The Importance of Internal Processes When Implementing Systems

Maria Parker, Business Consultant, FINEOS

Should we define business processes, workflows, and internal controls before or during implementation?

In my experience, we sometimes get into implementations and find that the business processes are not known, or there is inconsistent understanding of the business processes.  If you don’t know how the current system works (or is supposed to work), how can you possibly be in a position to improve it?  This results in inconsistent understanding of how the implemented system is to function.  If everyone has a different understanding of processes, chances are getting a consortium in agreement on how the new system should work will be difficult. There will be a knock on impact on implementation time lines and cost.

The saying ‘people are creatures of habit’ has also proven very true.  I’ve found repeatedly that there is an attempt to identically recreate the system that is being replaced.  Where’s the gain? The fear of change can hold users back from enhancing the overall user experience.   A new system implementation is an opportunity to streamline business processes, enhance any controls that were previously lacking, and overall provide efficiency gains resulting in lower overhead costs and allowing End Users to focus on other priority activities.

New software implementations can be a risky undertaking. Many factors can lead to success or failure including software not properly adapted to business processes.  Sometimes management has been removed from the front line for a period of time and don’t realize what the real processes are, or how cumbersome some may truly be.  Business process review and definition prior to implementation is a way to reduce the risk of software implementation.

It also provides an opportunity to identify weak points in the current processes and define process improvements that gain efficiency and effectiveness. Involving End Users in the review can help identify these enhancements and minimize their resistance to changes in business processes,  generating a sense of ownership/empowerment amongst the End User community.

Business typically wants the new system to make their lives easier through streamlining business processes and centralizing information.  However, often the current state business processes are not well defined or documented.  Ill-defined business processes can lead to inconsistency across the business and confusion during implementation.   Until consistency and comprehension of the current and proposed processes are made in agreement, an implementation will have added risk.

A business process review prior to implementation can:

  • Ensure consistency and understanding across the business
  • Reduce confusion during implementation
  • Identify areas for efficiency gains or controls
  • Identify organizational impacts and help with planning for them accordingly
  • Help increase awareness of problems and critical points in your organization prior to implementation.
  • Help to insure things work as expected after implementation
  • Speed up requirement gathering and documentation for the new implementation
  • Result in an implementation plan where many of the planned process improvements can be incorporated even before implementation

Even with the above, implementation of new software is not necessarily an easy task.  But with preparation risk can be considerably reduced.  Resulting in a less stressful and complex project and a happier customer and End Users!

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