Part 6 of a 6 part series on Overcoming Latencies
In our sixth and final part of our series on Business Latencies, we will be focusing on Integrated Data Analysis and Response within your Business Management Systems.
Definition: The need to automatically and dynamically analyze data between multiple business applications and (if appropriate) trigger the appropriate automated workflow.
There’s a reason why this Latency was saved for last: it’s most difficult to achieve. Most organizations have not considered “integrated data analysis & response” in terms of its embedded Latencies because everyone assumes that those Latencies are a given.
This assumption is based on the fact that most businesses use multiple software applications and the very existence of that variety of software demands that certain Latencies cannot be avoided.
The truth is, they can.
- An organization has a “Sales” application and an “Accounting” application. They do not share data. There is no way to know when a client’s pending sales (in the Sales DB) would put them over their credit limit (in the Accounting DB).
- An organization has 3 databases in which employees record time spent on different activities. There is no way to automatically total the times from all 3 databases per employee and see if that employee is above or below certain thresholds.
- If someone in the Finance department puts a client on ‘Credit Hold’ (in their Financial DB), there is no way to ensure that the client’s salesperson knows about it.
- It’s impossible to spot interdepartmental “trouble spots” e.g., customers who have ordered less than $5k of products but have called into Support more than 25 times over the last year.
If it’s difficult for an organization to keep on top of the activities of just a single business unit or department (such as Sales, Finance, or Customer Support), think of the challenge of trying to maintain a high level of awareness of the “convergence points” of business data between those departments and their separate business management systems.
From a “lag-time” perspective, consider this:
If the average department has the time and energy to analyze and respond to their business data once a month, how often will an organization as a whole have the time and energy to analyze the combined business data between their departments? Quarterly? Yearly? Ever?
And lastly, who within an organization has the time, energy, or expertise to analyze cross-departmental business issues? The CEO? CFO? Anyone?
Any organization that focuses all of their attention on departmental goals, exceptions, and thresholds is being short-sighted. An individual client may appear to be a spectacular customer from the perspective of Sales, but might be a nightmare to Customer Service and Finance. The client might be a late-payer, always near their credit limit, and call into Support ten times a day.
A complete picture of this client cannot be gleaned from any one department. The truth to that client’s status and value lies in the sum of all their activities.
The impact of an organization’s inability to see this can be significant.
Consider a customer whose Sales profile is rosy but whose Financial profile is bleak. Without cross-departmental awareness, Sales staff can spend extensive time and effort closing a deal only to have it put on hold by the members of Finance. Lost time? Wasted Effort? You bet.
The problem with most cross-departmental situations like this one is that they typically do not reveal themselves until its too late. It’s only after Sales has worked hard to win an opportunity and thrown it over the wall to Finance that a problem is detected. And although the sale itself may be halted, the time spent by the Sales Team is gone, never to be regained. That’s a Latency that no company can afford on a frequent basis.
More and more companies are understanding that cross-departmental analysis is an essential part of managing their business. However, the cross-departmental analysis methods adopted by some companies often result in even greater Latencies than before. The problem here is that many cross-departmental analysis tools themselves cause more Latency than they relieve.
The reason for this is that most organizations assume that they need two, three, or more Automation solutions to adequately address the need for cross-departmental analysis and response. These solution sets typically include:
- An Integrated Data Mining tool (to combine and analyze data between departments)
- An Integration tool (to move the data from one application to another)
- A Workflow tool (to trigger the creation of follow-up actions)
Unfortunately, it is often the case that three such tools as these do not easily integrate with each other. And so, the time and effort required to integrate these solutions with each other and then apply them to cross-departmental awareness often results in a net loss of time rather than a net gain.
Reducing the Latency in Cross-Department Analysis
Although the challenge of cross-departmental awareness is significant, the method to address it is relatively simple and consists of two steps. The first step is to identify the departmental “convergence points” of business data.
To identify convergence points, you need to ask such questions as:
- What actions by department ‘a’ require a response from department ‘b’?
- What actions by department ‘a’ can be impacted by actions from department ‘b’?
- What thresholds which are determined by department ‘a’ can impact actions or decisions by department ‘b’?
- What actions by department ‘a’ need to inform members of department ‘b’?
Process flowcharts are an invaluable aid to identifying business process convergence points. In most flowcharts, you will readily be able to see when a decision point has been reached, and what departmental data is required to reach that decision.
Keep in mind that the earlier in a process that decisions can be reached, the less impact a Latency will have. For example, a process that waits for a sales opportunity to be worked on and closed before checking a client’s financial status has a much larger Latency than a process that checks a client’s financial status as soon as an opportunity is created.
The second step in addressing the challenge of cross-departmental awareness is the selection of a single Business Process Automation solution that encompasses all three capabilities mentioned previously.
Effective cross-departmental analysis and response requires a solution that offers a combination of Integrated Data Mining, Data Integration, and Workflow capabilities. Historically, those three functions have been available only as separate Automation solutions, but the last few years (from 2000 onwards) has seen the introduction of such consolidated solutions onto the market.
When reviewing potential Business Process Automation solutions, an organization needs to first evaluate what extent of functionality they need in each of the three areas mentioned previously (Integrated Data Mining, Data Integration, and Workflow) as different organizations require different levels of functionality in each of these areas. Once that analysis is complete, an organization can effectively choose a consolidated Automation solution that offers the precise level of functionality they require.
To view this entire series, please download our complimentary whitepaper: Working Smarter and Faster: The Top 6 Business Latencies.