand, “I go here, I get this, and my children get Y.” Is that what you’re talking about where you’re saying that business process improvement is about standardization?

Marty Herbert:

Well, you think about standardization in terms of the school systems, right? The first thing that comes to mind is standardized tests, and that’s like, “Oh no, that’s horrible.” And then, “We have to do standardized testing.” That’s the bad side of standardization. So, with process there.

Erin Keating:

It’s never been lost on me that the SOL is the acronym for that.

Marty Herbert:

Exactly. Exactly. With standardization of a process though, it’s the happy side of things, right? I always say a standardized process is a happy process or, at least, the people that are participating in those processes, especially your owners, your managers of the processes, those are the ones that are going to be happy because it’s really part of the reason that we normally turn to different tools that are out in the industry to help with things like that. Sometimes it’s just, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Erin Keating:

Right.

Marty Herbert:

“Okay, well let’s sit down. I’m going to show you, visualize your process in a flowchart.” We use a tool called IBM Blueworks Live, and we can take the associated narrative, right? So, okay, well, we say that we do something. We enter a bill in the system. What’s that mean? On a flow chart, it kind of gives you that box and fits you into that square. But there’s really the narrative underneath of that, and that’s really what we take, sometimes, to just map out a process and show someone and explain to them what it is they’re currently doing and what it is that they should be doing differently. Even just a flow chart can help in a lot of cases.

Marty Herbert:

It can be as complex, even then, as a workflow automation tool. So we use a tool called Integrify, and it can be about actually taking that workflow and making it come to life, making it do something. Integrify is a partner with Neo so it isn’t just full transparency, they produce a workflow tool that we’ve used a lot that helps our clients in a lot of different scenarios. And really helps them to not just have the visualization of the flow chart, which again helps immensely, but also to have the shapes on a workflow to actually do something, to actually drive a process to make it more of a proactive instead of a reactive type of process.

Erin Keating:

Gotcha. So I mean when I’m thinking about a tool, how does a tool help with standardization?

Marty Herbert:

Really our approach on the engagement, first of all we don’t preconceive the tools that support what we need to do. We come in blank slate and say, “Okay, let’s take a look at what your profile pain points are and that kind of thing.” But the easiest example I can think for how the tools help with standardization is think of a website that has a form on it. That’s kind of the easiest way to visualize standardization at its simplest form. Because I know as a company that I want to give people the ability to contact me. It’s the same thing every time when they contact me. I can add in check boxes and radio, but what is it that you’re contacting me about? It can be, it can be something like that, where you go onto a website and you’re first filling out this form the same way. You fill it out the same way. I fill it out the same way. And all of our listeners fill it out the exact same way on the exact same website every time. It standardizes the way that everyone else interacts with us.

Erin Keating:

Right. And it sort of forces people into the same behavior, I’m assuming, which also then helps with the standardization of process. So to your point, if it’s a website link of, “Get our newsletter, here’s where you need to fill out this specific information.” Everyone sort of now has the muscle memory of, “Yep, when I want to sign up for a newsletter, I’m going to give my first name and my last name and my email address.”

Marty Herbert:

Exactly.

Erin Keating:

Right. But then the companies are also receiving that information, the identical way. And if I can think of back to my marketing career, when we used to have to buy lists from people to say, “Okay, we want to hit the 18 to 24 year olds that watch blah blah blah, blah.” The fact that there was a standardized way for the industry to capture names and addresses and zip codes and things like that, helped any company go to those places to get that data, to use it for their market research and marketing. So I’m thinking in my head how to relate it to my own past history. Is that where the standardization and the forcing people to do thing makes it the right approach?

Marty Herbert:

Oh, absolutely. I you think about internally, your business processes that are happening on a daily basis internally. You need to get bills paid, you need to send out bills to clients. You need to get a contract created. Those types of things. As as an accounting type of person I think about a lot of the accounting and finance processes that are out there. So if I think about, “Great, I need to have a bill paid.” So the bill comes in the mail and then somebody does something with it and says, “Hey, pay this bill.” There’s nothing there, right? It’s just the pay the bill. And then I have to look at the information and figure out where it all links up doing that kind of thing.

Marty Herbert:

But when you think of it in terms of the process and in terms of standardizing the way that that comes in, you have a lot of different options. You can make it so that people can submit their bill to you through a specific email address. That’s one of the easiest ways that I’ve seen a lot of companies standardize the way that their accounts payable comes in the door.

