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Thursday, 07 July 2022 15:37

The benefits of fixing broken business processes

By Chris Ellis, director, pre-sales at Nintex
Nintex pre-sales director Chris Ellis Nintex pre-sales director Chris Ellis

GUEST OPINION: Regardless of their size, sector, and plans for the future, all businesses have one thing in common: a reliance on efficient processes.

Everything from sourcing stock and supplies to dealing with customer orders and back-office administration relies on processes that must be completed on an often-daily basis. Any failure to do this can result in knock-on effects and potentially serious consequences.

Despite the critical role of processes, an alarming proportion of businesses admit the ones they have in place are not working effectively. Inefficient workflows, inappropriate tools, and a need for manual steps means many processes are not delivering the support to the business that is required.

To gain a clear picture of the situation, Nintex conducted a survey to determine the current state of the world's business processes. The results were eye opening to say the least.

A grim picture

One factor that became clear is that the inefficiency of many processes was exacerbated by disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic. With larger numbers of staff forced to work remotely, many processes had to be amended or reinvented in a short space of time.

The survey found that IT, HR, and shared services are the departments within organisations that are most often cited as having broken systems and processes.

When quizzed about the situation, 52% of employees said they would leave their current organisation within the next 18 months for another in the same industry if the new organisation made it easier to get work done and had fewer manual processes. In the IT industry specifically, 64% of staff admitted their company's broken processes were preventing them from maximising their productivity.

When asked to nominate the processes causing them the most grief, 41% pointed to those associated with employee administration. This was followed by employee onboarding (nominated by 36% of respondents), COVID or health check processes (34%) and customer or client service or support processes (28%).

Interestingly, when it comes to IT's role in process improvement, 77% of respondents said they regard technology as a barrier because they have no way to automate processes themselves. Indeed, 73% said that IT was impeding their organisation's ability to efficiently automate tasks and processes.

An ongoing reliance on paper-based processes was also highlighted as a problem by many staff. Of those surveyed, 63% said their organisation does not have any specific plans to move away from paper. This was seen as a particular problem when many people are continuing to work remotely.

As well as being a source of frustration for staff, broken business processes have a significantly negative impact on productivity. More than half (55%) of those surveyed reported they waste at least 25% of their time undertaking manual tasks that could be automated. That equates to 10 hours in every 40-hour working week.

A strategy for process improvement

One way to overcome the challenge of inefficient processes is for a business to establish a process centre of excellence. This centre can become a central repository for information about processes and provide an opportunity for employees to contribute to process improvement.

Having such a centre also reduces the likelihood that a business will have multiple and conflicting processes or a range of dependent workflows that are not properly connected. This type of situation can result in more employee dissatisfaction and reduced productivity.

One of the first tasks for a process centre of excellence is the documentation of all processes that exist across the business. This will help to identify which need revision, which may no longer be required, and which can be automated.

Focus can then shift to process automation as this is where a business can derive the most value. As well as speeding workflows, it will free staff from mundane, repetitive tasks and enable them to focus on other activities that add greater value.

Encouragingly, 69% of respondents to the Nintex survey reported that their organisation is focused on the automation of core business processes. The benefits of this will undoubtedly become evident in the months and years ahead.

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