If you want to transform the way your organisation works, the things it does and how it does them, there are any number ways of approaching it, but we feel the single most effective lever at your disposal is that of the information system, the MIS, the database, your CRM … whatever you want to call it.
If you control the information system, to a large extent you control the organisation.
If your information system can provide an optimum level of support for your business processes, your staff and stakeholders, if it can adapt to the changing needs of the organisation, then your organisation is free to act.
For your organisation to truly fire on all cylinders you need an information system that fits like a hand in a glove.
So much has been the case for the last 20 years …
So what’s new?
Two tides are flowing now which give the modern information system even greater potency – if your organisation can harness both it will lead to fortune.
They are workflow automation and web based self-service.
Workflow automation enables an organisation with disparate business processes and patchy data entry standards to ensure staff follow a common process and achieve a common standard of data entry and completeness. On the face of it, it sounds quite mundane, but the impact on service delivery is best illustrated by example.
Imagine an event booking system without workflow automation. Flustered Phil takes a conference booking call from Jan and enters it into the system. He’s not very familiar with the process, and forgets to take the caller’s email address and dietary requirements. The booking is picked up in the invoice run the following week, but Jan gets it late because the postcode was missing. Jan arrives at the conference to find the workshop she needs to attend costs extra and is full – plus she’s been fed shepherd’s pie when she’s a veggie. And she has to pay by personal credit card because her accounts team hasn’t processed the late invoice. She hates Phil and she’ll hate your organisation forever.
Now imagine the same scenrio with workflow automation. Phil is prompted to offer slots on all available workshops and take dietary requirements before he can confirm the booking. He must also enter Jan’s preferred contact method - if it’s by email, the email address is checked, if by post, the address is validated with the postcode. The order can’t proceed to invoice without successful validation, and the system tells Phil as much, and guides him through each step. It also prompts him to email or print and despatch the invoice, and take and record payment. It automatically emails/prints a remittance advice after payment.
Result – Jan prints directions from the email, she’s paid for everything in advance, the workshop was great, the butternut squash wasn’t bad either, and that chap Phil was so organised(!), and had a nice voice too. She’ll perhaps bring the Chief Exec next year.
The moral: with workflow automation, every booking is entered right and processed right. Payment is prompt. Customer satisfaction is far higher.
Imagine every business process in your organisations being defined, supported, and enforced – it really can revolutionise the way your organisation works.
And the best bit is you control all the steps and alerts yourself – it’s data.
Web based self-service
When we talk about web based self-service, we’re doing so in the context of web based information systems because that’s what we provide.
Imagine - a year on - you have an Infoworks web based information system. The bits your users see in it are determined by their security profiles – for example, a client profile could have rights to edit their own details and enter and pay for conference bookings, but without any of the more complex/admin facilities needed by you as a manager.
Now, as this is an Infoworks system, it will of course be simple and friendly enough for a member of the public to use, plus it will be styled to fit in with your corporate image.
That being the case, you would naturally make a link to this ‘spur’ of your information system available through your website – a web based self service.
And if you’ve benefitted from Infoworks CMS/CRM integration, your members/public users will be able to login to your website, engage with the blog, and seamlessly be logged in to the exposed spur of your CRM, such that they can enter and pay there and then for their own conference bookings.
Jan and the Chief Exec are impressed - the workshops, food, and payment are all done in five minutes online at their convenience. What used to be a bottleneck inside your organisation is now a fast and friendly service available outside it - you’ve come a long way in a year, you’re inside out. And Phil’s much calmer: he just works part time now, following up change requests and problem bookings.
The moral: the organisations who are able remove the boundary between inside and outside - i.e. those who expose the most and best web based self services - will be the ones we like most and engage with most deeply. They’ll have the competitive advantage.
It really is a jungle out there, but we think that organisations who can flow with both of these tides – those who can take advantage of workflow automation and also harness web based self service - will be the ones most likely to emerge as the winners - bigger, stronger and better organisations.