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The Importance of a Business Workflow Process

Posted by Jon Ryan on Jun 27, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Business Workflow Process 1 resized 600As a small to medium business it is common that internal process workflow can many times get overlooked. Even though it’s an integral part to all businesses, having business workflows implemented and documented usually takes a back seat to other business operations. In most cases businesses will operate well enough without a defined workflow process. 

For the purposes of this article we define Business Workflow Process as an activity that is created through software or documentation with the intension of directing employee actions/activities into a defined and consistent process. So let’s look at some of the advantages of implementing a defined Business Workflow Process.

1. Defines Process and Drives ERP
If you currently don’t have business workflows setup for your company, there is no better time than now to start developing them. Creating workflows will help define your business processes and subsequently drive your ERP solution. Every business has an ERP solution even if it’s not contained in a single solution. 

Some ERP solutions have workflow processes built in. For those that don’t, companies must create their own through documentation or programs that have some kind of workflow capabilities. Microsoft SharePoint is many times used for creating workflow processes. ERP programs can also assist with workflow process creation by taking advantage of built in workflow features. Process workflow can also help determine what ERP solution would fit your business model.

2. Creates Structure
No two people do their job exactly the same, so to operate a business with a great deal of efficiency, the trick is to get them to work together fluently. Business workflow can be created down to the individual job level. This not only gives you control and insight into your business process, but also gives you security and consistency during employment turnover. Operating a business with a loose process structure can be costly when dealing with correcting errors and managing damage control. Every business should have a repository of process flow charts and workflow definition documents.

3. Enforces Policy
Business workflow processes can help enforce the policies of your business. You can direct users to refer to the workflow documentation for the proper process to follow. Within the workflow documentation be sure to reference specific policies within the process. This simple addition to your business model will help ensure your customers are treated in a consistent manner and increase your level of business process continuity.

Business Workflow Process 2 resized 6004. Is Transparent To Your Customers
Having a defined workflow process will enable you to better serve your customers. Aligning your business processes to the needs of your customers is a win-win solution. One of the business characteristics customers look for is confidence and consistency within a business. Simply put, if you are confident in your processes, your customers will be confident in you.

5. Helps Define Technology Needs
Defining a workflow process will allow you to review and compare it to your technology plan. Creating, or changing your process workflow can have a substantial effect on your IT infrastructure. Knowing ahead of time will help you budget for those changes.

While developing and implementing a process is important, defining your future workflow processes will also help you plan for your future technology needs as well. Try to work on a future process plan. Maybe it’s a wish list of improvements, or a plan to add additional users or steps in the process. Having clear sight of your future process workflows will help predict and plan for those changes.

6. Identifies Gaps in Business Process
Implementing a business workflow process forces each business to review their processes in fine detail. This exercise is a great way to find out what areas of workflow need work or are missing completely. I’ve assisted customers to create a complete workflow system starting with nothing. After discussing general workflow with management I interviewed department managers and created workflow documentation that was later reviewed and approved by management. This allowed the business to see the areas that lacked detail in process. Once we defined those areas, managers were able to “fill the gap” with new process documentation to give employees clear definition on process.

Whether you’re a large enterprise business or a small 20-user company, Business Workflow Process can help you become more efficient, and more profitable. To find out more about our consulting services that include Enterprise Resource Planning, IT Infrastructure Planning, and Process Workflow Management, contact NetWork Center, Inc. for more information.

Contact Us Today! 

 

Topics: technology training, business workflow process, technology consulting

Workplace Gaming Through Simulation Training

Posted by Sarah Jelinek on Jan 31, 2014 3:30:00 PM

Teamwork in the workplaceDo you allow workplace gaming in your company? I am not talking about everyone getting together to play Call of Duty or some other community game. Think more along the lines where employees can perform their job in a simulation where they and others can learn, evaluate and improve upon existing processes. 

How many times have you and your coworkers talked around the water cooler, coffee pot, or in a meeting about those odd situations that come up and you don’t know how to proceed. Or you hear from your coworkers on a regular basis that the process to get something done contains too many steps or is not clear?

