First, to all of my friends in Japan, I hope you and your families are well and I wish you all the best in these trying times.
As I watch the news stories about the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, it made me pause and think that what happened in nature is also what happens in business when change is made. Think about it for a moment with the understanding that the end of one process begins another. In the scenario with Japan, there was an earthquake – a shift in the earth’s crust – that created a dip in the earth’s surface. This in turn displaced the ocean waters creating a massive wave thus the tsunami. The earthquake caused the tsunami. In business, when we change a process, we are in a sense, creating an earthquake in the organization. We are making changes that have an effect on that department. The question then becomes what effect will it have on the rest of the company? Will this change cause a ripple or tsunami across the enterprise? This is why it is important to not only address a business process at the departmental level but also map and assess what impact the change will have on those people and those processes around what you are doing.
Imagine that you are making improvements and automating the expense reporting process. You have decided to make it forms based process using a web interface and digital copies of all required receipts. It sounds simple and internally for finance this is a great advance with potentially substantial benefits as some business rules can be put in place to automate based on those rules and set criteria, but is it really a benefit for all? In this scenario, any person who travels must now learn the new way of working with expenses like how to access and complete the online form. If paper receipts are no longer in use, how do the employees provide digital copies? Does every employee get a scanner? Perhaps only the road warriors get scanners and all others use the digital copier but the how do they upload the receipts to match the report? It all seems simple but in fact, it is not.
In my view, the Tsunami Effect is something you need to be aware of when dealing with process improvement and automation. You need to look beyond the department level and assess the impact across the enterprise. When you look to improve and automate departmental processes – create that internal earthquake through change – look beyond the department into the other departments touching this process and assess the impact it will have on them as well. Ideally, when you make change, the waters will remain calm with possibly a few ripples rather than a tsunami that will have a chaotic effect. If you are not sure where to begin, seek training from a professional association like AIIM or get professional assistance from a qualified consultant. The bottom line is you need to prepare and protect your business as best you can and the best way is to focus, develop a plan, and monitor to ensure success.
What say you? Do you have a story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? What is on your mind? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.
Bob Larrivee, Director and Industry Advisor – AIIM
Email me: email@example.com
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