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Office Supporting Processes – New Market Emerges

by on January 6, 2011

A new market emerges. You might not yet know this, but it has to come. Companies look for ways to improve their efficiency. And if you want to improve the efficiency in today’s knowledge-based economy then you cannot focus only on your core business processes. Read on OffiServ‘s point of view to know why.

What is BPM and what is wrong with it

In the roots of the BPM, in 1980’s, there was a workflow. The workflow packages evolved into complex BPM systems. Some of the BPM systems are mainly intended to support human tasks while others are focused on integrating processes into a system.

BPM systems are loved by big companies because they promise big ROI based mainly on reduction of workforce costs, better monitoring and less waste. But BPM packages are usually expensive in maintenance and even more expensive in deployment. You need to buy and setup server hardware and software and to train users. And, last but not least, you have to design your processes, which takes much resources and even more employees time. Then you have to put the modelled processes into the BPM and deploy them. This usually means sophisticated integration with legacy systems and dealing with employees resistance. Employees think of the BPM as of a tool for stricter control and layoffs. They are likely to finger-point to the newly deployed BPM system in any case of  inefficiency or impediment.

After you have your BPM system deployed and running you have to spend even much more on optimisation of the processes. Every change of the process, instead of a short meeting with employees, as it was before, requires expensive software change. You have to change process map, web forms, data structures.

Then, if you are lucky, you can show the real return on investment. But this is usually quite difficult because of too many degrees of freedom and difficulty to prove ROI taking to account all hidden costs. This is why smaller companies don’t use BPM at all and even do not consider employing BPM into their operations, while some state opinions that failure rate of BPM deployments is alarming.

BPM for Core Business Processes. Only.

Because of the costs, risks and problems I plot in the chapter above, usually companies employ BPM only in their core business, i.e. in the activities in the main value chain. Even if you already have a platform (hardware and BPM software), cost of using your BPM for processes other than core business ones will be overwhelming.

Office Supporting Departments Are Critical For Company Performance

In every organization there are many more supporting departments, performing Office Supporting Processes, whether they are called so or not. It’s no doubt, even if not everyone remembers about that, that the primary mission statement for supporting departments is to support core business employees in doing their primary job. It means that supporting departments have to keep the core business performance at full capacity.

Every malfunction of the supporting departments means that the company looses much money. If you do not believe that supporting departments have such big impact to the core business efficiency then the only valid conclusion would be that a particular supporting department is not needed at all in your company!

Importance of Office Supporting Processes

Office Supporting Processes is the newly-hammered term for processes performed by office supporting departments. Good and well known examples of such processes are in IT Support and HR Services areas. Beside them there are:  facility management, office administration, reception desk, logistics, purchasing, fleet management, EHS, payrolls, book keeping, attorneys and many others.

What is the relation between them and a core business employee? Every time an employee requests the supporting departments for assistance it means he or she notices an impediment in performing his or her job at full capacity or quality. So either the Office Supporting Process will be smooth, quick and the employee will be served with high quality or there will be efficiency waste.

Two Modes of Efficiency Waste

Efficiency waste might occur in two modes. The first mode is obvious and in some cases may be more or less easily measurable. Let’s call it impediment-based efficiency waste. The obstacle makes the job more difficult, time-consuming or impossible to do. The employee who noticed impediment does not add value while waiting for the solution or adds reduced value by attempting to work around the issue.

The second mode may be called motivation-based efficiency waste. This mode is even more important in knowledge-intensive companies while the waste hardly can be measured or is not measurable at all. If knowledge workers are not well served by supporting departments multiple times, their motivation for doing the great job goes down. As the efficiency drop may be constant, long term and organization-wide, it will be unnoticed by the management. Once noticed, managers tend to source the efficiency drop to another reasons like: change in the products or processes, competition, customer or, in extreme cases, laziness or dishonesty of employees.

SaaS Processes Help Avoiding Efficiency Waste

It is more and more popular opinion that SaaS, or Software as a Service, is the way to go for a small or medium enterprise. Using SaaS you can avoid high hardware and maintenance costs and reduce TCO. SaaS is quite commonly chosen option for e-mail, document management, CRM, marketing and sales software.

Employing SaaS solution makes simple to deploy standard, measurable and repeatable Office Supporting Processes. You have to do no process design, no process analysis, no deployment. Just ready to use, out-of the box set of processes you may choose from and use according to your needs. Just assign the roles, give some basic training to the support serving employees and here it goes – your internal office supporting departments enter the world of BPM benefits without any big investment. The ROI is simple and predictable.

Is it a vision of far future? I don’t think so. SaaS broke the barrier for the smaller companies to use software which previously was reserved for bigger ones. In a year, or maybe two, knowledge economy companies will employ SaaS-based, out-of-the-box, ready to use office supporting processes and let their employees focus on their core business, on doing great job. OffiServ fully support this vision. Visit http://www.offiserv.com to see how office supporting processes should work.

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