Erin Keating:

Right. Yep.

Marty Herbert:

If you send this to ap@company.com and we’re going to handle it the same way every time. That way you know exactly where to send it and I know exactly where it’s going to come into a specific mailbox. You extend that same idea out to any other business process. You now have a way to control the way people give you the information to get it all started. I need something purchased from me. How does my purchasing department figure out what it is that I’m going to purchase? “Hey, I need a laptop.” That’s definitely not enough information. “What size does it need to be? What monitor, what operating system? What software do you need on it? Do you need to have a docking station?” All of these other questions, that as soon as you standardize a way for someone to interact with you for a request, you now have the ability to control the information, validate the information, and get to a standardized approach that helps you as the recipient of that request, to do exactly what it is that you need to do.

Erin Keating:

Interesting. It’s so funny because I’m thinking back to when I took accounting in high school and I took accounting as a minor in college. And I remember the dreaded whole thing where you had to remember, “Okay, I have to debit this account. Then I got credit this account. And then I got to make a journal entry.” I can’t even remember it all because it was so archaic the fact that we actually, I mean I legitimately in my first few jobs worked in a ledger. And then I remember when QuickBooks came out and it was the Holy Grail. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, there’s a computer program that when I enter an invoice, it just knows it needs to make these certain journal entries. I don’t have to do it myself.”

Erin Keating:

And it almost feels like a luxury now that you’re designing processes now that are to even simplify that more. When back in the day, 20 years ago, the simplification was the building of a software program that helped eliminate some of that non-standardization about the way people would file your debits and credits in your ledger. Does that make sense that I’m thinking about it through that lens?

Marty Herbert:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It is about simplifying. It’s about simplifying the interface between you and whomever. It’s about simplifying the way that we do, look at the way we’re doing things right now? In amongst all of the COVID-19 lockdowns and things like that, we’re still looking at a way to move forward. How do we continue to move forward in some semblance of normalcy? And the more that you’re able to address processes and standardization and having people interact, especially for key business processes, those things that we do on such a regular basis, that we have to make sure that they’re standardized and that everybody’s doing them the same way. The more that, that’s done, the easier it becomes to continue to operate and to continue to do things the same way over and over and over.

Erin Keating:

Right. So it feels like throughout this series when we’ve been talking about the basics here, it sounds like we’ve pointed to consistency as a reason why you would want to improve a process and standardize it. We’ve talked about compliance. We’ve talked about productivity, efficiency, developing standards for your business. Is there one that’s standing out? Is it all? Help me understand all of those different reasons why you would be doing business process improvement?

Marty Herbert:

Yeah. The fun part is, this is process improvement is about improvement. And whatever that-

Erin Keating:

What?

Marty Herbert:

Exactly. It’s really whatever it means based on the process. So maybe if a process that involves a high level of scrutiny, a high level of regulation and compliance and those types of things. In that case, improving that process means becoming more compliant or more easily compliant or something like that. Maybe it’s something whereby, “Oh my goodness, it’s taking us 14 days to do something and it should only be taking us three.” The business process improvement framework for that is really centered around improving the efficiency of that process. Or maybe it’s just a, “Every time I get an email in, it’s horrible. I don’t know what they’re asking me for. I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do with this. So I just need a better way for people to communicate their needs to me.” And then it becomes about consistency. How do we control and make more consistent that interaction.

Marty Herbert:

So it really depends on the process, but as long as you set up at the beginning. Remember DMAIC that second piece that M, that measure. How is it that we want to measure the way that this business process improvement engagement has gone? And that’s how we measure ourselves.

Erin Keating:

Gotcha. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Well, so let’s get back to the solutions. You mentioned a little bit in the beginning. You did talk about IBM Blueworks, I think you mentioned, but we’ve talked about Integrify by a few times and we’ve talked about outside this podcast, you and I, when we’re strategizing about what kind of content we want to bring to our listeners next. What kinds of things have you seen that you’ve done as well as you’ve done with Integrify? Because I know that you find them to be a really wonderful tool that you’ve worked with. So talk to us a little bit about what you’ve seen? And then maybe we can talk about what people can expect to hear in the next couple of episodes.

