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  • First Digital

Process Management and the Modern Workplace

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

Individuals who are adaptable, agile, innovative in their thinking and way of working, are highly regarded in our modern society and professional working environments. Businesses around the world go to great lengths to foster innovation and free thinking, finding better ways to do “things”.

Enforcing a predefined process or way of performing tasks, can be seen as stifling an individual’s creativity or creating the perception of being micromanaged by someone looking over your shoulder. This is however, not the case and once a “better way” of doing things is identified, it needs to be implemented, enforced and managed to ensure the maximum possible value is unlocked by doing the job right every time.

Processes are all around us. There are a myriad of integrated, carefully choreographed systems interacting on time managed intervals, seamlessly passing information and tasks between the individual systems, the processing a multitude of inputs, all with a single outcome or output in mind, which can be reliably replicated multiple times, without fail.

Just staying alive is a process in its own, as illustrated by the simplified workflow below:

Luckily, the process of staying alive appears to be well designed, implemented and (mostly) bug free. The principle of evolution states that innovation (spelled “natural selection”) will constantly take place and find better and more efficient ways to accomplish this task but suffice to say that the mere fact that I’m able to type these words, proves the basic process pretty much works as it is now.

What is critical to our survival though, is that the carefully designed and crafted Respiration process is performed successfully each time with the same exact outcome.

All businesses have several defined processes taking place every day. It could be something as mundane as applying for leave, to a complex end to end procurement process for a large enterprise. Various inputs from an array of contributors (often unconnected software systems) are required, with several approval and decision steps along the way, all leading to an often time critical output, key to the efficient operation of the business.

The cost of getting it wrong, not done on time, losing information along the way or needing to redo, can be hugely detrimental to the business. The only way to effectively mitigate this risk is to implement a bespoke Business Process Management (BPM) tool to manage, control and track these processes.

Traditionally, BPM tools have been extremely expensive, incurring huge implementation costs and annual licensing fees. With a Microsoft 365 Business Basic or higher license, this is no longer the case as all the tools needed to effectively define, implement, and control business processes are available, utilising interfaces familiar to the end user such as Teams and Outlook.

Using PowerApps, Power Automate, Teams Adaptive cards, Teams Approvals, Teams Notification and SharePoint as a backend datastore, all bespoke processes and workflows can be quickly deployed with minimum effort.

First Digital recently implemented a Request for Quotation process for a large International clothing manufacturer. This enabled the procurement department to publish a request for quotation to a range of preselected vendors, to allow them to…

1. Monitor the vendor responses/requests for additional information

2. Review and evaluate the vendor responses based on predefined criteria

3. Down select the winning bid

4. Pass the selected bid through a comprehensive approval process involving multiple departments

5. Communicate the outcome to the various stakeholders (including the successful / unsuccessful bidders)

6. Create the associated Purchase Order and update the departmental budgets.

All this was built from scratch in a very short time, using the above mentioned M365 tools without the need for our client to purchase one additional license to what they already had.

Predefined and effectively managed processes are fundamental to our day-to-day existence, and this is also true for all business activities. Tools that can effectively manage these business operations have long been out of reach due to the high associated costs.

Microsoft, through its Modern Workplace Tools and working through implementation partners such as First Digital, have enabled even small businesses to manage their day-to-day operational activities, leading to increased efficiencies and critically freeing time and resources to focus on that all important driver of progress – innovation!

Wimpie Baard

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