The road to success: finding the bottlenecks in your process

“Where can we make the greatest impact?” It’s a question that sets you off in the right direction when automating your processes. Once you have selected a problem or process to start with, you need to get all your stakeholders on board.

After all, you want your co-workers, customers and/or suppliers to quickly see the added value of the application you wish to make. To achieve this, addressing the biggest bottleneck helps you to create support for your digitalization endeavors.

Reveal the bottleneck: get to the root of the problem

Where does it often go wrong in your process? What action costs a lot of time? What is a major point for improvement? Usually, it is necessary to keep asking questions for a while. So go out and do interviews and create a brainstorm session, to reveal a key bottleneck within your process.

Moreover, it is important to align opinions on the subject matter: three people may have three different answers to the same question, as they might experience a process differently.

Once you’ve decided on a major bottleneck, it’s time to focus on the ‘how’ and ‘why:’ How do you carry out the process and why do you do so in this particular way? By asking these types of questions, you discover the root of the problem.

This allows you to look for a solution. Remember that the most logical one isn’t always the best option. So, join forces and brainstorm away to figure out what solution best fits your organization.

An example: on-boarding new employees

Is the above still a bit abstract? Here’s a practical example: the on-boarding process of new employees. Usually, this process starts in the HRM department when a vacancy is posted. Once a new employee has been selected, certain actions need to be completed before he or she can start working for the company: a new laptop and cell phone must be arranged, and the new employee will need their own account to access the company’s data.

Multiple people and multiple departments are involved in the process, and any delays cause the entire chain to stagnate. If, for example, the new account is requested through email, it ends up on a large pile, where it is bound to be forgotten. This can be a major bottleneck.

Now, if you build an application to control and monitor the process, that automatically sends reminders and forwards the process to the next person responsible upon completion of each step, you will instantly see a huge improvement – in terms of both speed and efficiency!

Steps towards determining the happy flow

If you want to jump on the digitalization train, you will quickly find that it’s key to define your own process before turning it into an application. An effective way to do this is by asking the right questions. In this new blog series, we will guide you through this process step by step – starting with the happy flow!

What is a happy flow?

What does your process look like when everything goes the way it should? If you answer this question, you will get grip on the core of your process. We call this the happy flow. This is the most important thing to know about your process because it will keep your initial digitalization project small, completed on time and it will prevent loads of double work. But how to go about it?

#1 Start at the end

If you first describe the end – or, the desired outcome – of a process, it’s much easier to define its starting point as well. The end result could be a quote or a document of approval. The next step is the starting point. The latter can be an employee taking initial action, a customer submitting a request, or a supplier specifying a certain need, for example. Whatever the specifics of your situation may be, it’s important to first determine your end result and starting point, respectively.

#2 Determine the in-between steps

Now, it’s crucial to keep asking questions about the process, so you can fill in the gaps and reveal the in-between steps. By doing so you visualize both the happy flow and the exceptions in your process. The easiest way is to use a whiteboard or a notebook, so it’s easy to connect the dots and visualize your process.

#4 Components of the happy flow

There’s no need to do this chronologically; simply jot down every step or action you believe to be standard and important to the process.

#5 Exceptions

Whenever you feel that you’re describing an exception rather than a rule – for example, a step that’s only relevant if the amount involved exceeds 10.000 euros – you simply write them down on the exceptions list, you will need them in another stage.

#6 Create the entire flow

Once you’ve distilled all the standard important process steps, list them chronologically on a piece of paper. That’s your happy flow: a useful overview that provides insight into your process. This will serve as the framework for the first version of the application you want to create. When this application is tested and approved you can decide if and where you want to add steps from the exceptions list.

Curious about other important questions you should be asking? In other blogs, we’ll tell you how to use this approach to reveal the bottle necks.

Applying the right mindset

The last time I went skiing was about 20 years ago. Skis were a lot different back then, than they are now. You had to have skis that were at least as long as you are tall.

And if you were a good skier, you would have skis that were way longer than you are tall yourself. So, you can imagine my surprise when I went skiing again after many years? A lot has changed.

Hardware has changed

There are many differences between the hardware I used 20 years ago, and the hardware used today. Skis used to be longer and straight while today skis are curved and much shorter. These changes in hardware offer more possibilities.

When I first learned how to ski, the epitome of what you could achieve was called ‘wedeln’: making short parallel turns. With today’s hardware this is still possible, however, more options are available such as carving for example.

There are even more types of skis, specific to the desired technique, from race carve to off piste skiing.

Adjusting to the new

Ultimately it comes down to the skier, who has to adjust to these new possibilities. The new techniques require the skier to use their body differently. But the old techniques are also still available.

