It is 2019. The New Year. As we see friends and family around us starting fresh and looking to accomplish bigger and better things, similarly most companies are looking to do the same. With new initiatives defined and outlined, and teams ready to get to work, we sat down with Eric McConnell, Consulting Principal, to gain some insight into the most common roadblocks seen once a project kicks off.
With a new year, I am sure many clients are looking to kick off new initiatives. What are your clients looking for?
As consultants, we are typically brought into a company during a specific inflection point in the business. Sometimes these inflection points are exciting, such as rapid employee growth, mergers and acquisitions, or market expansion. Other times they are the result of the natural progression of a business – system upgrades, new lines of business, operational inefficiencies, stagnation hurdles. Either way, these changes create pain points across all areas of an organization that many times cannot be addressed by team members within the company.
Once you partner with an organization, what is typically the biggest roadblock you encounter?
As part of assessment, we always ask for any documented processes. This is always the first AND biggest roadblock we encounter. While documenting processes isn’t glamorous, it is necessary to move forward with larger initiatives. Whether it is an employee who has been with the company for 10+ years that is the only one knowledgeable of steps involved in key business processes, or IT running on a system that is 10 years old with no understanding of how or when to migrate to a new system, the implications are huge.
I assume the implications include expense and the risk of hindering the organization if processes are tribal knowledge linked to only a few people. What other implications are there?
Absolutely. The risks pigeonhole your organization into a certain way of doing work or being left behind in technological advancements. In my opinion, that ties to the more important question, “What is the value of taking the time to document these processes preemptively—before the pain points become too great?”:
1. Time: While a little hard to quantify, if you put the effort in up front or ask external providers to come in and document those processes for you, you can save time on the front end vs. the pain during or after the fact of trying to enhance a business operation or technology solution.
2. Cost: There is obviously an investment upfront, but the savings as you’re going through that growth or system implementation are far realized because you’ve done the upfront work and preparation.
3. Resources: While a less apparent impact, you are enabling your organization to learn more about your business. I saw with a previous client that was very siloed between departments; as we began to find interconnectivities with their business, employees themselves got a better appreciation for what other departments were doing. It’s the personal growth and development which ultimately ties back to employee engagement, which will impact all areas of your business.
4. Risk: Documenting these processes helps you rest easy by mitigating risks – things like your people being taught key aspects of their job incorrectly or being left in trouble when the one person who knows your processes leaves you with no documentation after hitting the Powerball Jackpot.
If this is so important, why don’t more companies do it? What’s holding people back?
As I mentioned before—this isn’t a glamorous project. I see a lot of clients scared to go about it because they don’t have the rigor or the best practice to investigate, because you could spend hours on end documenting everything of every given scenario; you really need to hone in on how your business works to define what your processes are…. and that can be daunting.
There isn’t one school of thought on how we approach process documentation. Based on my personal experience and what’s right for the client, I recommend starting small and building from there. You must work with client stakeholders on both sides of the table – business and IT – to agree upon that prioritization.
Ready to get started? Download Eric’s Top Things to Consider Approaching Process Documentation PDF.