Every large organization maintains a portfolio of applications that help get things done: Accounting, CRM, MRM, ERP, etc. Each of these enterprise applications does what it does extremely well. Some do several things very well, for instance an application like NetSuite does a laudable job across CRM, accounting, ERP, etc. However, it’s likely that even organizations using something like NetSuite are also using several other enterprise tools to handle work in other departments, for instance an HRIS system for HR or an MRM system in Marketing.
In spite of these varied applications, there is always work that needs to get done across multiple departments and/or systems. There are internal processes that are platform agnostic and, instead, look at the organization itself as the platform. In these situations, as Marty Herbert at NeoSystems eloquently points out, you need “glue” to bring the different technologies (and people) together to manage a process from beginning to end.
A workflow management system architected properly should be this glue. A good example of the importance of getting all your systems talking is assigning resources to projects. This requires an open workflow system that can speak to the CRM to get customer information, pass that to the HRIS system to find an appropriate internal resource and then pass that to the accounting system for billing. Along the way there are both human and automated touchpoints, approvals etc. as the process winds its way through to conclusion.
However, whether connecting several systems or running a basic automated business workflow, the goal of any process improvement is to:
- Reduce friction
- Maintain consistency
- Ensure visibility
- Eliminate errors
When the information required to complete a process resides in technology silos across the organization, accomplishing these four tenets may seem impossible. Imagine all the processes that are happening now requiring emails, phone calls, paperwork, retyping, imports and exports of data, etc. just to get something from point A to point B in your organization. Maybe you just need a little glue.