Far too often, organizations find themselves tied to inefficient, labor-intensive processes. Whether your end-users are stuck completing mindless and repetitive tasks, or they’re collecting data on paper (only to have to enter it in an archaic system in the office), it can make for a frustrating experience.
With advancements in technology, and GIS in particular, there is no reason to continue following manual, inefficient processes. There are several signs that a business process is just isn’t right for you anymore – see if any of them sound familiar.
End-users are experiencing difficulty
While this may be the most obvious sign that a process isn’t working, it’s often overlooked. When processes are complex or manual in nature, you’ll generally see end-users having difficulty completing their tasks and continually requiring assistance from the GIS department
This can slow down your workforce and bog you down with requests for assistance. One way to improve in this area is by simplifying the end-user experience; providing users with guided interactions makes for a much more pleasing experience and improves end-user success
You’re experiencing data integrity issues
Data integrity is an ongoing challenge in many organizations, and depending on the type of data being used, errors can have significant consequences. In many cases, poor data comes from using paper-based processes that are prone to transcription errors, or from not setting the proper parameters on the data being entered into an application.
At their core, GIS systems are about improving decision making. If your team doesn’t have proper information, they are not making properly informed decisions.
The best way to avoid this is to provide dedicated interfaces for data collection. Most technology will allow you to present only the data you require your field workers to collect, as well as set rules against the data being entered, to ensure it enters the system correctly. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to completely avoid data errors, but following best practices can reduce them significantly.
Your users are spending a lot of time searching for information across disparate systems
Most organizations house important business data across several different systems; there are financial systems, asset management systems, document management systems, business intelligence systems, and many more.
If these systems are not properly integrated, it can become difficult for your end-users to track down all the information they need. It can also waste time and money if your users need to jump between systems to find information.
This pain can be alleviated with proper integrations between systems. Try making all the necessary data – regardless of which system it lives in – available in the application being used to manage a process.
For example, if your end-users need to complete fire inspections on buildings, don’t make them jump to a separate zoning system to collect information about a particular building. Instead, consider integrating the zoning system within the inspection application, and automatically present the necessary zoning info at a stage in the process that makes sense.
You’re struggling to organize and present important information to other departments and stakeholders
One of the most common, and valuable, use-cases of a GIS is conveying information to people so they can make informed decisions. If you find that your users are spending many hours collecting and compiling information into reports, it may be time to revisit the process.
Besides the obvious repetitive, inefficient nature of manually compiling reports, it takes your users away from high-value activities. Labor is expensive and you want to ensure you’re getting the most out of the investments in your team… they’ll be happier doing more fulfilling work, too!
It all comes back to decision making – if people don’t have the information they need, when they need it, and in an easy-to-interpret format, they won’t be making properly informed decisions.
When building out processes, it’s important to start with the end in mind. Consider GIS technology that allows you to auto-generate reports in different templates. Start with a vision for the report you want in mind, then tailor data collection activities based on your goals.
So, it’s time to break up - what do you do now?
If your organization is experiencing any of the challenges described above, chances are it’s time to break up with your business process(es). But that’s a big decision to make, so what do you do next?
A good start is to shadow the people responsible for completing a particular process (if it’s not you). If you’re in the office supporting a process for a different department, you may not get a full sense of everything that’s involved. It’s good to get in the trenches with your staff and really get an understanding of what it is they have to do to complete their work.
You can also try drawing your workflow out on paper, from end to end. By thinking critically about the entire flow of a process you’re able to identify areas that are ripe for improvement. We often get so tied up in the day-to-day demands of our jobs that we miss tasks that are repetitive or unnecessary. There may be steps that can be automated with the right technology, or removed entirely. Until you see the full picture, it’s difficult to determine where to adjust.