I guess most skiers have adjusted over the years, step-by-step. For me, it was a huge adjustment because everything had changed. It took me a while to get these new techniques down.

My first years in software

This whole experience reminded me of my first years in software. Today’s hardware and software provide a lot more options than when I first started out. However, getting the most out of these new options requires a different approach.

Cloud computing for example, provides many advantages over the older on premise solutions. They do require a completely different mindset towards IT and software – something that doesn’t always happen.

So ask yourself: am I applying the same mindset to today’s IT and software as I was 10 to 20 years ago?

What you can learn from a tiny European country

One of the most persistent prejudices around is that governments, both local as well as national, implement changes at an excruciatingly slow pace. Not because a government does not desire change but because, not unlike large companies, governments tend to get limited by legacy.

Things have been “going the way they are” for such a long time that change requires more than just a new process. Still, there is an example out there that defies this prejudice: Estonia. Yes, this tiny country sets the example for both governments as companies.

Nicknamed E-stonia, this country has only been an independent republic since 1991 and since then, has set high goals in terms of market liberalization. To facilitate this, successful digitalization was a key pillar in their strategy. Let’s take a closer look at their approach and what organizations can learn from it.

Combining services

Estonia has a view on their citizens that many companies can take as an example. The government is there to make life easier. Its job is to facilitate the inhabitants of Estonia in their personal, as well as their business life. To achieve all this, the country has implemented Government as a Service

One of the examples is their national ID card. It is not only a means of identification. It is, among other things, a public transport card, health insurance card, way to do your taxes and sign digital documents. You can use it to start a company, vote, take care of inheritances and so on. And before you say, “I can use my ID card for many of those things too”, all the before mentioned actions, are possible or manageable online.

In terms of activities or services you need the government for, you can arrange 99% online. In order to get married, though, you still need to leave the house.

Think of what this would mean for a company. Providing your customer with a way to skip long waits by making relevant information available to them. You empower the customer and come across as a customer friendly organization at the same time.

Facilitating citizens

Estonia has certain principles that the government has to live by. For example, they can only ask for certain information once. When a citizen has provided the information to (a branch of) their government, the different branches need to first ask for the info internally, before they can bother a citizen with it. This principle, in which they put their “customer” first, in the end, prevents double work for the government as well as the inhabitants.

Companies, when looking at their own processes should also always think from a customer’s perspective when digitalizing. This might not be the easiest route but, as E-stonia proves, it is a highly effective one.

Author: Dagmar Ingelse

Guest blog – Digital logistics doesn’t require IT!

Coordinating processes better without extra pressure on IT: it is possible. And supply chain management employees who act as a link between managers, suppliers, procurement, and other parties involved want to know how. Because it will save time- and costs, and boosts their efficiency.

As a Distribution Supplier Manager, I figured that a hassle-free software solution would do the trick for me. And it did, which I’d like to elaborate on in this blog!

Digitalizing inbound and outbound processes

On a daily basis, I am dealing with a variety of stakeholders. Reporting to managers, optimizing processes, informing suppliers, and ensuring that suppliers keep me up to date: it is all part of the job. Coordinating all the inbound and outbound processes involved in supply chain management, however, is no mean feat. So working with the right applications is paramount for me.

Flexibility and speed are essential characteristics of a software solution, and what I don’t want are months-long IT processes that slow down everything and beat down creativity.

The answer? Triggre. Since we’ve started using it, we are able to see virtually all of the parcels that we receive on a day-to-day basis, which we can translate to a better planning. Moreover, we can instantly check the purchase orders we received, which allows us to determine what products need to be cross-docked immediately.

With respect to outbound processes, Triggre has also made our work a lot easier. For example, by helping us classify and disclose all the shipping requirements by country and product, so every employee can ship products at the end of the day.

Naturally, all of this has resulted in a major advantage: happier, satisfied customers.

Trigger efficiency!

In my case, Triggre has proved that the right software can help me track and trace any purchase order, thus allowing us to create an efficient planning. I had been looking for flexible, easily adaptable, and hassle-free software for quite a while, and Triggre has provided the solution – by triggering and promoting efficiency with regard to our processes!

Guest Author: Adrie Dore

Guest blog – From scratch to finish in no time: stopping the ‘IT drag’

Every good solution starts with a brilliant idea. So if you have inspiration for a new software solution that will make your life easier, the last thing you want is the infamous ‘IT drag’ to spoil the fun. Stretched-out development stages, pompous IT talk, and constant hardware and software upgrades pose limitations to your creativity and efficiency. What you want – and need – is to realize your ideas in no time, so you can start benefiting from software without the hassle.

As an IT consultant, I am well aware of all this. Finding the right (software) solution, however, proved to be difficult.

