By Jeffrey Smith, Senior Director, Business Process Solutions, InterPro Solutions
Most organizations with sizable physical plant maintenance requirements recognize that mobility improves nearly everything when it comes to workforce effectiveness and efficiency of operations. The inherent value from projected savings of money, time, and frustration are readily apparent, and identified as the top line goals of most work mobility projects. So, it’s no surprise that organizations looking to leverage their IBM Maximo® investment typically take aim at a workforce mobility project.
Importantly, when it comes time to transition any process to mobile, we urge organizations: do not simply recreate the same underlying work processes before a thorough review. Direct recreation is a common mistake that misses important opportunities to compound efficiencies and lay the groundwork for further improvement. We encourage clients to follow a few simple Work Process Redesign principles to optimize underlying work processes and achieve transformative results from their mobile tools.
The two most important things to remember are:
Your mobile solution is only as good as your underlying business process.
In other words, if you have a flawed or incomplete work process, you will never achieve optimal results from your mobile investment.
To create an optimized Future State work process, you need to thoroughly understand the existing process.
Skipping this step is often the fatal mistake. Not assembling the full inventory of friction points or potential failures causes software developers to work with an incomplete understanding of requirements to achieve the desired Future State. Revelations of “new” information during the development cycle trigger reworks that result in delay, frustration, and additional costs. The existing process should always be accurately diagramed and fully understood before creating the Future State.
Step 1: Select Process Mapping Targets and Tools
Any work process can be accurately diagrammed or mapped, regardless of complexity. Just a few examples of mobile use cases benefitting from work process redesign, include:
- Work Intake (including Service Requests from your Customer Community)
- Work Assignment Planning and Scheduling (including PM)
- Work Order Execution (full cycle)
- Service Vendor Management
- Time Card and Payroll Creation
- Stockroom Receiving, Inventory, and Issuance
- Safe Work Review and Sign Off
Choosing from Work Process Documentation Styles
There are a variety of ways to visually represent a process or flow and choosing the format and style will depend on what you are mapping, the audience for review, and the stage of the development; are you still at the big picture stage of redesign, or down to the nitty gritty of specific uses cases? Most folks find they become reasonably proficient with MS Visio® or a similar tool and with a little practice are soon able to effectively illustrate almost any process.
The four basic template types and applications for any work mapping tools include:
- Process Flowchart – diagram any project plan or high-level process
- Workflow Chart – illustrate how data and documents flow within your organization
- Swimlane Flow – diagram how separate departments, processes, or employees interact
- Data Flow – illustrate where data flows in and out of an information system(s)
Keep in mind that these illustrations and maps are communication tools. Clarity and context should be your guiderails; don’t be afraid to mix and match styles, incorporate narrative or reference data panels that reflect scale, frequency intervals, or any other relevant information.
Organize and Decide
Since over time you are likely to document numerous processes, it’s a good idea to title and separate them into broad categories, such as: Asset Management, Work Order Management, Health & Safety, Financial Processing, Materials Cycle Management, etc. Then give each process a title and creation date.
Next, for each process decide whether it will be part of the future state. If it is not going to be part of the future state, it’s best practice to document that decision and the underlying justification. This discipline helps to build an organizational knowledge base, useful to internal teams down the road.
Step 2: Map Current Processes
This is where the real work begins. To produce fully diagrammed future state work processes for the development team you’ll need a thorough understanding of all processes proposed for change. This step is a crucial prerequisite to achieving your ultimate goal of producing Functionality Requirements and Constraints for the technical staff developing your mobile applications.
- how existing processes and subprocesses relate to one another, including any organizational requirements or constraints;
- what does or doesn’t work well; be specific; highlight outdated flows and subprocesses, particularly those with justifications like “because we’ve always done it that way”;
- all data sources and their points of relevance in each process. Find out everything about the specific bits of information used in each process, the frequency of need, how they are currently accessed, and precisely where they are stored. (These are all potentially high value opportunities for integration solutions.);
- a full inventory of friction points and disconnections, so they can all be addressed as part of the redesign.
Step 3: Test Redesign Ideas with the Intended Users
Redesigning a complex critical work process requires input from a group of people, including subject matter experts and others who understand the existing flows and the desired outcomes. It is also vital to socialize the thinking and walk through the future processes with people who will be most affected. Organizations that take the effort to speak directly with the end users during redesign always benefit. New ideas, practical solutions, inclusion, empowerment, and goodwill are direct outcomes of this dialogue. Perhaps most importantly, inviting early input invests users in long-term success of the redesign.
Mobility projects present some of the very best opportunities for organizations to be creative and explore new ways of thinking about improvement.Partnering with an experienced mobility solution provider and following this proven process review formula will ensure optimized mobile design requirements that extract full value from your project.