3 Process Improvement Prerequisites

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Process improvement initiatives are difficult enough, but without these key prerequisites you’re fighting a losing battle.

In my birthday post last year, 3 keys to a successful process improvement initiative, Process Owners, Information Management, and Process Documentation were identified as keys to a successful initiative. This week we’ll dive deeper into the Information Management aspect of process improvement.

The first prerequisite is an enabling technology that can help and help quickly. Very little process improvement can be done if you don’t have a tool that can access and manipulate data, queue documents and data for action, and generally manage and automate manual activities of a business process. It would be like trying to rebuild a car without a socket wrench.

While there’s no shortage of tools to choose from, for the needs of banks and credit unions I haven’t run across one that can touch what Workflow by OnBase can do. It has everything a creative business process analyst needs and, most importantly, doesn’t make them dependent on IT or the vendor to actually create something useful for the business.

If your workflow solution requires months of design, specifications signoffs, contracts, and frequent unfulfilled promises, that’s a pretty good indication it’s not the right one. Getting to the good life can be so much faster than that.

If your bank or credit union already owns OnBase (aka Nautilus, aka Director, aka IMS) consider yourself fortunate and demand that your provider show you the potential of Workflow, or call me 281.863.9349 and I’ll drop your jaw.
If you’re not fortunate and have bought into one of the other core vendor’s workflow, it’s going to be a long, expensive, and less rewarding journey. That’s just the brutal truth of it.

Access to Data
The second prerequisite for process improvement is giving those creative business process analysts with that powerful workflow automation tool access to the data that is used in the process. Too often do we see data locked away in silos or held like ransomware by vendors. You know this is the case when the process includes rekeying information from one system to another.

The data that needs to be accessible includes not just the customer and account information in the core system, but also “pre-core” data in loan origination systems, documents and indexes in the content management system, and even unstructured data on the documents themselves.

The access prerequisite is more than the ODBC connections to the databases. It’s the skills in the creative business process analyst to discover the content and relationships of the tables to make meaningful and accurate queries and updates.

We’ve already mentioned those creative business process analysts a couple of times so it should come as no surprise that creativity is the third prerequisite. There’s no lifehacker.com or How-To YouTube video that describes what needs to be done. And your current vendor’s interest is in selling you software licenses, not a process that connects all the dots.

It’s up to the creativity of these business process analysts to design an automated workflow that pulls together the data and documents needed and presents them to the right person at the right time asking for the right action to move the process along.

These creative business process analysts need a combination of skills, including:

  • Business acumen to focus on the right things quickly; (define business acumen)
  • Business process management for process analysis and design; (AIIM BPM training)
  • Limited SQL for accessing and reusing data tucked away in databases. (free SQL training)

    • Count your blessings if you have one or two of these at your disposal. Stand behind them, square their shoulders in the right direction, and push. Give them the freedom and flexibility to make progress. If you’re not fortunate enough to have this on staff, you’d better start developing it now and consider renting a mentor to bring them along quickly. If not, your processes will be your downfall.

      “The difference between winning companies and losers is that winning companies know how to do their work better. If companies want to become winners again, they will have to look to how they get their work done. It is as simple and as formidable as that.”
      -Michael Hammer and James Champy


      Agile Banking provides consulting and content management services to community banks and credit unions and can be reached at solutions@agile-banking.com.