Thursday, 22 January 2015

BPM Process : Revolutionise your Sales and Marketing

        A well-designed BPM solution has the ability to support a company’s sales and marketing teams by providing them with process-driven applications that save valuable resources and time. It can also streamline the pre-sale process, provide prospective customers with prompt answers, and enable
employees to quickly respond to changing customer demands. Examples of sales and marketing BPM workflows include customer inquiries, promotional campaigns, product launches and sales process management, as well as developing, responding to and approving proposals and bids.

The Challenge

  • Stand out in the competitive B2C industry
  • Get the right marketing message to the customer at the right time
  • Achieve an automated event-driven marketing department

Arguably, the business-to-consumer marketplace is the most competitive industry to operate in. Profit margins can be negotiable and customers are ruthless when it comes to their loyalty to a given provider. As a result, it is imperative for any marketing department or indeed company to procure and utilise proactive process and technology to intuitively communicate with customers when your business or business events make it conducive for profitable growth.

The marketplace in this day and age is about getting the marketing message to the customer when the timing is right and before one’s competitors, this is virtually impossible to achieve without involved market research, so the desire to achieve a true event driven marketing focus is immense.

The Solution

  • Automatically email targeted marketing shots to existing clients
  • Eliminate manual intervention from the process
  • Enable marketing team to focus on additional revenue generating activities

The everyday practice of database marketing is evolving continuously and companies are investing significant sums of capital into training their staff and providing leading edge technology to drive business.

Yet, the B2C marketplace is so dynamic and multi-faceted that windows of opportunity can often pass by before the company’s employee has the opportunity to react. Indeed, it can take a considerable amount of time to manually query a database and retrieve the relevant segment of customer data, format that into a HTML document and send it via email.

The automation of this time consuming process but important revenue-generating employee activity is paramount, as once it’s been achieved it will eradicate the slow human-led process of sending targeted marketing shots to existing clients. The business benefits of this are twofold:  profits increase through more efficient marketing and the attributed cost to this activity decreases.

Clearly, having the ability to create marketing messages automatically constructed and delivered to specific clients depending on what they’ve previously purchased or business events, such as a change to price, is a real advantage. The process automation of a rather time consuming element of this particular aspect of marketing execution allows the marketing team to focus on additional revenue generating opportunities. From a company perspective this is of course is a huge positive, as the process, which are now fully automated will not make mistakes and will work 24 hours a day.

The Results

  • Profits increased and costs reduced due to automation of marketing emails
  • Improved customer service
  • Telephone calls and paper usage reduced
  • Real time information available

Within both the B2C and B2B markets comes the administrative expense and responsibility of delivering excellent customer service. As a result, businesses still manually send order/despatch confirmations, order delays, feedback requests or refund confirmations to ensure high service levels.

Once these processes are automated and your company is no longer wasting time or money on such activities then the majority of day-to-day costs incurred by a company are driven by the processing and supporting of the sale itself and a great deal of materials and employees can be absorbed. Processes such as order confirmations or delivery updates are automated thus ensuring 100% job completion whilst reducing telephone calls and paper usage.

The dynamic delivery of these documents will help your company to further enhance your excellent reputation for customer service and the stride towards a paperless office environment can only be welcomed as an excellent added bonus.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

British Businesses become dangerously complacent

Protobase Laboratories commissioned Omnibus Research to conduct a survey last December to ask 100 CEO’s of mid-sized British businesses about their business profitability.  More than 70% of respondents say they are satisfied with their business profitability and 88% are also satisfied with their business processes.

Is this a sign that the overall majority of CEO’s are becoming dangerously complacent with where their business is at going into the future?
With a general election this year business tends to stagnate and trend water waiting to see who comes into the government, but that is still no reason to be complacent.

This leads to the question is British business too easily satisfied. Are we as a nation just happy with minor or incremental growth? Are we too content with the success that has already been achieved? Has business lost the hunger to be daring and adventurous?  

When you achieve some success it is natural to take the foot off the accelerator. We become more risk averse as we have more to lose. But in today’s pace of life and changes in technology if you stay the same tomorrow you will be left behind. If you do not keep taking risks and growing you will eventually lose what you have now.

An encouraging sign from the results are that 85% of CEOs said they are planning to introduce new processes in the next 1 to 2 years.