You hear that one of the best ways to learn is to just ‘jump in the water and hope you can swim', but you run the risk of customer and employee dissatisfaction if something goes wrong. This is where workplace gaming can help educate your employees and improve customer satisfaction. So, how do you start?

Let’s look at a few examples of where this can be done. If you have people that provide customer service, you can simulate a situation with an upset customer, a happy customer, or the entire process from first contact to follow-up.

If you provide technical support, try to ‘break’ something. Have your employees try to fix it. This process can help refine troubleshooting skills by helping them identify the questions that need to be asked.

In a sales organization, you can run simulations from the most common sales process to the more unique and uncommon processes. 

Divide Your Employees Into Groups

It isn’t every person for themselves. This is where teamwork and brainstorming can really shine. By having your employees work in groups, they benefit from hearing others’ opinions and suggestions. 

Pick One Group to Lead The Simulation

This group can act as your customer or pick a process that needs to be completed. The other groups will complete the simulation. It may be helpful to advise them to think of ways to complete the process outside of the methods you have in place, or to “think outside of the box.” Once they are done, have each group present the method they used.

Discuss The Results

Many times you will find methods that will cut wasted time and provide better accountability and tracking. Employees will feel more empowered to find more ways to improve processes. 

brainstorm ideas at workFor example, during a training session for Microsoft Office Outlook, an employee was detailing how he handled scheduling in his department using the calendar in Outlook. During this discussion, other users started mentioning different scenarios they have encountered and wondered how it would be done. Many suggestions were put forth and then simulated in Outlook.

The end result of this session left everyone with a new, more efficient process for scheduling. They decided to move from having one person responsible to empowering all of the employees in that department to view and update a centralized schedule. They also found a way to make the appointments stand out that needed additional preparation or products ordered so everything was in place and ready when the appointment occurred. 

Our training department can help you facilitate these gaming or training sessions. Contact NetWork Center, Inc. today to learn more. 

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., technology training

Top 10 Reasons to Attend nVision 2013 Technology Conference

Posted by Jon Ryan on Nov 25, 2013 5:03:00 PM

nVision 2013 technology conferenceIf you haven’t decided whether or not you’re attending our nVision Technology Conference this year, here are 10 reasons why you should:

#1 Discuss "Future of Technology"

Meet other IT leaders and business owners from the area and learn more about the Future of Technology. Find out how they have leveraged new technology in order to prepare for the future.

#2 Keynote Speakers from the area’s Top IT Leaders

Attend keynote sessions from 3 of the area’s top companies through the eyes of their IT Leaders. Is your company on the same track for success?

#3 Learn about Next Generation Network Security

Learn about current and future network security trends, and what new technologies are on the horizon to secure your network.

#4 Get Inside the Mind of a Hacker

Find out why hackers target business and how you can protect your intellectual property and other corporate assets. Discover what hackers want, how to keep them out, where they come from, what motivates them and what your best defenses are against them.

#5 Lost in the Cloud?

Get the real information about cloud services and see what’s right for you. Join us to learn more about what “the cloud” means, how our customers are using it, and the decisions that drove them to leveraging the cloud for their business.

#6 Heard of CryptoLocker?

It’s here and hitting companies left and right. Find out what you can do to protect yourself from the data crippling CryptoLocker, the latest in Ransomware.

#7 HIPAA and IT

Are you in compliance? Compliance with government regulations is a priority for healthcare, financial and government organizations. Find out what’s important and what it takes to keep you in compliance.

#8 Mobility 101 - What you Need to Know

Are you managing your mobile task force of devices? Learn how to keep control of your company data when it leaves your office through mobile devices.  

#9 B2B Communication in a Mobile World

It’s not just about checking your email remotely anymore. Now it’s about running an Enterprise level business from the palm of your hand. Find out how to maximize your productivity through mobility.

#10 Network with other Regional Companies

nVision provides a great atmosphere to discuss current topics and technologies with other business people in the area. Meet new people and make connections with other companies from the area.

Experience the excitement and networking opportunities as industry leaders talk about the future of technology and what it means for your business at the 2013 nVision Technology Conference! Register today by click on the register button below. 

