In our experience, there are business processes that are common to most organisations, that need to be handled in a unique way due to that company’s business model or infrastructure. For example – new employee on-boarding, all companies have to do this but the tasks involved are specific to their company set up.
Processes like these often involve more than one LOB system. These systems each do their job well, they may do some things incredibly well, but often cannot do everything that is required by an organisation. They can be heavily customised to align with a company’s individual needs but this can lead to key knowledge of that system being held by a limited number of staff, resulting in a lack of flexibility, high maintenance, risk and support. Over a period of time, the systems plugging the gaps between existing LOB solutions grow bigger than the main system, and this can result in a lack of flexibility, high maintenance, increased risk and difficult support.
An Example – Modifying CRM to Handle HR Data
As part of a broader initiative to adopt a new HR system for employee records management, PointBeyond were engaged to perform an analysis of an organisation’s HR processes, such as their recruitment process.
We found that Microsoft Dynamics CRM had been modified by our client to fulfil the needs of employee records management and records related to recruitment. Clearly this is a marked departure from CRM’s core functionality, nonetheless it had been possible to accommodate enhancement requests which initially may have been minor in scope, but over a period of years had led to a complex system with side databases, bespoke user interfaces and several “bolt on” applications built in house. The end result was that over a period of time, what started as a side system has grown to become bigger than the main system.
Problems with this solution were:
- Customisations could only be modified by a few individuals with “key knowledge”
- Data was getting duplicated due to the heterogeneous nature of the process
- Searching for information using was getting increasingly difficult for end-users
- The system became challenging to maintain and support
- Extensive and expensive code rewrites were required each time a new version appeared – resulting in additional testing, integration testing, unit testing etc
The organisation had around 250 employees, but operated in the Financial Services sector, and of paramount strategic importance was the ability to select the best employee candidates at the right time, in a fiercely competitive global market. Due to their size, this type of company had been overlooked by the traditional HR system vendors, who cannot effectively tailor their services to support the needs of small to medium enterprises.
Business Solution Strategy – Develop a Process Layer
PointBeyond completed a gap analysis and formulated a HR systems strategy roadmap, some interesting observations were made, which can apply to many organisations.
- Develop a business solution strategy that minimises customisations of Line of Business Systems.
- Recognise that an additional layer (a process layer) is needed in your Information Architecture which identifies the human to human, and human to system interactions linking your LOB systems and information workers. If you don’t think you need one, understand that this layer already exists, and is producing results whether you are aware or not!!
- Use Line of Business Systems for their core functionality – it is what they are good at. No point building a wheel from scratch, let alone reinventing one, if a good example is available off the shelf.
- Monitor and develop this process layer continually and make the LOBs work harder for you!
Orchestrate your Systems with Process Management tools
To get the best performance from your systems, align them to your Business processes and use each system for their recognised strengths. Do not fall into the trap of trying to customise a system too far beyond it’s designed purpose. For example Microsoft Dynamics is excellent as a customer relationship management platform, but do not try to modify it to run your month end accounts!
To use a simple analogy, an orchestra conductor is able to get the best sound out of an orchestra by calling each musician to play to their strengths and only when needed. In a similar manner, a process management solution can be used to call upon your various systems as and when needed by using service calls. Ideally suited to this task in a SharePoint environment are workflow and process management tools from K2 and Nintex.
By using process management and workflow tools you can effectively provide scalable end to end solutions for your Business that can adapt quickly and easily to changing Business requirements.