Your choice in work process and tool alignment will have implications both now and in the future. Learn how to choose the best process fit based on your company’s needs.
When it comes to business process flow and optimization, it can be challenging to determine how to align your tools and work processes. Should your process fit the tool, or should the tool fit your process? Your choice will have far-reaching implications both now and as you manage the needs of the enterprise in the future.
While the answer depends on your company, its current and future needs, and strategic goals, understanding some key elements can help guide you through the decision process.
What is Process Fit?
What are work process, process fit and tool alignment, and why do they matter? We define work process as the method employees use to create value for a company. The tools, typically software based, are used in the work process to help the company grow sustainably. Process fit is when all process elements uniquely integrate with your company’s strategies.
All business functions should align with a company’s priorities and help it realize its mission. This alignment fosters business growth, the ability to adapt, and streamlined processes that can save time and resources. Aligning your tools and process creates a business process flow critical to your business’s success. When aligned and optimized, the process and tools you use will ensure the right participants use the right tools to meet focused objectives.
Choosing Between Process or Tool Alignment
Because work process, technology tools and software are so intertwined, it’s important to connect process and tools to fit the organization. When answering the question of “what process should I use,” use the one that best serves your company’s core values. We can say the same for tools: how do they fit your organizational goals?
In most cases, developers build tools based on deep research and understanding of best practices for the industry the software company serves. Often, adopting a tool and aligning your work processes to the tool leads to efficiencies for the organization. Most organizations, however, have processes with anomalies or that stray from what we consider standard. This means regardless of the tool, you cannot use it out of the box because it requires customization to meet business needs.
If you have no tools or processes in place, the choice is simple: Find the right tool for your business needs and drive your processes from what the tool can offer. As your organization matures, your processes and tools will evolve. However, starting from scratch with tools and processes is a luxury most organizations do not have. You may be mired deep in your own processes and tools and cannot see the forest for the trees, as the old expression goes.
If this is the case, take a step back and work to:
- Understand your business work processes: Start by deeply understanding each business process flow, its optimization over time, and its value stream. It can help to bring in those who do the work to help you better understand the process and any variations to account for during alignment.
- Research best practices: Though employees are already doing the work and may have optimized their current processes, a thorough understanding of best practices will help identify new solutions. Research your industry and competitors, review and evaluate current and desired standards, dive into metrics, and see where you can refine processes to complete tasks more efficiently, reduce costs and realize other business objectives. Businesses have many projects with different needs, and sometimes goals and objectives conflict. Understand core processes and how they contribute to your company’s strategic goals. Focus on how each process and team holistically contribute to organizational success, then set or reset expectations for process flow.
- Lean on experts: Once you understand your processes, tools and challenges to align them, you may consider bringing in an expert to help you reach your goals. They can help answer whether your business processes fit the tools you use and what processes may benefit your company. Business consultants have a broader view of the industry and common pitfalls in process and tool alignment. Leverage their experience to find and execute on opportunities and to help work through any barriers that pop up along the way.
These steps will help you determine whether you should align your tools to your processes or vice versa.
Keep an Open Mind When It Comes to Change
If you want to grow the business or even stay abreast of competitors, you have to be on board with changes to processes – whether it’s to accommodate a new tool or modify the tool to meet business processes you can’t change.
All staff within your organization need to accept that some things will need to change and that change doesn’t have to be bad. Employees may fear process improvement will push them out of their role, so it’s critical to maintain transparency and communication during research and implementation of tools and process updates.
Help the management team in your organization move past tools and processes. Keep your focus on outcomes, business value and revenue potential. As an organizational leader, it will be your job to realign your processes and how your company uses software to get the most out of your team and the services they support.
It’s important to note that this is not “one and done.” Alignment and improvement are ongoing processes as the company and its needs evolve. Set small, reasonable goals and action steps to reach them, and then get to work creating lasting change that benefits everyone in your organization.
Determining how to structure your business processes – whether to align your tools to fit your process or vice versa – can be a challenge for businesses that already have established processes and tools. But don’t let the decision give you analysis paralysis. This type of inaction can lead to missed opportunities. Taking a series of steps, such as understanding your current processes, researching best practices, and working through potential issues proactively can help you decide what best meets the needs of your company.
Investing in the help of an expert or coaching team could be invaluable to help implement new processes and tools, and to help get your team on board, ultimately creating value for your company.