Register for nVision 2013

 

nVision 2013 agenda

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Mobility, technology training, Cloud computing

Dynamics CRM 2013 is on the Horizon!

Posted by Derik Bormann on Aug 2, 2013 6:12:00 PM

CRM keyThe newest release of Dynamics CRM (officially named Dynamics CRM 2013) is fast approaching and is slated for release in Q3/Q4 2013. CRM 2013 represents a major shift for the Dynamics CRM platform. It is shifting to a more process centric application. This shift will provide a unified experience across all platforms, including mobile. I wanted to take a few moments and provide a quick overview on some of the key changes that are coming.

Updated User Experience

The biggest change you will see with 2013 is that the user experience has been updated. In December, Microsoft rolled out the Polaris update to its online customers. This provided us with a small preview of what can be expected in CRM 2013. Navigating the application will be much easier and organizations will be able to take full advantage of the new business processes designer. The Command bar at the top of the application allows users to quickly navigate across multiple entities while staying in-line on the current record. 

CRM 2013 Features Overview

ACRM 2013 Screen Shots mentioned above, the biggest change with CRM 2013 is the move from an action driven application to process driven. This change will allow organizations to build their business practices directly into the application and have users easily navigate these processes from a central screen. CRM 2013 has many additional features that will support this functionality. 

Some of these features include:

  • Defining multiple processes per entity for greater customization (including custom entities).
  • Switching to different business processes on a record as it evolves.
  • Assigning business processes based on user roles.
  • Stage categories can link process stages across multiple business processes.
  • Business processes can span multiple entities.
  • Business processes available on mobile clients.
  • Process progress can be tracked.
  • Process definitions can be exported/imported across deployments.
  • The UI has changed to better support this process-centric experience.
  • Users can create new records or navigate to other entities directly from a business process.

Additional Items to Note

While the business process changes and the new UI are the two biggest changes you will see with CRM 2013, that is just the top level. There have been major changes to almost every area of the application. 

mobile CRM 2013Below I have listed just a few of the major changes to look for:

  • Auto Save: The Auto-Save introduced in Polaris has been enhanced in CRM 2013. 
  • Mobile Support: Expanded Mobile Access including: Windows, IOS, and Android.
  • Server Side Sync: Direct server-to-server syncing of e-mails, tasks, appointments, and contacts. 

As the rollout gets closer in the coming months, I will highlight specific options in greater detail. If you have any questions (upgrade paths and so on) please contact us to discuss this further.

Contact NetWork Center, Inc. 

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Microsoft Dynamics CRM, technology training

Finding the Right Fit for Employee Training

Posted by Sarah Jelinek on Jul 5, 2013 5:11:00 PM

blended learning word cloudWhen you explore training options for your company, you will find there are a variety of training methods. With so many options, it begs the question: “Which one do I choose?” Who says you have to choose just one? Each method has advantages over the other. Let’s explore some of the options and how they can work for your employees:

Instructor Led Training

This method has been popular since preschool and kindergarten. We have all had a teacher or instructor lead a class and deliver courseware, curriculum or training to those in attendance. It is how we all started to learn. This method includes different types of training such as classroom, on-line group training, video conferencing and on the job coaching. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type:

instructor led trainingClassroom 

This type of training is developed quickly, easy to revise and offers face-to-face contact. It does offer difficulties with scheduling and travel costs if you have attendees traveling from other locations. Also, each class has the potential to be different based on the dynamic of the people in attendance.

On-line Group Training

Similar to classroom training, on-line group training can be developed quickly. An advantage over classroom training is there are no travel costs for the instructor or the attendees. On-line group training does not offer face-to-face contact and does require computer equipment for all attending and the instructor.

Videoconferencing

The type also includes video/on-line training as well. It is a preferred option for people that need to support large groups of attendees across multiple sites. Travel costs may possibly be eliminated as well. Videoconferencing may provide a challenge for logistics and equipment costs but with advancing technology, there are many vendors that offer affordable solutions.

