How many times have you been the recipient of a project that provides you more improvements and better ways of doing things, yet no one even asked you or your peers how the job got done in the first place? How many times have you been part of a project where you want to make improvements, yet the decision on what is to be done did not include the workforce? It is my view that understanding the position and perspective of the user and the group directly impacted by what we do is vital to the success of a project, regardless of what it is.
You could be changing contact management software, upgrading office tools or embarking on process improvement initiatives, and the fundamental question you should ask is a simple one: "What impact will this have on the worker and the organization as a whole?" Just think about it for a minute. Imagine that you are moving from your current Office Suite of products for a different set of tools that are free and available to you either to own or through software as a service. What changes and training needs to happen? What productivity impact will there be? I know of small companies who have taken this approach without looking at their world from different perspectives and failed. They did not intend to fail; they wanted to become more efficient and reduce costs — failure just happened. The transition lasted exactly one day before reverting back to the original state.
If the question had been asked of the workforce, it would have been brought to light that many add-ons were in place that would need to be replicated before transition. Macros for calculations in spreadsheets could not function in the new application. Templates created for sales contracts and other business documents were not migrating in a useable state. Fundamental operating processes were now obsolete and needed to be redesigned. Integration between the mail system and the new tools was minimal and would not sustain the business model.
There are many perspectives in business. Senior management provides a strategic direction and vision by which the company will be guided. Middle management or business unit managers are given goals to achieve that support the strategic vision, and the employees or workers have activities to perform in order for the business unit to achieve its goals. All of these perspectives are expected to align with each other and for work to be performed harmoniously focused on the overall vision. This type of alignment is difficult but worth the effort.
In my view, when you embark on a change or process improvement initiative, you need to carefully assess all of the impact it will have on the organization. The best assessment is made through bi-directional communication with the workforce and integrating knowledgeable and respected representatives into the project team to ensure all perspectives are shared and potential risk areas are addressed. In this way, you will not only maximize your results, you will find user acceptance is more readily given. When you map a process for improvement and automation, look at it from every possible angle not just a singular view. When you talk with the user, try and look at everything from their perspective and understand how they perceive change and process.
BOB LARRIVEE [firstname.lastname@example.org] is director and industry analyst for AIIM. Mr. Larrivee is an internationally recognized lecturer with over 25 years of experience in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement. You can meet Mr. Larrivee at this year's DOCUMENT Strategy Forum where he will be giving a full day seminar on BPM.