09/6/18

How to Combine People, Processes, and Tools for Maximum Efficiency

By Robert Nocera, Partner at NEOS

Every business function is carried out either by a person or a tool, and those functions are defined by processes, either loosely or formally. The quality and efficiency of the output of those processes depend upon how well the process is defined, the skills of the people executing it, and the tools supporting it. If you can find the sweet spot where your processes, people and tools align, your organization will be ahead of the game.

Let’s start with your process itself. With a loosely defined process (or a process that isn’t defined at all), the quality of the function and the output of the process will vary wildly. The people who execute the process need a greater depth of business knowledge and experience to perform efficiently; in fact, success is person-dependent, and each person will be dependent on themselves or their co-workers to know how to execute. A loosely defined process leaves room for unintended variation of quality. For example, if you go to McDonald’s and you order a Quarter Pounder, no matter where you are in the world, you can be fairly certain of what you are going to get. McDonald’s has a well-defined process for building that burger. My local deli on the other hand, even though I order the same thing every time, can surprise me. The sandwich is generally the same, but the amounts and sometimes even number of ingredients can vary quite a bit.

With a well-defined process, you need people and tools in the right combination to effectively execute. People and tools play different roles in a successful process.

People are a company’s differentiator. You can count on them to solve problems and see things through to the end. If tools support a process and there is a problem with the tools, people can step in and help. Even my supermarket with their self-checkout lanes still needs that supervisor around when someone tries to purchase that one lone starfruit they stock.

A good tool can make a great person even more productive and even replace people in certain instances. You don’t want to utilize people when an automated process would work instead. There are certain roles where automation makes more sense than manual processes – things that are routine, rules-based, and where little judgement needed. Robotic Process Automation Tools can now automate more processes than previous types of tools. Intelligent Automation expands the types of processes that can be automated even more, taking on some of the decision-making processes in addition to the routine tasks. The more you can automate any process the more you can increase the capacity and quality of the work being performed.

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