Welcome back! Last time in the article “Process optimization in IT – why is it worth doing?” I explained that process optimization is worthy not to be devoured by competition and a free market. It is the high time to answer the important question: how to optimize?

Let us start with identifying areas to optimize

A few examples:

  • Operations – process maintenance, daily, repetitive tasks.
  • Sales – the core of the company and a money-making machine.
  • Customer service – taking care of customers’ satisfaction as well as their loyalty.
  • IT – yes! This area can also be improved.

Each one of these areas has specific needs. That is why we have to use an individual and tailored approach in every optimization project. The goal of the process optimization should be clearly defined. For instance, if we want to spend less money on business as usual, then the aim is to optimize costs, and therefore, it should be defined from the start by what percentage these costs need to be reduced. Thanks to a well-defined objective, we will be able to explore in the longer perspective whether the project is successful (because the intended goal is achieved) or a total bust.

In some industries, the goal may be a downtime reduction, that is the time when the product is not manufactured for various reasons: lack of resources, poor work planning, irregular machine servicing as well as a contraction of demand for the product. When we decide on some goal, we have to ensure that it is consistent with the company’s strategy. Otherwise, the achievements of the project may be questions or the project as such will never be realized.

 

Learn about processes in the company

To achieve the target, the project team should get to know the current processes in the organization very precisely. A good practice is to have them listed and described even before starting the project or dedicate the first phase for an in-depth analysis of the present state. It is the so-called as-is model which then is compared with a planned new model – to be. That is how we kill two birds with one stone: identify process in a given organization and define areas to improve, and at the same time, we will provide our stakeholders a material to make critical decisions of the built solution shape.

The next step is defining a person (such as Process Owner) that will have the ability to accept changes autonomously in case of disagreement between stakeholders. Achieving such an agreement is not always possible because there may be many competing departments involved in the project. Ambitions, goals, and stakeholders’ approach to the project also come into play.

Therefore, if it is not possible to define the so-called SPOC (Single Point of Contact), the foundation of a steering committee that is properly available for the project has to be taken care of. It will allow avoiding long and stressful negotiations in the case of an impasse. It is worth making sure in which project methodology we want to work – is it to be Agile, Lean, and maybe Waterfall. It must be adjusted to the organization’s structure and culture as well as to the availability of the team, stakeholders, and ordinary employees at different periods of the project.

 

Define optimization phases

Rome was not built in a day! Optimization is the process of respectively occurring phases that need to be defined first: what, when, how, and for whom?

  • Planning ‒ preliminary describing processes, assigning employees to the project participation, gathering the project team, defining the goal and expected time of the project, informing the organization about the possibility of contact form the project team’s side after starting the project.
  • Analysis ‒ you have to dedicate to an analysis phase sufficient time, haste makes waste. The better analysis, the easier is the project in later times. The aim of this phase is identifying risks and their nuances, stakeholders’ structure, potential threats as well as opportunities.
  • Verification of assumptions ‒ this is my original proposition. Let us assume that the project has already started, and we know who will carry it out; we also know how long it will take as well as we see the scope. So it would appear that we have everything figured out. And yet not exactly. To make analysis meaningful, after its finished, its goal, scope, and project schedule should be verified; maybe even the list of stakeholders should be modified, or the team – rebuild.
  • Realization ‒ it goes without saying.
  • Implementation ‒ meaning sharing solutions or processes developed by the team with the project’s beneficiaries.
  • Stabilization ‒ planning a period of the solution stabilization is a good practice after its implementation. The project team should, for some time, watch over the effect of its work. Thanks to that, there will be a possibility to solve all the problems faster, and both stakeholders and users will gain a sense that they are not left alone. This phase should last at least two weeks.
  • Project closure ‒ a conclusion whether the project fits in a given time or budget as well as did it meet defined objectives. Sometimes you have to wait longer for the last to be proven, for example, 6 months, just to check if the initial assumptions were accomplished.

 

In the end, a few very important tips

  • Establish key performance indicator (KPI) – thanks to this, you will find out have the introduced change brought intended benefits.
  • Organizational Change Management is a crucial part of the optimization process. People very often question proposed changes. Try to minimize negative opinions by providing as much information and training sessions from the beginning of the project as it is possible. A newsletter for the users covered by changes may also raise awareness in the organization and prepare the ground for the upcoming modifications.
  • Define communication channels and a way of realization. Remember to take into account all of the crucial beneficiaries and addressees of the implemented optimization.
  • Listen to opinions and feedback on the performed alterations.
  • Be ready to explore unknown lands, but remember that you have to prepare yourself properly. Even the best projects fall if they are not well planned, and beneficiaries were not aware of the forthcoming changes.

That is all in this part of the optimization series! Next time we will dwell on the analysis methods and techniques. I will also share my favorite mix of those.

Author

  • Paweł Sidorowicz
  • Business and System Analyst
  • An analyst with extensive experience. He has been involved in the IT industry for 7 years, he has participated in projects for Polish and international clients operating in financial, healthcare, car audio, and pharma industries. For nearly 3 years, he has been carrying out projects based on the Salesforce platform. An enthusiast of Agile and optimization projects, a team player, motivator, and smile bringer.

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