On the Job Coaching

This is the most effective type of training in regards to knowledge transfer as it is related to the trainee’s job and allows for face-to-fact contact. Similar to classroom training, it can differ from session to session and instructor to instructor. It is also costly in terms of instructor-to-trainee ratio.

learning key with booksSelf-Directed Training

This is a method that continues to grow in momentum. It is very accommodating for companies that do not want to deal with scheduling conflicts for attendees. Trainees also do not need to worry about keeping pace with others in class. This method includes types such as all on-line training, web-based training, printed material and CD-ROM/DVD.

All On-Line Training

Convenience is one of the major advantages as it not only allows attendees to set their own pace but also provides convenient access to the training.  The training is consistent every time and can be reused.  This type of training requires computer equipment and can require longer development time.

employee training optionsWeb-Based Training

Web-based training is one of the easier types of training to modify. Depending on the trainee’s equipment and connectivity, limited bandwidth may cause slow download times.

Printed Material

There is nothing like turning a page in a book. Printed material provides portability to the reader. Electronic versions of the material provides even more portability with the popularity of e-readers, tablets and smartphones. Trainees can set their own pace with material that can be developed quickly. Some trainees might find it less interesting due to no interaction and it can be difficult to modify. Many find it is a great supplement to other training types.

CD-ROM/DVD

Similar to all self-directed training types, this delivery type offers consistent training where trainees control the pace. They can also share copies with others. It can be difficult to modify, costly to develop and requires appropriate playback equipment.
 

This is a small assortment of options available to you when finalizing training for your employees. Everyone has their own opinion on which method they like best or find is the most effective for them to learn. Our training department can help you find the right method or combination of methods that fit best for your learning goals. We can also assist in the development and deployment of training for your company. Contact us today to find out more.

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., technology training

Get the Most Out of Your Employees - By Training Them

Posted by Sarah Jelinek on Apr 26, 2013 4:57:00 PM

Technology trainingOn a recent flight, I had the opportunity to sit across the aisle from a gentleman that was working on his laptop. He powered it on and proceeded to open Microsoft Excel and a workbook. I did not look at his worksheet or the details but instead at how he was moving within the application.

As an instructor, I demonstrate the most efficient ways for users to get their job done using software, hardware or soft skills. I analyze how a user currently works in the system or what they need to get done and find a method that works best for them. In the example of this individual, I came to a disappointing conclusion.

Technology failed this gentleman. He finished inputting his data into the worksheet and then pulled out a calculator to add up the numbers he just finished entering. Then he typed the total from his calculator into the worksheet. He entered the same numbers twice into two different tools and doubled the amount of time it took to get the job done.

He was only doing what he knew and was trying to get his job done. He was either untrusting or unaware of the powerful analytical functions of Excel. One of the first things we show users in Excel is how to enter data and how to perform simple calculations like adding or averaging numbers.

How did technology fail this gentleman? What could be done to ensure he gets the most efficient use of the tools provided to him? The answer is clear:

Training

Training

It shows great perseverance when someone takes on a task without any help or guidance and gets the job done. However, if they continue to do this job in an inefficient manner, in the long run, he or she will end up losing more time and money than it would have cost for training.

Some think they do not need to attend training. Many times these people attend a class and are surprised to find they do learn something new. Whether it be a new feature of the software or a more efficient process.

I know what you are thinking, here come the arguments as to why you cannot implement training in your organization.  I am going to take your doubts and arguments and refute them.  Let’s use Microsoft Office training as an example:

I can’t afford to send my employees to training.

It depends on how you deliver or offer the training to your employees. If you plan to send them to a conference in Hawaii for a week, then yes it will be expensive. NetWork Center, Inc. can come to your office or place of business and deliver training to your employees onsite.  We can also deliver training remotely using an online meeting tool. Teneo Online Learning is also a valid and cost effective option.

I can’t send everyone to training, the needs of my customers come first.

I completely agree with you in regards to your customers’ needs always coming first. Many of our classes are in shorter increments of 2-4 hours. We can run the same session multiple times a day to ensure that you are adequately staffed. We can deliver custom training sessions that cover only the topics that apply to your business so the time in training is used wisely.

We don’t have enough time in the day to allocate 2-4 hours for a class.

