Business Process Consulting – Mainstreaming Exceptions

No ExceptionsFrequently when performing a Business Process Review I see that I am documenting multiple, recurring exceptions.  In speaking with the employees I am told, “This is an exception because our present system does not allow me to do this process without…” and then they proceed to tell me all of the additional steps required to accomplish the task.

If everything is an exception, it becomes the norm and needs to be included in the new system.

Exceptions are really just shortcomings in current processes that do not allow for the required procedure.  In some cases, exceptions are the result of not being aware of current system capabilities.  Or, there may be new enhancements and features included in a recent system update that have not been communicated to the Staff.

Another exception is the  frequent creation of Data Exports and Spreadsheets due to failures on the Reporting capabilities of the current system.

Data exports should only be created if they pass data to another system for additional processing.  For example:  After processing orders, a Data Export of Shipping Address information might be passed directly to a UPS/FedEx manifest system to create shipping labels or way-bills.

Spreadsheets should only be created for unique customized analysis events like litigation support or specialized one-time financial reports.  If system data is frequently exported to a Spreadsheet for further analysis or customized reporting, those reports should become standard reports in the new system.

Exporting data either for transfer to another software program or to a Spreadsheet has the potential to destabilize the integrity of the data.  While the data is in the system, it is 100% standardized.  Formulas are set and calculations have been tested for accuracy.  Once the data leaves the system and is placed in a Spreadsheet, Formula and Calculation errors can creep in.  A row or column of data can be left out of one of the formulas or can be accidentally deleted entirely throwing off the accuracy of the result.  (Where possible, rather than exporting data out and importing data in to another system, a real-time link should be created between the two systems so that data integrity is properly maintained.)

The most detrimental aspects of exporting data are that it localizes the analysis and reporting process to one individual or team and it may be difficult to reproduce the output/result with certainty by another individual or team due to lack of proper documentation. Once the data leaves the original system, it immediately becomes stale and out-of-date.  Any change to the original data will not be reflected in the analysis and reporting process unless a new data export is performed.

When reviewing the Business Process, watch for exceptions, document the shortcomings of the existing system which require the work-around reporting, and make sure they are provided for in the new system.

To put the concept of an exception in context:  We may think of something that has a “One in a Million Chance of Happening”  as being a rare exception.  However, something that has a one in a million chance of happening happens twenty times day at McDonald’s based on the volume of customers served.  Twenty of something happening means that it can be identified and accounted for in the design and implementation of the new system.

The goal of good system design is to standardize any repetitive tasks so that predictable, consistent results can be obtained every time.

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