We talked about translation processes in Translation Workflows Have Clear Tasks and Owners. But what if we want to translation into three languages?

First of all we have to decide whether we want all translations done simultaneously or sequentially. If we are talking about translating an English document into three languages (e.g., Japanese, Spanish and Chinese) there should be no problem running all translation tasks simultaneously.

A translation process is not often given time in the limelight, but it is one that is surprisingly effective as a workflow. Unlike many workflows, it's clear who is in charge of which tasks, and this makes modeling and improving easy. Tasks done by remote workers and outsourced staff are easily managed as well.

We talk about how it is important to divide processes into tasks and assign ownership to each of them in our online document The Golden Rules of Business Process Modeling

Companies could be compared to trees. A tree has leaves, branches and a trunk. It also has bark, which protects the tree from harmful external influences. There is also the xylem and phloem which transport important things throughout the tree. Each are different and each have their own special roles. Just as companies. The first objective of business process management (BPM) is to process tasks efficiently. It's to find stagnation and overloads, to find top performers, to visualize the companies internal organs and make improvements.

One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, for a company is profit. Which means all companies must continually improve their process for receiving orders. This process itself is a source for competition.

So where do you start BPM from? It's the golden question that's so hard to answer. To resist the temptation to say something utterly unhelpful (e.g., "It depends on the company,") let's try a more specific lead: start with either (1) A workflow that responds to a query made from an external source, or (2) A process for providing a service which starts from an order input. Today let's look at a Request-for-Information workflow, which belongs to the former category.

Supercomputers are not for everybody. Usually users who've gone through the proper procedures are given access to them for a limited period of time. And system owners need to monitor each registered user's performance and usage. Each user should have a support staff to provide help and support.

This workflow organizes the support staff's work, which is similar to sales. In other words, the support staff's job is to quickly confirm the application and period of use, and get the system ready for the client. It's similar to a sales rep's quote drafting and order processing.

Smooth and Speedy Complaint Management

Thursday, November 25, 2010
Whether you're impulse is to ignore their existence or to brag about the amount of them, complaints are disguised opportunities for improving products and services. Companies should record each complaint in order to analyze the cause for each one and grasp comprehensive relations. Nowadays there is the popular webform which can be accessed by anyone at anytime, so companies will want to prepare a system to receive them and respond to them quickly.

Let's say we make a webform in Google Docs, and design a workflow for responding to issued complaints.

Copywriters generate tons of work—articles, papers, news bulletins, etc.—and these often go through rigorous editing. It's a hard job. If the final piece needs to be translated, and each draft (original & translation) needs to go through a double check, it's not only hard, it's complicated.

The "after-the-fact" approval is an interesting thing. What happens if the boss doesn't "approve" after the proposal went through? If the authority to approve is handed over to someone else in the first place, this system wouldn't need to exist. But if authority isn't handed over, why does this "someone else" have to give approval in the first place?
This is an example of an almost useless two-step approval system.

A Ringi Process with Flexibility

Monday, November 22, 2010
Your division's campaign plan is coming together. It's full of exciting original ideas. It's the marketing division's pride and joy. You're about to bring it to a complete...And then someone remembers, "Oh, this proposal was supposed to obtain the sales division's approval in a ringi process."

The truth is that it is difficult to define a workflow that allows you to flexibly change or add routes to a ringi process.

A Workflow for Filtering Ideas

Sunday, November 21, 2010
How can a company constantly generate good ideas? To begin with, we must acknowledge
that the majority of ideas don't amount to much (and are doomed to die out according to the
evolutionary theory).

Today we're going to introduce a workflow that is designed to "not flow." By this we mean a
workflow meant to accumulate various ideas, and which ultimately aids in choosing the best
or most timely idea at each relevant time.

There are a lot of small companies that want an official blog or twitter account, with full control over the quality of the information published. We've seen a recent boost in automated systems that post prior-approved blogs/tweets. This is an operation that needs two functions: a "system that can post to a blog or twitter account by email" and a "workflow system that can send process data by email*." (Email is the key joint factor.)

* That is, a system that handles message throwing intermediate events (BPMN term), such as Questetra BPM Suite.

How many times have you noticed the printer ran out of ink, but pretended that you didn't see? Still, somebody has to change the cartridge and let the office manager know.