This is where Teneo Online Learning will help your organization. You and your users can pick the topics you want to cover. You can then watch those topics in training videos that range anywhere from 2-7 minutes long and view them as many times as you need to. With tip sheets that provide step-by-step instructions, you are able to not only read how to do something in Microsoft Office, but also see it in action.

If you have any questions or concerns about how to incorporate training in your organization, contact our training department at NetWork Center, Inc. 

Contact Us Today!

 

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., technology training

Mentoring Your Employees to Maximize Your Investment on Training

Posted by Derik Bormann on Mar 22, 2013 5:08:00 PM

Mazimize training resized 600There is an old saying that goes something like, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” As an instructor, I think it is safe to say that I disagree with the second part of that statement. I think that by phrasing the statement differently we can improve our organizations learning effectiveness by leaps and bounds.

I like to look at that initial statement this way, “Those who can, mentor. Those who don’t know, attend training.”

Classroom or large group training generally provides one of two things:

1. A foundation that the learner then has the opportunity to build from.

2. A different approach or technique to expand on previous skills.

Good training will provide learners with the knowledge and skills to begin to apply it in the “real world”.  But it is the experiences they have after the training (successes, failures, etc.) that will ultimately mold the person and determine their path.

IT training FargoIn order to build on the skills learned and achieve maximum success, learners need to be mentored and coached.  This sounds simple enough, but it is routinely overlooked or forgotten over time. To ensure long term success, your organization must make mentoring part of your daily practice.  You don’t need to be an instructor to be effective in this; you need to have knowledge to pass on and the ability to help learners apply their knowledge in different situations to become self-sufficient.

You'll find good mentors:

  • Are approachable, provide trusted suggestions, and have experience to provide useful tips or suggestions.  
  • Create an environment that encourages people to ask for help.  Their suggestions should help leaners to move forward.
  • Mentor people so they arrive at the answer on their own. People commit items to memory faster when they are fully engaged in a task, and are stepping slightly out of their comfort zone. If their mentor is always giving them the answer or doing it for them, they are not growing or expanding their skills. Mentors should work to provide them with options or recommend resources.
  • Don't assume the situation is like others the mentor has encountered in the past. They listen to what the learner is saying to find out the specific needs of the person who is seeking your assistance. 
  • Give their full attention and provide personalized responses to questions. Good mentors listen for what people are not saying verbally.

Training Key resized 600Remember your ultimate goal is to help make your employees self-sufficient. You want to give them the tools needed to expand their knowledge beyond the initial training. Assist employees by supplying a process they can follow to build on their own skills.

If your organization has good mentoring practices, your training will become more effective, and your employees will become more effective faster. NetWork Center can help to supply your employees with the initial tools, skills, and techniques needed to start becoming better mentors, as well has help you to mentor employees along the way. If you would like to hear more about non-IT training services, please feel free to contact us. We would love to assist you. And always remember “Those who can, mentor. Those who don’t know, attend training. Those who train, are rock stars.” – Derik Bormann 

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., technology training

Microsoft Dynamics CRM New Sales Process User Interface

Posted by Derik Bormann on Jan 31, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Dynamics CRM Customer Relationship ManagementAs I mentioned in a previous post, Microsoft recently released a major update to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in December. There were several major changes to the application including Multi Browser Support, Skype Integration, and Bing Map Support. Over my next several posts, I will introduce you to many of these new features. In this post I want to cover what I consider to be the biggest change to the interface.   

As part of this release, Microsoft has included a new way to work through the sales process. In past versions the sales process was a more of a background process that happened behind the scenes through workflows. With this release, the user interface will now guide users through the process of identifying leads and all other steps to marking a deal as won.

Users enter information right in the forms. There are no popup windows to launch. As users enter more information, the system will respond by guiding them to the next logical stage in the sequence (if needed, you can customize the sequence to suit your business needs).

The new forms will show you all tasks in a logical sequence. The pages are organized to make things easier to find. The text, layout, and controls now have a new look on every form, aiming to make things easier to read.

What else has changed?

