In my earlier post “Neck-Deep in Procedures and Gasping for Air?”, I presented my Procedures Manifesto and some rules to follow when specifying and implementing procedures.
The next real question for procedure stewards to answer is: How can we improve? Specifically, how can technology be implemented to support a procedure and associated business processes? Support can come in many forms, from workflow transparency for team members or managers to complex, data-driven validation and automation. Most processes and their potential technological-support counterparts lie somewhere in the middle. It is our job as stewards of data across a process to identify the areas where technology can provide support. In order to do so, however, one must have a strong foundation in the concepts behind available technology and a working knowledge of the data or specifications of a given process.
Where can you learn about the concepts of process automation?
Look around the Internet. From the websites of IFTTT to Amazon to USPS to Vista Print, concepts of automation are all around you. You experience the end-user side of these systems daily, but step back for a moment and look at what information you provide to those sites. Basic info is irrelevant since contact info and demographic data don’t matter, but the specifics about your transactions with those sites push data into “behind the scenes” systems that allow companies to function.
Data specifications––who cares? I am not a programmer!
Wrong! You do care and you do know about data specifications. As you guide data through a given process, you often know if something “doesn’t make sense” or will cause an issue down the line. That knowledge is exactly what data specifications are built upon––the only difference is that the specifications are structured in a uniform way that is not always obvious. Ultimately, form is something that an expert can help with, but making a simple list of the variables or data points you need to begin a process can be an eye-opening exercise to see precisely how little or massive the amount of information you need to complete a process really is.
With the right business process shepherding accurate information, technology can support that process. The other missing piece is standards, but we will leave that for another post…
Author: John Carew