The real question you need to ask yourself as a business owner are you really satisfied with where your business is at, and if so is that leading to complacency? Complacency is the first step on the slippery slope downwards.

Can I Fix my Business Processes myself?

Have you ever asked the question? Surely I can fix my own company’s business processes as it is my business; I know what’s best for it!

I picked up a client that had this thinking. He owned a construction business which started as a small enterprise doing small residential constructions. Within the span of 6 years he had grown the business quite significantly and was building residential towers.

However the business had totally outgrown their business processes in the back office support of the operations. It was a business that was generating multi millions but was still trying to run in the finance and administration side as it was when it was a small business.

The problem was now that this area of the business was causing disruption to the rest of the business and causing it to be dysfunctional.   I was able to come in and build up this part of the business establishing more mature business processes and hiring the right staff in order to run this function effectively and efficiently.

The lessons learned here is that everyone has blind spots and areas that just don’t interest them in their own business, see the function as useful but not critical.  The different functions of a business are like the pistons in a car if one is misfiring then the overall performance of the engine will be out. And it is more noticeable the faster you try to drive the car!  

Also you may be part of the problem why the process is not working and cannot see the wood for the trees. That is why it is useful to seek outside professional assistance to give an unbiased insight.

Another case in story is of a client that already had an established education business and was looking to start up a new online education division. The existing business processes worked for the existing business but would not work for the new division. There was a degree of tension between the two parts of the business and that is why I was engaged to resolve the issue and make sure the business as a whole was moving forward in the most effective and efficient manner.

What was needed was a shared business process which would move the business forward. By being an objective 3rd party, not tied up with any of the politics of the business, with proven experience in business process I was able to listen to the concerns of the manager of the existing business and show them how this would benefit them and get their buy-in.

In summary the question “can I fix my own business processes?” is best answered by a saying that my father had. If you are a lawyer and decide to represent yourself you have a fool as a client. To get the best result you should seek out a proven business process consultant to assist you. They will bring objectivity, experience of best practice and will have the time to totally commit to it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

BPM and its place within Marketing: Meeting the Challenge

Marketing departments are to coin a stereotype, traditionally the realm of free thinking creative types, thriving on caffeine and a certain amount of chaos. Business process improvements, on the other hand, emphasise structure, predictability and automation, ideal for the meticulous types in FDP’s or production, but anathema to the marketers. That, at any rate, is the conventional wisdom, but utilizing business process improvements to marketing departments can have liberating and highly beneficial  results for your business.

Sometimes chaos is necessary and useful but not nearly as often as some people might think. When you’re on deadline and it takes seven phone calls to find out where your artwork is, a little structure could make life a good deal more amenable.

The mantra for business process analysts is simplify, standardise, automate, but the benefits start much earlier, with acknowledgement and appreciation of existing business process. Sometimes marketers don’t think they have processes, but understanding and documenting what goes on when you create a new product, change a pack size or commission artwork has several benefits. It helps teams understand each other’s work better, it’s invaluable for training and it can suggest immediate improvements.

In most large organisations functions are well-defined at the highest level, but underneath that things can get messy. Which files move where, how quickly do they move, who needs to approve what? Getting down to this level of detail can deliver real value. One of the results is that it becomes much clearer exactly who is responsible for any particular process, and who is accountable for it. Quite often it turns out that two people are accountable, a less-than-ideal situation which is easy to fix - once you know about it.

When at Protobase Laboratories we’re examining a client’s business processes we also focus on who needs to be consulted at any point, and who needs to be informed again, this can expose communication gaps. Once we have all this information, it’s possible to automate the process in such a way that much of this needs no intervention; automatic notifications when particular milestones are reached can be an invaluable project management tool.

Apart from the project management advantages, there is also huge scope to save money by eliminating paper in as many places as possible: digitising everything means no copying or courier costs - just for starters - not to mention the saving in cost and effort that comes from managing digital rather than paper assets.

Streamlining and automating marketing processes through well-designed software systems can help eliminate mistakes as well. Being first to market, especially with seasonal products, is very important in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sector, and sometimes one mistake, like a wrong barcode, can set you back days and cost your business a great deal of money. Our BPM models estimate that just two days of holiday or special occasion sales, such as Valentines Day, were enough to pay for an entire process management system.

