Understanding Business Processes the key skill for solutions success1 Nov, 2006 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
Understanding Business Processes the key skill for solutions success
What is the difference between a dealership that has document management
software on its price list and a dealership that has document management
software on its sales board?
A large part of the answer is contained in a best-selling business book,
Reengineering the Corporation, A Manifesto for Business Revolution. In this
book, Hammer and Champy present a unique understanding of business that as a
guide for successful solutions resellers to focus on their clients’ business
As I train solution specialists and sales representatives across the country,
I’m finding that understanding the client’s business process is the key to
successfully selling solutions. Salespeople are successful when they ask about
their client’s business processes, uncover points of pain and recommend
opportunities for improvement.
The Importance of Business Processes
A business process is a series of steps for a repeated outcome. Hammer and
Champy describe a business process as “a collection of activities that takes one
or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer.”
A business process is something that happens every day in a business. Let’s
take a typical copier dealership; the following processes are critical to daily
Sales Order Process: What happens from the time a customer signs an order
until the equipment is delivered and the commission is paid?;
Service Call Process: What happens from the time a customer places a service
call until the call is fulfilled and billed?
Other industries have predictable processes:
Medical Clinic: What happens from the time a patient makes an appointment
until the clinic is eventually paid by the insurance company and the patient?
Real Estate: What happens from the time a home is listed until it is sold?
Banking: What happens from the time a loan is originated until it is closed?
Legal: What happens from the time a case is filed until it settles in or out
Business processes are important to solutions oriented salespeople for two
1. Business processes are critical to top level decision makers. If you want
to get a decision maker’s attention, talk about improving their processes.
Business owners and managers understand the importance of consistent execution.
This means that ideas to improve business processes are the key to getting
attention in new and existing accounts.
2. Documents are the key vehicles by which information flows through business
processes. When we can improve the flow of information through our clients’
business processes, we have a positive impact on their businesses. Our
industry has document technology and ideas that can help.
Reengineering the Business Process
Back in the 1970’s all you had to do was to get behind the wheel of an
American automobile to know our manufacturing infrastructure was in trouble.
Across the ocean, Japanese engineers (under the guidance of American quality
guru, Edward Deming) began asking the question, “Could we produce a better
quality car and do it at a lower price?”
Japanese manufacturers began looking at the entire manufacturing process.
Where they found quality problems, they reengineered the process. By the time
they were done, they ended up creating better quality cars at a lower price.
Not too long after, American car companies caught on. At Ford, “Quality
Became Job One” and by the early 1990’s, American manufacturers had essentially
caught up and were using process reengineering concepts to create world class
It was at this time that Hammer and Champy came on the scene with a
revolutionary proposition: Could we take the same strategies we used on the
manufacturing floor and apply them to business processes? From this proposition,
they came up with the concept of Business Process Reengineering. They asked,
“Could we use enabling technologies to streamline the flow of information
through business processes?”
They had good timing. Their book, Reengineering the Corporation, was first
released in 1993, the same year the Internet came into common knowledge with
Netscape’s easy to use interface. The Internet and related technologies launched
a whole new world of possibilities.
To show how in touch Hammer and Champy are with our industry, look at the
following quote, “It is sobering to reflect on the extent to which the structure
of our business processes has been dictated by the limitations of the file
folder.” The authors go on to build a vision for how technology can be used to
improve business processes and deliver bottom line results.
Initially, the concept of reengineering swept through the Fortune 1000
organizations. This trend was a major driver in the technology boom of the
1990’s. Today, more and more small and medium sized businesses (SMB’s) have
been looking to the concepts of reengineering to streamline their operations.
Implications for Our Industry
Reengineering has several valuable implications for sales representatives and
1. Look at Your Client’s Business as a Group of Processes
It’s time to do more than just look at the copier in the breakroom. If we
want to add value to our clients, we need to understand their business
objectives and how their processes are either serving or hurting these
2. Uncover Business Process Problems
The goal of the sales representative is to engage the client in a discussion
of what happens from the time the process starts until it is finished.
3. Apply Document Management Technology to Improve These Processes
The goal of the sales representative is to answer how our technology can help
them solve these problems. When you tie the technology to a business problem,
you have truly created a solution. More importantly, you’ve created a
compelling reason for the client to say “yes” to your proposal.
Utilizing document Management Technology
Hammer and Champy give insight into how document management technology can
solve business problems.
1. From Sequential Steps to Concurrent Steps
First, document management technology enables sequential steps of a process
to happen concurrently, speeding up the overall process.
When information is captured on paper and stored in a folder, only one person
can use it at a time. Consequently, work involving this information tends to be
structured sequentially, with one individual completing his or her tasks, then
passing the folder to the next in line. Database technology (read Electronic
Document Management) changes this rule. It allows many people to use the
Document management and workflow technology can be employed to automate
processes. From capture technology that reads data off of scanned documents to
workflow systems that route documents through a process, we have technology that
can automate processes. The net result is faster, more predictable tasks that
require less human intervention.
3. Instant Distribution
Document routing technologies allow information to be pushed quickly through
business processes. From scan to e-mail to automated distribution to multiple
locations, electronic document distribution accelerates business processes.
Paper slows down processes by the time involved in searching for documents,
duplicating them and transmitting them. Document management technology provides
instant, simultaneous access to information across the organization and across
the Internet. This enables processes to happen faster.
As our industry evolves to becoming solutions-driven, Hammer and Champy’s
insights will prove to be an important key in our success, so I highly recommend
that you pick up the book. A note of caution though, Hammer and Champy are big
advocates of totally redesigning business processes and starting from scratch.
While this might be the ideal, most clients only want to use technology to
improve their existing process. Pushing a client to totally redo their business
processes often results in extended sales cycles and sometimes a lost deal. Make
sure you understand whether the client wants to tear down the house or if they
just want to do some redecorating.