Marty Herbert:

It’s been really interesting. I’ve heart and soul kind of live in accounting and government contracting processes and procedures and compliance and those types of things. My background, DCAA and everything really kind of within me to have that in the core of all of my engagements. Thankfully Neo Systems is centered a lot around government contractors. So we help companies like Deloitte, Booz Allen Hamilton, COLSA, Guide House. We’re even currently helping a lot of others kind of same size and scope of company. And the really fun part for me is when someone comes to me from really these massive companies and they’re talking about how unique it is for them to have this process problem.

Erin Keating:

Right.

Marty Herbert:

And then I started talking to them and I started talking to someone else and someone else at different companies and I realized that it’s all the same. They all have very similar stories, and even Neo Systems. So we even take the same tools that we take to our clients, we use internally. We do that for process automation and so many other things. We take our stories and our client’s stories and all of that experience we then bring to bear within the tool, within Integrify. Because even our partner, they’ve dealt with companies like GlaxoSmithKline, BP, Serone, Red Bull. I mean, again, not small companies. And I’d love to be able to bring in a lot of them to try to talk about some of what they experienced within these different use cases. Because it really does bang on everything from simple HR onboarding to processes in accounting and finance and contract management and sales and opportunity management.

Marty Herbert:

And I mean you think about a business process, I actually have a paper on my desk and on the back of it list out, I’m going to say roughly 75 different business processes that we’ve taken and done workflow automation using Integrify, to help streamline those processes to help make them more compliant, to help capture the data, to make them traceable. Those types of things. Really holding some accountability within a toolset that again, we know and love because we use it internally and we’ve taken it to so many of these.

Erin Keating:

Yeah, I mean, and I think you’re right, everyone will always think that their problem is very unique and only for their organization. You know, “We deal with this HR issue or this accounting issue. No one has seen it before. We haven’t been able to figure it out before.” That must always get you licking your chops going, “Ah doubt it.” But we’ve seen it before, but it is a little bit different for everybody and people may not see it right away, what their similarity is. We’ve talked a lot about it in these last five episodes, the analogous situation, right? So when you’re able to verbalize what your challenges, there’s usually a way that you can go, “Well that sounds a lot like in this particular industry, this issue they’re dealing with.”

Erin Keating:

And so when you can tell me that you’ve worked with Booz Allen Hamilton with the same tool that’s been used with Red Bull, it leads me to believe that there are similar challenges in a lot of different businesses. And they may not immediately sound like they are the same, but they probably are analogous, which is why you can use the same tool.

Erin Keating:

So I’m personally excited to begin embarking upon a couple of episodes where we get the treat of talking to some of the folks at Integrify, but also hopefully some of the clients that you’ve worked out their solution with. Because I think it’s important for people to hear those “analogous business case studies,” to see, “Oh wait, I’ve been thinking this problem’s really just me or a problem that’s not easily solved. And now I’ve just heard a case that sounds a little bit like mine. And I might be able to utilize this tool or utilize these guys to help me figure out how to improve the process.” So I’m super excited about that. What are you looking forward to in these next couple of episodes?

Marty Herbert:

One of the things that I look forward to the most is because I know I’ve talked a lot in this season, but I have a great team behind me too, so I can’t wait to try to bring some of them on these podcasts as well. Because they’ve been down in the weeds really talking about a lot of the different use cases. So teaming up with them as well as our clients and Integrify to bring some real use cases. Things that our listeners I think will really start to gravitate towards. So if they can kind of get an idea of, “What was the problem? What was the solution? What does that look like? And what kind of return did it involve?” And that kind of thing. Because that’s really what it comes down to, right? People want to be able to save money, be better, be more compliant, and that kind of thing. So, having more people involved is really what I’m looking forward to, because I like people.

Erin Keating:

Well me too and I’ve really enjoyed our one on one time though. So it’s been great to sort of set up the cadence and the conversation.

Marty Herbert:

Definitely.

Erin Keating:

And you’ve been so well prepared. So I appreciate that genuinely. And I look forward to getting to meet beyond just Christie Fath, the folks at Integrify and other clients and other team members too. So catch back up with us, everybody on next week’s episode, around where we start talking and digging into the tools that Neo Systems uses for workflow automation, business process improvement and so on. So thanks so much Marty, for wrapping up the ABCs for us and getting our heads in the right space to be able to looking into these real life experiences and situations to better help our audience understand this whole industry and how you might be able to help them figure their way through it.

Marty Herbert:

Absolutely, Thank you Erin.

Erin Keating:

All right. Take care.

Marty Herbert:

You too.

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