Business Process Consulting – The Details are in the Documentation

Docs All TogetherMany businesses have never documented their procedures and subsequently have no institutional memory to determine if a procedure has changed.

This is not to say that without explicit documentation of procedures that one cannot run a successful business.  The problem is that the documentation may only exist with the particular person responsible for the job function.  Or, perhaps Management runs on instinct.  This can lead to potential critical points of failure with too many Staff rising to “Key Employee Status” – a person so critical that were he or she to disappear, the viability of the Business might be at serious risk.  With documented procedures, others can step in as temporary replacements in times of crisis because they have the the institutional memory of the company to follow as a guide.

Part of a Business Process Review is to create objective documentation of the current procedures.  As companies grow, without documented procedures and periodic review, changes can occur that were never intended or approved by Senior Management.

For example, let’s look at how payments to customer accounts are received and applied in a company that receives paper checks in the mail:  One person opens the mail and makes a list of each check received with the check number, customer name, and amount.  A second person applies the payment to the appropriate customer account.  A third person might write up the checks for the Bank deposit.  This type of Financial Control virtually guarantees that unless the three individuals are intentionally colluding to defraud the company, the separation of function acts as a check and balance to help keep the Staff honest.

What if due to a reduction in Staff in the Accounting Department, one person had the complete responsibility for opening the mail, applying the payment, and making the Bank deposit?  Since most employees are honest, probably nothing.  (However, the fact is that the separation of function and financial controls exist specifically to try to prevent the temptation to commit fraud.)  With a properly documented procedure for reference, during a periodic Business Process Review, this change would immediately become apparent to Management.

While documenting the current procedures, a Business Process Consultant might uncover something as simple as a Field employee not having the proper tools to do his or her job.

I recently call the AAA auto club to change a flat tire.  The contracted garage supplied the Mechanic a tire iron and a jack but no Flashlight.  My car was in a dimly lit parking facility and that made placement of the jack under the car difficult because it was dark

For want of a Flashlight, the company put the employee at greater risk of injury and created a loss of productivity.  He could not see the exact spot to place the jack so the job proceeded more slowly.  (That was until I pulled out my trusty Ultra High Powered  Zillion Candle Power Maglite Flashlight and lit up the area like Times Square.  As a former Boy Scout, I am always “Prepared.”)

When I called the owner of the Garage to bring this to his attention, he was surprised and puzzled.  The Garage owner said he would look in to the matter and call me back – and he did.  It seems the new Dispatch Manager had determined the equipment list based on his own experience.  He had only worked during daylight hours in the Suburbs where the cars are usually parked outside in a driveway or on the street.  The new Dispatch Manager was not familiar with NYC where many cars are kept indoors inside poorly lit Parking Facilities.  The Garage owner thanked me for my call and said he would remedy the problem immediately.

The above real life situation was a “freebie” for the Garage owner but nonetheless, I uncover the same types of issues at my “paid” clients too.

Baseline reference documentation creates “institutional memory” of approved procedures.

Senior Management can use the documentation created during a periodic Business Process Review to determine if any changes observed in current procedures should be approved and added to the institutional memory or returned to the original procedure.

Without proper documentation as a reference point, there is no way to determine if deviations from approved procedures have occurred.  That can put the company at greater risk or reduce productivity and therefore impact the bottom line.

Remember, “No job is finished until the documentation is done.”

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