Information Availability and Business Process Improvement


    Information Availability is half the battle in Business Process Improvement!

    First, it is the availability of information itself, in a central, easily accessible way, that can speed up Business Processes by an order of maginitude!

    Measurement and reporting of Performance Measures or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) themselves help Business Process Improvement. In many cases, these performance measure information is not readily available for actionable improvement efforts.

    Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) and the extensive use of the Internet to stitch together, many different systems within the same company, as well as systems of suppliers, and service providers, have bridged the Information Availability Gap to a large extent. If organizations have not done this as yet, it is well worth looking into.

    Lean Six Sigma and other Process Improvement practitioners often overlook the availability of information itself to speed up, eliminate, do in parallel, many of the steps in a business process. Instead of a sequential approach to two steps in a process, may be one person can do both of them in one single step, if information needed to do it is available easily. In some cases, approvals for some action can be taken immediately and the end user served by default. If subsequent analysis of the information reveals adverse information, the decisions can be undone. In some countries, they assume that Applicants for a Passport do not have adverse information in their background checks. Their applications are approved by default. If anything adverse comes up in a follow up analysis, the passport is revoked! This way 99% of the citizens who have a clean security record are not delayed by Police or Security checks for handling the other 1% properly!

    Information Availability, especially when it comes to Performance Measures or KPIs, is indeed a problem in many business processes. Information systems such as ERP systems evolved, and developed to automate functional areas like Finace, Marketing, Sales, Manufaturing, Warehousing and Logistics. They were not designed with end-to-end business processes like Order-To-Cash processes in mind. Consequently, many of them don’t even capture timestamps with great detail if you want to analyze Turn-Around Time (TAT) metrics!  Databases just record at the most, the date and time when a table was modfied, and not any more details on the action was just performed. In practical terms, it becomes somewhat impossible to get information about TAT metrics in business processes! Information Availability about Performance Measures is not to be taken lightly. Efforts to improve this aids Process Improvement.

    Information Availability is not very high on Process Excellence folks’ aganda. That may precisely be the first thing to explore if you want to get a lot of mileage out of your own improvement efforts!

    Information about the package is as important as the package itself. – Fred Smith, CEO, Fedex