Operational Realignment for Pivoted Businesses

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Pivoting your business is a necessary survival strategy during uncertain times. Whether you choose to introduce a new product or service, migrate staff to support the digital channels, or unbundle your service offerings to make them more appealing, there is a need to realign your operations. Shifts introduced as a result of resource reallocation or changing how you execute do affect performance.

The key elements for realignment is best depicted by a Venn diagram.

Process, technology, and people are the three critical elements for operational alignment.Process, technology, and people are the three critical elements for operational alignment. Click To Tweet

Process includes the sequence of workflow. This encompasses the tasks performed in various departments, the logical workflow, the rules that stipulate health, safety, legal obligations, compliance to quality standards, as well as the business policies established to meet customer expectations.

Technology covers all the tools utilized to expedite task completion. It includes common technologies such as CRM and ERP applications used for back-office activities, mobile apps for customer interactions, and e-commerce platform for online shopping. There are industry specific technologies such as automated machinery for manufacturing and LIDAR systems for surveying. Legacy software applications belong here as well.

People includes expertise and mindset individuals bring to the task. Both are important because tactical know-how gets the work done, mindset determines how committed individuals are. Skill deficiencies can be overcome with training. Mindset is cultivated through personal values and experience. When personal values don’t align with the purpose of the work, it is difficult to get commitment for high performance.

Each of the numbered area represents a situation your operation might fall into at any time. Depending on the work activity, you might choose to be in any of these four areas.

In area “1” where technology is absent, your operation is inefficient. Increasing workload will require you to hire more people constantly. Onerous manual work leads to errors which results in poor employee morale and customer dissatisfaction. Having people working diligently without the appropriate technologies to support the work would not afford your business to scale profitability over time.

In area “2” where process is absent, there is confusion. As appealing as it might sound to have an ERP to manage budgeting and results reporting, raw materials acquisition and inventory management, the data captured could be incomplete when employees are not clear on when to use the ERP and what data to log in the system. When processes and guidelines are lacking, inconsistent approaches to do the daily activities lead to constant debates and finger pointing; the culprits for silos and poor collaboration.

In area “3” where people is absent, you have full automation. This is an advantage, though full automation is usually applicable for specific workflow. In most cases, we need people to perform tasks that machines aren’t good at somewhere along an end-to-end process. Despite artificial intelligence and machine learning have taken on new roles in a plethora of tasks, human intellect and judgement are unlikely to be fully replaced any time soon.

Area “4” is where process, technology, and people work congruently together. You have efficiency and effectiveness. Here, you have a clear understanding of what needs to get done for what purpose. There is clarity on the logical workflow that follows pre-determined rules. You invest in appropriate technology and tools that enhance productivity. Employees are trained to use the tools proficiently. The coherence in how process, technology, and people work in synch optimizes performance.

As you pivot your business, adhoc processes would have been put in place to bridge gaps. These changes could drift your operation from one area to another on the Venn diagram. Your business might be able to endure the interim inefficiencies. Over time, if you don’t realign process, technology and people, the impacts could become bottlenecks.

For example, you might have encouraged your customers to use self-service in an attempt to minimize the call volumes coming into the call centres. Through your monitoring, you note that your self-service model is clunky and not customer friendly. Customers end up having to call because they aren’t able to solve their issues. In this case, area “3” would be the ideal zone for self-service. If customers need to call, then you are likely in area “4”. It is not best for self-service as you want it to be a fully automated process. In this case, you need to determine what enhancements are necessary to shift self-service to area “3”.

To optimize performance, it is important to be clear on the needs, the desired outcomes and impacts. Subject to resource availability and the anticipated return on investment, your decision would determine where the activity would land on the Venn diagram. A shift into an undesirable area might be acceptable but be cognizant of the impacts and be prepared to make improvements when the business situation changes.

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