That is, until I got acquainted with Triggre. In this blog, I would like to tell you about my experience with software creation minus the ‘IT drag.’ It has made my life – and that of the IT department – a whole lot easier!

From healthy skepticism to convincing test case

I will be honest with you. When Triggre first told me that it could provide us with cloud solutions which did not require any programming knowledge, I was as skeptical as I was curious. I invited them over, they explained their concept, and I took on the challenge of gaining a better understanding of their platform. Their test case surprised me: I was able to build an application faster than ever before. I went from scratch to finish in no time – hassle-free. It was an IT consultant’s dream. Triggre’s promises were not empty, and I was sold.

Working faster and more efficiently with Triggre’s tools

Today, our company is happily using several applications, such as an asset tool, a Harmonized Tariff code application, an Inbound Routing Guide, and an Outbound Routing Guide. The latter – which calculates transportation costs, additional costs like fuel, and ETA – deserves a special mention; it has eliminated over 20 Ms Access databases that had been created over a period of more than 20 years! With its ability to provide automated emails, alerts, and live reporting for management, it has allowed our employees to work faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. In due time, we will definitely introduce this ingenious application at a global level.

Flexible and carefree: even for IT!

Briefly put, I am happy with Triggre. Our greatest gain is that we can now make changes in no time. And we never have to worry about hardware or software upgrades again!

Guest author: John L’Espoir

Hassle-free software creation: join the new movement!

A new movement is gaining ground in the business community, and it is based on one simple question: How can I make software without IT? People who understand processes should be able to roll up their sleeves and implement their ideas without having to walk the beaten IT path before getting tangible results. Their creativity should not be limited, so they will be more willing to innovate. In short, businesses want to be in control when it comes to software creation; and rightly so.

Today, virtually every company needs IT to provide a way to disclose core systems. For example, communicating with the ERP system used should be a breeze. To achieve this in a hassle-free way, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and managers alike should ask three key questions.

1. How can I take the hassle out of IT?

Cloud solutions ensure that you are completely unburdened, as they eliminate the well-known hardware and software hassles. If you want to be a part of the digital revolution, you need a solid cloud solution. Triggre will provide you with the entire cloud stack, which includes everything you require to run a web application in the cloud: from a server all the way down to the database software. This means that you can stop worrying about essential IT concerns such as security and data traffic, which are included. Instead, you can immediately start with the fun part: creating your own software, hassle free!

2. Which conditions should I set?

If you opt for a cloud solution, you should first assess what you need. In-house knowledge is not required – you can ‘outsource’ that part to your cloud solution provider – but it is important to have an ability to adjust where necessary. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try to learn from every initiative, so you can improve over time. This often requires a shift in your company culture, but it is definitely worth it.

3. What kind of talent do I need?

 Business creatives who have a firm grasp of processes are indispensable. They are the ones who will take initiative, experiment, and come up with fresh ideas without having a fear of failure. In doing so, they will bring your employees closer together and provide what you need to survive as a business. It is important to realize that tomorrow’s team does not consist of all the people you work with today. If you want to innovate through software creation, you need to sketch a picture of what your business should look like in the (near) future and attract the right talent!

Digital revolution: grab the opportunity and boost effectiveness

‘Digital revolution’ is a hot topic, especially for B2B companies. With the introduction of industry 4.0, increasingly more machines have been connected. But how can you capitalize this in terms of business?

Why bother about the digital revolution?

Suppose you are a supplier and your machines provide you with very valuable data. If you have the right software which can read out this data, you will be able to analyze it and predict how your machines will behave. This, in turn, means that you will be able to create effective maintenance and earning models as well as combine all data to serve your customers better – objectives that virtually all businesses aim to achieve.

To give you a clear picture of the importance of the digital revolution, we listed its three key advantages for you below. These explain why you should join ‘the movement!’

1. Zero touch

Basically, this means that you need less employees and can work more efficiently with the ones you do have as a result of automation. As the banking industry currently demonstrates, running your business with less people gives you the opportunity to work leaner, smarter, and faster. Once you digitalize your processes, the employees you hire will only be cream-of-the-crop people who can greatly improve their efficiency because automation supports them.

Additionally, don’t underestimate the benefit of empowering your customers: they demand to organize more things independently, and expect transparency on everything.

2. Improved planning and control cycles

The fact that machines, vehicles, and equipment yield data is very interesting, especially to industrial branches. Production lines and factory processes offer a wealth of data, which should be given a place in the digital landscape. If, for example, you send the data retrieved from systems and equipment to an ERP system, you can improve your planning of maintenance and control. This will ensure that you can close better, more cost-effective deals.

