Author: Larry Martin

Visualizing Work Flows

In any business environment employees have different ways of solving problems. Defining clear processes will document each step in solving those problems, saving both valuable time and money. Process documentation can take many forms, including data flow diagrams and process modeling. Through data flow diagrams (DFD), they provide a visual view of how information flows through a system or process. Through process modeling, the company’s AS-IS (or current) and TO-BE (or future) processes are documented in easy to understand language. What does all of this mean? and Which model should I use? Which Model is Right for My Problem ? The first step is to define the problem. Are your current processes slowing down output? If the answer is “yes,” then a Process Model should be created to document the sequence of steps/processes that occur to produce the product or service. If the answer to the question is about wanting to know how data flows, then the Data Flow Diagram is the correct tool. Choosing A Process Model The second step is to choose between In the AS-IS model, you are documenting how the process currently flows. Sometimes this is useful to see how the process may have evolved over time. Each area within the process may have made individual changes and that change is only known at the lower level. Documenting the AS-IS process may reveal a different process...

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Business Process Management—Start at the Very Beginning

In my previous blog, I spoke of the importance of project initiation and the 5 W’s.  When you begin a new project, there is another important process that should be completed during the initiation phase—business process management. What is Business Process Management? Business process management focuses on improving the performance of a company or organization’s workflow to make it more adaptable, efficient, and effective.  I’d argue, business process management focuses on how the product or service is created/provided vs. the management surrounding the business model. Why is Business Process Management Worth Doing? There are many reasons for utilizing business process management including: Removes non value added steps by evaluating activities Implements efficient process flows Removes unwanted errors that may occur between departments or other processes Helps managers understand how things flow and how to best explain the process in training materials In any case, knowing and seeing the flow on paper is a great way to educate and have discussions with stakeholders. Sometimes the perception of how the business operates is not reality. How many times have you heard why do you/we do it this way? And the answer is because that is how we’ve always done it! Business Process Management Provides the Opportunity to Challenge the Norm The world changes, new technologies are developed, market demand shifts, the economy rises and falls, people’s attitudes change, or a host...

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The Project Initiation Phase of the Product Life Cycle

As a consultant working with many clients in developing an information technology system or software application, there is a critical phase in the product life cycle that is almost always overlooked. The process of project initiation. Project initiation is the process of defining the who, what, where, when, and why.  It provides the business a high level road map defining what the system or application is to accomplish. It  defines who will be the leaders of the project, why the organization is doing the project and when in the life cycle of the business do they wish to have this project completed. This phase provides the information in making a decision to proceed or stop the project before resources are allocated. By bringing all stakeholders together, this ensures that the project will meet the business needs and be aligned with the business strategy. More importantly, this phase of a project is the opportunity for the business to align its strategic objectives with the right tools. Technology for most businesses is a tool. An like all tools, you need the right tool to complete the job. Implementing a new system without the strategic view of the business, could result in a negative return on investment and failing to deliver a good, product or service. During this phase it is a great time to document the following: How the business flows. Where data...

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Strategic Planning 101—Developing Action Plans

In my previous blog (Strategic Planning 101—Prioritizing Objectives), strategic objectives were narrowed to a “Priority List” of 5 objectives that the organization can begin to implement.  In this blog, I will focus on implementing the 5 priority objectives. Before the 5 objectives can be implemented, an Action Plan must be in place for each objective. The primary components of each action plan include: Who is responsible for implementing the objective?  This will be the person responsible for managing the project to closure, a project manager or business owner. Who is the stakeholder?  The primary stakeholder can be internal (within the organization) or external to the organization. What are the high level actions to be taken to meet the objective? List 3 to 5 specific high-level actions that will be taken to accomplish the objective.  Do not go in to specific detail, as that will be further defined below.  For each action item, assign a responsible person to complete the action item, define a due date, and the status of this action. What is the estimated cost of implementation? Derive an estimated cost to implement the objective, for now it needs to be a rough estimate for budgeting purposes. What is the schedule to implement? Create a high level schedule of how long it will take to implement this objective, this can be by duration or specific start and end...

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Strategic Planning 101—Prioritizing Objectives

In my previous blog (Strategic Planning 101—taking the first step), strategic objectives were captured from all levels of the organization.  So what do you do with those strategic objectives?  The next task in Strategic Planning is to create a smaller list of no more than ten (10) objectives.  These 10 objectives will be narrowed down even further, creating a “Priority List” of 5 objectives that the organization can begin to implement. How to Do It? One way to create this “Priority List” is to have all those involved with creating the original list divide into groups.  Then, depending on the number of groups, subdivide the large list of strategic objectives by the number of groups.  Each group will be responsible for reducing their list down to 1 or 2 objectives they feel are important for your organization.  One of the benefits of dividing up the list is that it mixes up the objectives such that a group may not be working on an objective they created. After the smaller groups have completed their reductions, all the groups will reconvene. With the larger group assembled, the facilitator will lead the discussion, asking each smaller group to provide a reason why an objective should be placed on the “Priority List.”  The group as a whole will come to a consensus as to what objectives will make it to the “Priority List.” Why...

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Strategic Planning 101—Taking the First Step

In her previous blog (It’s all in the Planning, Strategic that is), Dawn Bott started a discussion about Strategic Planning.  She mentioned the use of SWOT analysis as the beginning in order to start to the strategic planning process. Though a SWOT is part of a Strategic Plan, which can be a useful tool, I wanted to talk about the entire process of creating the Strategic Plan. There is no one way in creating a Strategic Plan. There are many different approaches some can take a year other approaches can take a day.  What is common among them all is the inclusion of the organization at all levels. Strategic Planning is all about feedback and gaining the commitment from the organization’s employees to implement the plan created. In creating and implementing a Strategic Plan, by-in and input into the process from all levels of the organization is essential for successful implementation.  It starts by including a good cross section of employees at all levels to determine what is working and what is not.  To make an analogy, the TV show “Under Cover Boss” is a good example.  For those who have not seen the show, the CEO goes under cover for a week to see how their organization is functioning or implementing their goals.  They are disguised so no one will recognize them while they work alongside different employees...

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