Managing office buildings, public areas and other corporate facilities generates a lot of data. There can be many business processes to incorporate into the general everyday running of buildings. These processes can sometimes be quite simple, but can also be quite complex incorporating SLA, (service level agreements), governance policies, supply chain management and the use of several different business applications, all of which go together to complete the cycle and keep the business operational.
So how do you manage all of these processes keeping your clients happy and ensured that everything is in hand whilst making a profit for your business?
Many medium to large companies that I work with have over the years grown with the use of several small business applications that provide service for one particular part of the business….and yes, often they are Microsoft Access apps that someone years previously had put together, and also the dreaded mass of Excel spread sheets that get driven from inbox to inbox at the end of each month in an attempt to deliver some sort of report to keep the management happy.
On the surface this might seem to be working well so if it’s not broken, don’t fix it right? After all, “this is the way we’ve always done it!”
As businesses grow, these applications can become stressed and increasingly patched to “get the job done”, and worry about the real fix next month. Of course next month is even more busy than the one before, and so the process continues.
As a small business owner myself, I’m well aware that cash is king in any business, so the questions that need to be asked of your business processes, should be:-
•●Are we as time efficient as we can be?
•●Are we as cost effective as we should be?
•●Are we loosing money that we are not even aware of due to over engineered processes, resource intensive data management, bad use of our staff’s time?
•●Is our IT infrastructure and data systems stable, resistant to cyber attack, reliable and efficient?
•●What happens if we suffer a system failure? What impact will that have to the business?
•●Basically, what can we do better?
There are many other questions that could be raised, but lets leave it there for now?
A possible solution…
Consolidating systems and processes has huge benefits for any business. Reduce risk of failure, lower IT costs, improve usability, and reduce staff training are just a few to be considered. Commissioning a solid stable and scaleable data and application platform that can form the foundation of all of your IT needs and processes can be an enormous leap forward into transforming your business into a more efficient and manageable one.
Often business processes and line of business applications can appear to be different, but when you peel back the layers there can be many similarities that they all share in common. For example, just about everything you do needs to be invoiced from the finance system, so there is one very obvious similarity. Manager approvals can also be a common part of a process.
So why duplicate the effort? Why not create a mainstream system and process that is efficient and easy to manage, as well as being capable of configuration to handle the differences in processes as well.
Give users a one stop shop working interface where all of there day to day tasks, data and information that they need is right there in one common application.
Bring it all together with Business Intelligence.
Every business creates reports to some degree based on their data. A common inefficiency in this is that the data used is often duplicated from different systems. BI should be your window into the business, both good and bad. Basing that on common data should be a first step into stabilising reporting and working with actual up to the minute data instead of fabricated or at-risk data.
It doesn’t have to be the project that’s too big to tackle…
Starting down the path to improvement is as simple as accepting that something needs to be done before things go drastically wrong.
The costs don’t have to be large as there are so many options available now for delivering change into a business that something can always be architected to fit the budget and deliver value.
It also doesn’t need to be done all at once. Identify the biggest pain points, the best return to the business and the biggest risks and start there. Piecemeal delivery is the best way to go with business change programs. Don’t drop a massive change in process onto the company all in one go and expect people to just deal with it. Work with one problem or department at a time whilst always keeping the view of rolling onto the next as soon as the time is right.
My preferred approach
1.1. Do your homework. Good solid business analysis is the foundation to success here. Make sure you know what the problem is and the solution will derive from that.
2.2. Good communication and visibility of the project. Don’t try to deliver a nice surprise to the business as it won’t be well received. Keep people informed and take their input and ideas on board.
3.3. Plan you approach. Identify the highest risks, biggest gains and how the project is going to be implemented.
4.4. Keep IT in the loop…..they might not be the people using the new systems, but they will be supporting it, so make sure they will be comfortable with the architecture of the solution.
5.5. Write it down….simple one, but document the progress of the deliverable. Don’t rely on remembering conversations and leaving it at that. It’s easy to mis-interpret what someone says, so get it down on paper and circulate.
6.6. Leave room for change. Business need to flex. Requirements need to flex. Don’t architect a solution that’s too rigid for change and scaleability. There will ALWAYS be changes, even as the project progresses….Belive me!
7.7. Release in stages. Provide benefit and return on investment in small deliverables and don’t try to do a grand roll out that will confuse everyone.
If you are considering a change program in your business, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss and share good and bad experiences with you.
IT Solution Architect
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