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Four common business frustrations & how to beat them!

There are some frustrations that just keep coming up as good people try to run their business
"Recalling the many people I've worked with over nearly forty years, there are some common frustrations that just keep coming up as they try to run their business or manage the part of a larger business they are responsible for:
  1. Communication issues
  2. Consistency problems
  3. Timliness challenges!!!
  4. Dependence on one person's knowledge
"There are solutions to most of these problems!"
Steve Barnes - Business Process Improvement Expert
Steve Barnes
Business Process Improvement Expert

oh the frustration!

These four frustrations cited above are very real, and very widespread. Countless business people trying to do their jobs constantly struggle at the coal-face every single work day, disgruntled and impeded by these and other frustrations. You are probably experiencing some of these frustrations right now.  In short – they are very real!

COMMUNICATION ISSUES

"I forgot to tell you... sorry!"

We’ve all had someone at work say to us “Oh, I forgot to tell you…” It just happens that people carry important information in their head because they are pushed for time and find the available mechanisms inconvenient to use. So the information doesn’t go anywhere of record – it stays in their head!

 

"I think that's what she said" (awkward smile)

People may do better than carrying information in their head; they may write it down. I’ve experienced dozens of times where I’ve provided information to one person at a service provider, and when the next person calls me they have no idea what was said OR they’ve got it all wrong! This really is a pet hate of mine.

“Why can’t people just listen properly and pass on the information?” I sometimes think.

"That doesn't match what we have in the system"

There’s a problem when people who take information from the public don’t have direct access to an important system and don’t have a good mechanism to pass this important information on.  Ther are stacks of less critical issues, but one major one that comes to mind is from my time as a Solution Architect at a major financial institution…

The institution does banking, insurance and wealth management. There were (at the time I worked there) literally hundreds of systems supported by over 800 IT people. There are issues that are common across all ‘AllFinanz” institutions like this: one such issue is that of address updates. It’s not simple anymore! Gone are the days of knowing your bank manager and having all the mail sent to one address. We now have multiple kinds of addresses, for example:

  1. residential address
  2. general mailing address
  3. statement address
  4. legal letters address

I could go on. I do remember a very upsetting issue for one customer where a Visa statement was sent o an incorrect address after he moved house. He told the bank “I’ve moved to XXX”. The bank updated his addresses. They also updated the statement address for a second Visa card to his new address. The wife promptly found out he had a second Visa card and the implications of some of the purchases. Not a happy lady!

Putting aside the moral dimensions of such a case, the customer was right to expect the bank to handle his address update with more diligence and accuracy. If the bank had used a form to capture the kinds of addresses on all his accounts, they could then have worked through these and applied the updates to the customer’s satisfaction. It’s about communication!

 

CONSISTENCY PROBLEMS

Sometimes I do something one way, and then another way on a subsequent day. As a natural person, I have every freedom to do this. Not necessarily so with businesses. 

Apart from the need to a business owner or manager has to get the same result each time from the same process, there’s always more than one cook contributing to the broth. One situation near to home for my family is some bread we buy each week from a specialist bakery. We actually buy from two specialist bakeries: one is really consistent with size and quality of their bread. The other suffers significant deviations from the ‘standard product’ – suffering changes in size, taste and even texture. I shake my head when I ponder this situation. Why does one bakery get it right all the time, and another (so similar) get it wrong so much of the time!!! As you see, I’m the end customer in this case; but in other situations, I may be an internal customer, and part of a larger chain of events.

If as an internal customer, I suffer changed in the nature and quality of items I consume, it can really make it hard for me to produce consistent results myself!!!  Australia’s current fascination with outsourcing call centres is certainly causing some problems for customers – the ombudsmen attest to that! However there are people who work inside these (often large) companies that rely on these call centres. If the quality of the call centre service varies, you can bet the people next in line to serve the customer have a hard job! The customer of course finds all this very frustrating. Wouldn’t it be great if these people were well enough skilled and trained to produce consistently good results? I bet of they were, but no decent system was in place, himan nature would guarantee ongoing problems anyway! Consistency is certainly somehting we find very difficult!

DELAYS!!!

Delays happen for a lot of reasons. Communication and Consistency play a part of course in creating delays, but many times it’s the tyranny of distance that causes delays. Mind you, the distance from a Melbourne sales depot to a warehouse on suburban Melbourne, Sydney or Auckland is no different – if you’re using digital communication! What is it that delays things then?

  1. Maybe it’s perceived importance or urgency
  2. Maybe a person is genuinely overloaded
  3. Maybe there hasn’t been enough thought given to help systemise handling of different tasks in a given role, resulting in some important tasks being put behind less urgent or important work. 

DEPENDENCE ON ONE PERSON

We’ve all faced situations akin to

“Where’s Amy? Don’t tell me she’s on leave! Does ANYONE know how to do this???”

Dependence on one person is so easy to establish; especially if they are hard working or smart. The problem is that lots of things are stored in their head, and no one else fully understands them. I’ve seen departments virtually come to a stand still when a crucial worked is absent. This need not be so!

There is a way forward!

Fortunately the discipline of Business Analysis has been tackling these things for decades. 

More recently, Process Improvement methodologies have come forth, and 

Business Process Management Notation has also come to the fore the past fifteen years. Ninety five percent of good process related software has been implementing it because it works, and it’s a common language for business people to design and communicate with.

Business Process / Workflow Platforms have become more realistically available for more than just the big, wealthy corporations. Process platforms such as Process Maker, RunMyProcess and Flowingly are all relatively young ventures that are making a real difference in the real world, and we’ll see process and workflow solutions become as common as databases in the next ten years. It really makes sense!

ABOUT STEVE

I’m especially conversant with the BPMN modelling notation, having been an early adopter in 2005. I’ve worked with process platforms such as Intalio n|3,  Process Maker and RunMyProcess. I’ve evaluated many more platforms than that! I’ve sat on an expert panel for process improvement & automation in Brisbane, and have taught business analysis and process design courses internationally.

I settled a few years ago in Ballarat, and am hoping I can service not just Melbourne, but Ballarat also. The tools are increasingly available, and the talent is now here in Ballarat to make a major difference to companies that are experiencing problems. 

Please call me on 0423 311 839 if you would like to ask questions or discuss your challenges.

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