For marketing departments to get the most value of process enhancements, a process management suite needs to be able to do three major things. First, it needs to provide an effective digital assets library and management; second, it must enable good management of products and product development; and finally, it needs to provide rich and effective project management tools. There are plenty of products on the market which do one of these things, but the real rewards come from linking them all together and then supporting this with accessible and relevant process consulting and implementation capabilities, this is where Protobase’s BPM analysis and implementation comes into its own.

No business ever stands still, of course, and a good process management system should also be designed for flexibility. When a process changes, it should be easy for users to reconfigure the system.

Creative workers do need freedom to work effectively. The good news is that implementing proper process management, far from limiting that freedom, can extend it by eliminating time-wasting bureaucracy. In our review and implementation process we’ve discovered that a product acquired 500 separate bits of information in the journey from design through manufacturing to transport and sale. Yet many of these separate bits were identical barcodes and reference numbers, for example, and they needed to be entered anew every time the item moved to a new stage of the process. Eliminating this kind of duplication by replacing all the paper forms with a single digital file brought the number of fields down to just over 200 which meant less time wasted and fewer opportunities to make mistakes. That in turn meant more time to devote to the real creative work.

In any industry or profession that’s been around for long enough, best practices develop and organisations who want to win must understand and implement that best practice. Marketing is no exception: for many companies, it presents a significant opportunity to wring competitive advantage out of business process optimisation.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

5 Essential Steps to make your business more efficient

Have you heard the catch cry we have to do more with less! In today’s economy our customers want more service and want to pay less.  Then there are five essential steps you can take to make your business more efficient.
Standardise Your Processes
The more people you have in your business the more imperative it is to standardise your processes. This is to ensure that your customer is always receiving the same level of service. What happens over time if left unchecked is your employees develop their own way of doing things, and this can lead to inefficiencies as a business as a whole. Standardisation enables you to simplify which can allow your business to interact with your supplies and business partners through the use of your IT systems interacting together, thereby gaining greater transparency and efficiency.
Leverage Technology
Technology is developing at a rapid rate these days. Just think of all the things we can do with a smartphone these days. You can send emails, do your banking, buy online, hold a videoconference all while being completely mobile. There are things that are happening in your business now that a system could be doing for you. A system can automate processes that are currently being done manually. For example if you have a customer relationship management system you can have all the details about your customer in one place. If you linked it to your phone system you would know what customer was ringing you as you answer the phone and had all the details on the screen to be able to have an informed conversation.

Open Communication   
Communication is so important and we try to spend so much time doing it, but really how effective and efficient are we at it. Do you find yourself in meetings all day trying to communicate with your staff what needs to be done, what the goals are for this week, or month that need to be achieved, and listening to staff as to what the roadblocks and brainstorming as to how these can be removed or overcome. We can spend so much time in meetings that the day has gone and we haven’t had a chance to do the real work.
The way to overcome this is when you are having a meeting you prepare an agenda and the meeting is run in a structured way with each item to be discussed on the agenda with specified time, someone taking minutes noting action points assigned to relevant staff this can reduce meeting time and make it more efficient and effective.
I have been into many businesses as a consultant and ask them about what are the critical pieces of information they need to run their business. They are usually quick to say what those things are but then add in takes them so much time to gather the information to report on a daily or weekly basis. The frustration they have that its not easy to get the information they want. They have bought a system and been sold how it could do all these fantastic things but when it was implemented their reporting needs were not captured upfront and it was only an afterthought once it was implemented.
To gain efficiency, effectiveness and better informed decision making it is vital that the business owner receives the correct information as and when they need it.
Engage a Consultant for a Health Check
A business is a bit like a car. It will keep running as long as you put fuel in it. But over time the car becomes sluggish and doesn’t perform to its best without a service. Your business is the same it will keep operating but it would benefit from a service at least once a year to fine tune it.  Have you ever had a car and not serviced it for a few years, when you take it in for a service you need a major overhaul.
By engaging a consultant they should be able to give a health check on the business by looking at the processes, the current systems, reporting needs and how information is communicated. Either give a clean bill of health or provide recommendations as to what changes can be made to gain greater efficiencies.
In selecting a consultant just remember not all consultants are created equal. Look for one has years of experience and more importantly has the runs on the board of getting results for their clients and can implement the recommendations if required.