Software // Information Management
Commentary
6/24/2008
06:24 PM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Business Process Optimization on the Cheap

Homeowners know that installing energy-efficient windows help save money in the long run, yet are reluctant to make the investment in these challenging times. Businesses are no different, but even in this difficult economy, companies looking to optimize business processes have a very useful yet inexpensive tool at hand. It's called the Hawthorne Effect...

Homeowners know that installing energy-efficient windows helps save money in the long run, yet many are reluctant to make the investment in these challenging times. Businesses are no different, but even in this difficult economy, companies looking to optimize business processes have a very useful yet inexpensive tool at hand. It's called the Hawthorne Effect...It's not easy to commiserate with corporations, but there's no denying that US businesses are in a truly tight spot. On the one hand, the cost of materials is rising at an unprecedented pace (Dow Chemical had to increase prices by 45 percent across the board in a matter of weeks). On the other, many companies are unable to pass on higher costs to consumers already teetering on the brink of insolvency. This leads to a true Catch-22 situation: even as businesses look to reduce costs, they are shying away from the very investments that lead to cost reduction. Case in point: even as there is widespread agreement on the benefits of business intelligence on operations as well as strategy (but note: benefits, not ROI), Gartner is finding that that the growth of BI software in the US has dropped dramatically of late.

The Hawthorne Effect tells us that if we observe someone at work, that person seems to work better (big deal - parents know that already). For businesses, the corollary is as follows: Analyzing a business process leads to implicit process improvements. Here's why: there are two fundamental ways to improve business processes - human adjustments and technology enablement. An example of the former is when two groups of users that follow slightly different variations of the same process begin to follow a single process (if one of them used a manual spreadsheet to keep track of things, both of them start using the same spreadsheet). An example of the latter is workflow automation through systems integration, so that users no longer need to read data from one system and manually enter it into another - the second system directly reads the data from the first, without human intervention.

When an experienced business analyst meets with users and work groups to understand and document a business process, this action invariably leads to much better collective insight on the business process, and suggestions to improve the process are quick to tumble out during discussions. While many of these suggestions will have to do with automation, there will always be a few suggestions that have nothing to do with automation, but instead address more human aspects such as user training, process conformance and employee turnover. For the price of the business analysis efforts (significantly low relative to implementing process automation), there can be noticeable improvements. As a valuable side-benefit, the process analysis sets the stage for future investments in process optimization (as the current state is already documented).

Try it, and let me know if it worked for you.Homeowners know that installing energy-efficient windows help save money in the long run, yet are reluctant to make the investment in these challenging times. Businesses are no different, but even in this difficult economy, companies looking to optimize business processes have a very useful yet inexpensive tool at hand. It's called the Hawthorne Effect...

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and trends on InformationWeek.com
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.