Karuana Gatimu is a Solution Architect for ECM and BI solutions as well as an AIIM Certified ECM Practitioner. With 18 years of experience in this space as a technologist and content producer she is currently the lead SharePoint Architect for Skechers USA, writes a blog, SharePoint Strategist and is one of the driving forces behind SharePoint user groups in California.
8 Things You Need to Know About Workflow & Business Process Engineering
1 -- Know Your Business.
It is extremely difficult to be a good Business Process Engineer (BPE) if you don't understand your native business processes. Take the time to understand the real needs of business users and the enterprise as a whole before jumping in to automating workflows and deploying sexy on-line forms and task queues. Do not - I repeat Do Not - mention specific technologies. Listen, listen, listen and then listen some more! You'll thank me later.
2 -- Automating a Poor Process is a Bad Idea.
The majority of the effort in automating workflows is with the people, not the technology. Getting good requirements, helping people to collaborate and work more efficiently is the heavy lifting. Often, you will need to have multiple meetings to get people on the same page about how the process should occur. Once you have agreement and documented it with a flow chart of some sort you will be ready to apply the technology to the process. Making this engineering process relevant to business users is critical to success. P.S. Don't forget to get everyone to sign that flowchart. Again, you'll thank me later!
3 -- Pay Attention to the User Interface.
If users do not understand and adopt your solution all your business process engineering is useless. It is very important that the user interface to your workflow product be agreeable and relatively intuitive to your user base. Take the time to brand it. Make it look like it belongs to your organization. Have some fun with this and get people talking about your solution. Never underestimate the power of water cooler buzz to make or break your project.
4 -- Accommodating the Mobile Manager/Executive is Critical.
To gain real adoption and success your executive managers need to be able to approve or deny workflow tasks on the run. Blackberry or Windows Mobile support may not be an obvious requirement of your system but it will drive adoption like very few other things. Several workflow vendors offer this as an OOTB feature. Look for it to aid your exec's in utilizing the system and the rest of your users will follow. Besides, happy efficient executives are more likely to approve the budget for your next project.
5 -- Utilize an Iterative Development Best Practice.
If you try to re-engineer the Universe you will most likely fail and collide the wrong particles causing a megaton implosion of your career! Pick a small project that has some true value to your users and start there. When people ask for more features when they see how cool it is tell them on the "next iteration" of the solution. Create your own versioning system and stick to it. Leave them wanting more!
6 -- Get someone from Marketing or PR involved in your Project.
Let’s face it, most BPE's are not all that creative when it comes to marketing our solutions. We may be code warriors or true systems experts but sometimes our communication is challenging for regular users to understand. Get someone on your team who specializes in communication, both visual and verbal if possible. Let this person assist you in selling your project, spiffing up your presentations and beautifying your training guides. Have fun, use color and pick a good slogan. Then your solution will stick in the minds of users.
7 -- Constantly Validate Expectations.
Project documentation and communication is critical to making sure your user community, executive managers and vendors know what is going to be delivered to them and expected from them. Often times the pressure of a timeline puts this phase of project documentation on the back burner. Often times those same projects fail. Give yourself enough time to confirm with your project stakeholders, both in writing and in person that you are going to deliver what they expect. When you have launched your project make sure there is way for your user community to provide you with anonymous feedback as a part of your project post-mortem or quality assurance process.
8 -- Deliver Quality Even if you Have to Change a Deliverable Date.
As a BPE often we are doubling as the Project Manager. In this scenario you are in charge of the project schedule. Do not hesitate to pull the plug on your go-live date if you are not 98% confident your solution a.) meets expectations, b) is technically solid and c.) looks great. Move your date if you must but do not deliver a half baked solution. Trust is the most important thing you can earn from your organization - don't burn it trying to rush to make a date.
In every workflow or business process engineering process there comes a low point. Stay true to your ideal of making the workplace a more efficient, smoothly running machine. Don't let people's fear of change bring you down. Believe in yourself and the project you are running. Take heart - if people are freaking out then to some extent you are doing the right thing.