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.