Business Process Consulting – Reviewing the Inputs and Outputs

In Out ArrowsWhen performing a Business Process Review, think of the Software System as a Black Box.  There are usually a number of similar software products from multiple vendors available to resolve most operational problems.  The specific vendor is not necessarily a factor as most offer comparable levels of service and support and are competitively priced.

The most important issue to consider is the usability of the system.

Considerations regarding the User Interface include:  Are the screens in a modern Graphical form or are they more “Green Screen” Text Entry like?  Are keyboard shortcuts available or must everything be done with the mouse?  Are there Macros available for repetitive keystroke sequences?  Will the software pre-fill fields with default information based on data entered in preceding fields?   (If I enter in a Utility Bill, will the system pre-fill the remainder of the form by recalling the prior months’ transaction?)  How many mouse clicks are required to perform various tasks?  If frequent lookups are performed, what fields support lookup and which fields are indexed?  Does the system support lookup by both Customer Name and Customer Number?  Can you do a lookup/search in any field?

The ability to navigate the data entry screens quickly and efficiently is absolutely critical to productivity.  Every time the user has to take his or her hands off the keyboard to reach for the mouse, time is lost.  There needs to be a proper use of real estate on the screen balancing the number of fields presented vs. layout and readability.  Confusing and crowded screens lead to data entry errors.

When searching for data, does the program use a “Word Wheel” so that as letters are entered, the lookup field starts to populate with possible choices?  (This is similar to auto-fill when typing in to a Google Search box.  As you type, Google makes suggestions.)

The most important aspect of Search:  Does the software program organize the information in a manner similar to the process that it is designed to automate or replace?  Many Companies organize records by Customer Account Name.  Some software systems only support lookup on a Customer Number.  If the software does not support searching by Customer Name, then it is not the right software package for our process.  We want a software system that adapts to our way of data organization and not the other way around.  Even if we need to create Customer Numbers for other purposes, the system should work the way we work.

It is easy to define the Inputs and Outputs.

We need only look at our Source Documents – Phone Orders, Order Forms, Bills, Payments, Customer Service Registration Information, Sales Leads, etc. to determine what it is our new software system needs to accommodate for the Inputs.  Then, for the Outputs, we look at every Report and Document created or printed – Financial Reports, Checks, Packing Lists, Statements, Invoices, etc. (and any manual processes to get our Report Data.)  A Review of the Operational Analysis will tell us what “wish list” Data and Reports are missing.

The key to a successful software selection and implementation is for each Department to define their ideal set of inputs (source data) and outputs (reports) and to make sure they are accounted for in the new system.

Since the desired Outputs represent a definite, tangible milestone for sign-off and acceptance, a positive outcome is virtually guaranteed.

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