1. Identified Immediate Needs: People who have identified pain in their organization.They know a solution exists, and they are actively looking to solve their problem. They are eager to spark a conversation and engage.
2. Identified Needs but Unaware of a Solution: People who know they have a problem and may have even searched for a solution in the past but have not identified or found anything that appears to solve the problem. These are difficult conversations to start. You really have to listen and try to get people to open up about what’s going on in their world. When you do, then you can determine if you might be able to identify their problems and, subsequently, if you can help them find solutions to their problems. If you can solve their problems, these people are then usually open to further dialogue.
3. Latent Need: People who have a problem, but they don’t even realize they have a problem. Since they don’t know they have a problem, they are not even looking for a solution. These are the toughest conversations— it’s almost like fishing or throwing mud up against the wall and hoping something sticks.
Oddly, I sometimes enjoy the conversations with people that fall into the third category, Latent Need, most. Maybe it’s because I like the challenge, or I find the responses from people fascinating when I speak to them.
Realizing Repetition Is Right Before Your Eyes
At a recent trade show, I had the fortune of running into a Latent Need person. A lady wandered up to our booth and asked me, “What do you guys do?”
I responded with our standard spiel: ”I work with CFOs, controllers and business owners to identify areas within your business where there are manual and repetitive processes. I then help determine if we can leverage our software to automate those processes, putting the cost savings from our automation either directly into your pocket or back into the company.”
She paused for a second and then retorted, “We don’t do anything manual or repetitive in our business.”
I responded,”Wow that’s great! So you already own software or have put systems in place that automate most of your processes?”
She looked at me almost cross-eyed and said, “No, we just simply do not do anything manual and repetitive. Everything we do is different.”
So I replied, “Do you run reports?”
“Yes,” she said
“Do you ever run the same report twice?”
”Of course. All the time,” she said.
To which I responded, “Hmmm…isn’t that a manual and repetitive exercise?”
A bit perplexed, she replied, ”Oh, I guess if you put it that way it sort of is.”
The moral of the story is that we all do manual and repetitive things whether we realize it or not. Am I saying that anything manual and repetitive is bad? No. In fact, there are some trivial manual things that we do that the cost and time to automate them would not be worthwhile.
With that said, when it comes to running reports, something that most all of us do, this is one area that actually takes up a lot more time collectively in most companies than many would think. Thus, if people are spending time and energy printing or previewing reports for no other purpose than to review them for anomalies or changes in key indicators, I would challenge them to rethink why they are doing this. I would further argue that it makes more sense to write a business rule that mimics what is trying to be done visually when we review the report (i.e. highlight issues). Then, with a simple business rule, the report can be automatically generated and sent to the reviewer when there is an exception. Since the report is only sent when there is an issue, the end user only spends time reviewing reports that demand further attention and action, saving time, energy and countless hours to boot.
Stop the Insanity
Automation is great, but in order to automate your businesses, you must first be able to identify what processes need automating. If you have your head in the sand—you’re either ignorant about how people are working or you’re simply in denial—then you’re going never going to be able to move the ball forward and improve your business processes.
A continual goal for me and my em
ployees is for us to work faster, smarter and more efficiently. It should be your goal as well. Albert Einstein said it best when he referred to insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I say, “Stop the insanity!” Don’t keep doing things the same way month after month simply because it’s the only way you know how or because it’s the way you’ve always done it.
My challenge for you until my next post is to start identifying things that could be improved. We’re not ready or looking to fix or solve anything yet. I’m merely asking you to take baby steps. Start by looking to gain some awareness of areas that might benefit from a little more automation.
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