If you were training someone how to do your job, would you be able to do it in less than a month? Before you answer yes, consider the complexity and uniqueness of your personal working style. How easily could you translate this into a chart or diagram that explains exactly what activities you perform and how each is interrelated?
The fact is that many organizations do not have clearly documented business processes, which can make for an incredibly difficult ERP implementation (much less the related business process reengineering and optimization so critical to a company’s ongoing success). More often than not, ERP software needs to be customized in order to fit an organization’s unique business processes, and if you haven’t defined those processes, the software will not automatically adapt despite what ERP vendor sales reps may tell you.
Before you even begin an ERP implementation, every step of every department’s business processes needs to be documented and recorded in some form or fashion. Following are some guidelines you can follow when documenting business processes to ensure consistency and uniformity:
1. Set Priorities – The business processes that are most important to the success of your organization should be documented first. Processes that are broken or need improvement should also be addressed upfront. Setting priorities ensures that sufficient time is spent on the processes that give your organization competitive advantage, and it helps your organization achieve all expected business benefits. Another good practice is to set priorities based on the complexity of each business process, moving from those that are simple to those that are most complex.
2. Get Detailed – It’s important to discuss different elements of a process with multiple employees since different levels of employees have a varying awareness of details. This multi-layered discussion ensures that the documentation is truly representative of the actual elements involved in a process instead of focused on high-level elements lacking detail. While a manager might tell you how a process should be done, an employee who has actually performed the process might have insight into what actually works best. When testing workflows, on the other hand, asking for input from an employee not directly involved in the process will ensure that the documentation is truly understandable to the average person.
3. Involve Executives – When departments have different ways of performing the same business process, mismatched and unreliable data is often the result. An executive should manage and communicate the documentation so all employees are aware of the consensus on how to perform each business process. Executive buy-in throughout the entire ERP implementation is important, but business process management is the basis for all implementation activities so it is especially crucial that executives are involved in the definition and communication of business processes.
Business process documentation is just one component of Panorama’s ERP Business Blueprint services. To find out more about how business process documentation fits into this framework, visit our Services page and our ERP Implementation page.