3. Digital business models

Say, you are selling agricultural machinery or maybe raw materials. In the old days, you would set up an office and hire great sales people to get on the road and meet your targets. However, things are different in this day and age. The majority of your prospects is aware of online information on prices. They will opt for a time saving way of purchasing, for example via their own customer portal.

So, how do you attract and convert new leads? You will need to create new, smart business models and develop digital tools to retrieve useful information from your online (sales) data.

What we are saying is: embrace the digital revolution. Use it for your business by gaining the insights you need, and you will be able to realize a significant boost!

Towards modern digitalization in three steps

It is safe to say that ‘digital enterprise’ has become a buzzword. At Triggre, we have noticed that increasingly more organizations are wondering how to digitalize their business models. Their key question: where should I start?

Digitization versus digitalization

First, let’s make an important distinction. A lot of things that business do may be digitized, but are not digitalized. Whereas digitization mostly refers to scanning paperwork and emailing it to others as Excels or PDFs, digitalization encompasses the process involving data that can be read out using a system. The latter is the more interesting of the two. So, what steps would you need to take to get there? The three steps listed below will get you off to a good start!

1. Data and ERP: let them communicate

Many companies have an ERP system in place. The main goal is to ensure some form of interaction with it. For example, if you have a website where customers can place an order, or if you own a machine-filled factory, you need to establish a link to your ERP system. To this end, you should ask yourself how you can best organize it and make it scalable. The point is that you need to do something with the data provided to you – be it by customers, suppliers, or machines.

2. Processes? Make them leaner!

If you need to deploy less tools, you will require less people and be more scalable. However, you will probably not want to start major replacement processes, as you have a lot on your plate and merely twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, it is crucial to improve by taking up one initiative at a time. Once you have successfully completed it, you can move on to the next one.

By working on processes in such short intervals, those involved will be able to witness how digitalization can help your company move forward. Consequently, you will grow efficiently, and everyone will be on board every step of the way.

3. It all starts with you (that is, your company)

If digitalization is your goal, you should come up with an internal process to deal with it. Your company needs a structure and company culture that support the quick development, testing, and going live of digital initiatives. Lean agility and speed are indispensable in this regard.

Lastly, keep in mind that you don’t have to be running a corporate to establish these things. Medium-sized business are increasingly preoccupied with digitalization. Today, it is relevant to everyone!

Going paperless the right way

The paper leave process

When we first started our company we didn’t have any employees. But soon the first employee started, and with it came the administration of leave. Of course, this had to neatly be registered and agreed upon by management. So we created an Excel sheet that people could use to fill in their leave requests. The sheet automatically took into account weekends and holidays and it calculated the remaining number of vacation days for a person.

Employees would fill in their hours, print it and sign it. Then a manager would also sign it. The document would then be scanned and archived and the employee would also receive a copy of that scan by mail. Pretty cumbersome …

The good

This paper process took care of all the important aspects of a leave administration:

  • Requests were agreed upon by managers and employees
  • Managers could easily check that the number of (remaining) vacation days was correct
  • We had an administration of requests, and the granting of those requests

The bad

While the process had it’s pros, it definitely also had it’s cons:

  • Employees with ill-intent could remove granted vacation days in the past and re-use them
  • Printing, signing and scanning took a relatively long time
  • The process consumed ridiculous amounts of paper for what it achieved

How NOT to go digital

The simple way to handle going paperless would be to have employees digitally sign a PDF file and send that to their manager by email. The manager could then digitally sign that same document and that document could then be stored in the archive like before. A copy could also be sent to the employee to ensure they were always able to access it.

If you have experience with modern leave applications this perhaps has you laughing. However, many paper processes are actually digitized this way. The problem, of course, is that not all bad aspects of the paper process are solved and opportunities created by going digital are left unutilized.

Going digital the right way

One of the most common mistakes is made when we try to digitalize signatures. In many cases, there is no need for this. In the paper world signatures are used to make sure parties agree. But in a digital world, there are other options.

For our leave administration we created an application where all employees have an account. This account is simply accessible with their login that they use to login to their computers everyday. Access to this account is only available to that specific user, which can be leveraged to create an agreement between parties.

To understand how this works, you first need to know that each employee is automatically given the correct number of vacation days each year. The employee goes to the application, logs in and requests leave by selecting the days they want to take as vacation. The application doesn’t allow the user to request more vacation days than are left. The request is then stored and an email is sent to their manager.

Upon receiving the email, the manager logs in to the application where they see the leave request. They can now determine to accept or decline the request, knowing that it is impossible to request more days than the employee has left. When the manager has made his decision, he approves or declines the request and the employee is informed by email. No signatures needed.

The results

This digital process is faster, less susceptible to fraud and uses no paper at all. The same techniques can be used to digitalize other paper processes as well, as long as you avoid digitizing the paper process, instead think from a digital perspective.