  • Process control: When you create a new lead or opportunity, you’ll see a process flow across the top of the page. The process flow organizes tasks under stages labeled Qualify, Develop, Propose, and Close. As you click these stages, you’ll see key tasks with data fields organized beneath them.
  • Inline editing. Forms will now behave slightly different than in the past. To edit a piece of data, just click it (or tap it on a touch-enabled device).
  • Auto-save. As you edit information on a form, it saves your changes automatically after a certain period of time. If you close the form or click a button in the command bar, your changes will be saved automatically.
  • Duplicate detection. Duplicate detection is handled less invasively.
  • Editable process. Anyone with permissions to do so can change the sales process to display different stages, steps, and fields. You can do this at any time, and it can be done without software development resources.

Customer Relationship ManagementWith the current release, you have the option to install Product Updates that offer significant improvements to the user experience in the sales and customer service processes. Even though you’ll get some features in this release automatically, the sales and service process forms come only through Product Updates.

While the new user interface designs are more intuitive, easier to navigate, and more efficient to use than previous designs, they are very different from what you are accustomed to. With that in mind, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with them before putting it into your live environment.  It might be a good idea to sign up for a trial and assess whether the changes will work for your organization. Once you are familiar and satisfied with the new process forms you can install the product updates and enable them in your organization. Below are the steps for doing this in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment.

  1. Install the product updates in your own production organization.
  2. You may need to migrate any customizations you have made to the new forms.
  3. Enable new Forms
    1. Click Settings, click Administration, and then click Product Updates.
    2. Click Enable the New Forms.
    3. Click Yes.

After you have installed the updates, you should consider training the people who will use the system on how the changes will affect their work. We have two trainers on staff that are very familiar with the new changes and can assist you as needed. If you have any questions or would like some guidance please don’t hesitate to contact us.

In my next post I will introduce you to the new Skype and Bing Maps Microsoft Dynamics CRM Integration.

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Microsoft Dynamics CRM, technology training

Using Blended Learning to gain a Competitive Advantage

Posted by Derik Bormann on Oct 23, 2012 8:42:00 AM

blended learning approachI have been a technical trainer for nearly 14 years now. For most of my career, the classes and solutions I have been a part of were classroom training. In addition, most were reactive and focused on a product or policy.  This “Reactive Training” worked at the time, but it did not provide companies with a proactive solution to increase productivity and reduce errors. It was a means to ensure past issues did not occur again.   

Because this is the typical approach used, training is often one of the first causalities when the economy turns. It’s hard to justify spending money in that manner when there are others areas it could be spent. I have found the opposite is actually true. When used to enforce good proactive policies, training increases productivity, limits costly mistakes, and provides a solid foundation on how your company expects to conduct business. Since many industries now face regulations and restrictions, instructing your employees early and often is critical.  In addition, an effective training program can become one of your biggest advantages over your competition.

blended learning technologyTo maximize the effectiveness of your training content, it is important to utilize various learning options available. The most effective way is often to develop a “Blended Learning” solution for your organization. Blended Learning is identifying how the learning audience can achieve mastery and improve business performance. By using this approach, you can incorporate the best methods based on the item being taught.  


The key to effective Blended Learning is to set goals, use analysis, and planning tools to find the optimal blend of learning tools to achieve maximum results. A successful blended learning solution is a compromise between several factors:

  • Business and performance objectives
  • Ways groups of learners learn best
  • Ways material is best individualized, presented, and learned
  • Available resources that support learning, training, business, and social activities
  • Capabilities for access, interaction, and social relationships

I will discuss in future posts specifically designed solutions to consider when developing a blended learning plan. Before you can implement those items, it is important to spend time effectively analyzing and planning several factors to maximize your success. Some items you should consider include:

  • Identify and analyze audience, organization, learning, and system requirements
  • Keep a catalog of available resources that support learning and training activities
  • Involve stakeholders in analysis, planning, implementing, testing and evaluation
  • Use a reiterative analysis and planning process
  • Provide criteria and evaluate the blended learning, performance outcomes, instructional products, and performance
  • Factor in local requirements

blended learning IT
There are many other factors that can and should be considered when developing a learning strategy for your entire organization. If you would like to learn more about blended learning options, please drop us a line. We would love to help you as you move forward.  

Contact Us Today!

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., technology training

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