It is one of general affairs' jobs to efficiently purchase and replenish office supplies. There are so many things to supply: printer cartridges, light bulbs, whiteboard pens, work slips, individual business cards and uniforms, to list a few. It's an often overlooked yet tiresome job.

Work leave can be complicated. The necessary info and involved departments differ according to the type of leave, which could be paid leave, unpaid vacation, long-term sick leave, maternity leave, etc., etc. Sensitive events such as bereavement leave may occasion certain actions from the company. In any case, the first thing we want to do is eliminate unnecessary transactions.

This means using one common application form and making instructions as easy as possible to understand.

If a company has a system in which work comes in from external sources, the internal process for handling that work inevitably goes through a continuous cycle of improvement. In other words, processes that are initiated externally are what aids an organization's ability to adopt to external environments. (external as in: outside the company, outside the division, outside the team, the person sitting next to you...)

This is a workflow that automatically handles inquiries (jobs) that are inputted in a Google Docs spreadsheet form. There is a split for when the member needs accounting's advice.

The workflow we proposed yesterday (A Control Tower for Distributing Tasks) can be called a leader-centric workflow. If we apply it to the Situational Leadership Theory, we can see that it might not be optimal for all organizations, because it might hinder the organization's potential to grow. Worst-case-scenario, it might lead to a company that mass-responds to inquiries, yet is full of robot-like members who automatically wait for their "next assigned task." (Not ideal, to say the least.)

Humans are a passive species. Well, maybe not really. I mean that when there are 10 jobs to be done people will get 10 jobs done, and when there are 20 jobs they will get 20 jobs done.

What if your company is full of people who will take on what they are given but don't like to go out of their way to accept more work? Take the process we proposed in the post titled, The Ever-Changing Inquiry Management Process; you might find your customer service department full of "unresolved inquiries."

By "Daily Brief" we mean letting the boss know what you're doing and what problems you are facing each day. This is particularly beneficial for departments where each member works independently (e.g., sales, business planning, R&D, etc.). Writing down what you accomplished today and what you plan to do tomorrow helps you organize your own goals, and reporting this info can lead to helpful advice.

This may be something that doesn't have to be turned into a workflow, but if it automatically appears in every member's task list, it might help remind them to keep their bosses informed. In this workflow each process automatically starts at 9:00am every weekday, to every member. (This is called a Timer Start Event in the international standard BPMN.)

We all want to avoid business problems. Collecting payment from your debtors suggests a whole lot of other negative ideas. But no world is without its problems. Whether we like it or not, there will be clients who don't pay. (We all go through these things. It's all part of the growing up process.)
What we want to do today is suggest a workflow that quietly moves things forward in these situations.

Agreements between organizations are bothersome yet necessary. At some companies they are an everyday duty, especially when they involve outsourcing. Veteran salesmen may be able to roll out agreements easily with a little bit of "nemawashi," but what would an ideal workflow for acquiring internal consensus be like?

Rigorous Online Paper Review Workflow

Thursday, November 11, 2010
If the integrity of a company is dependent on the top management's character, dishonesty within the company must mean there is something wrong with top management...(?)
One of man's eternal questions is, "Is it the people or the system?" It's our job to stop making excuses and think of workflows that just don't allow dishonesty. We could consider a system for processing large orders, or for concealing scandals. A public body might need a good process for hiring personnel. Let's start with a workflow for reviewing submitted papers and giving the final yes/no.

A Workflow that Visualizes Payment Delays

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
You deliver a product and issue the invoice, all in time and properly. But the customer forgets to pay...
This "Process order – Issue invoice – Confirm payment" procedure is a basic business duty that tends to get sloppy as the scale of business escalates. Reconciling invoices is a particularly bothersome task.

Do you know how many quotes you're waiting a reply on? And how much is the total amount of all of those quotes?
Having a good estimate/quote system is one of the perks of having a workflow system. It may be BPM's biggest purpose. But in reality sales reps often don't worry too much about quotes... Can we blame them? Orders and contracts take up more of their attention, and they sometimes have to create a quote for a case that obviously won't come through.
So here's a workflow that lessens the sales rep's burden and satisfies upper management.

More companies are changing their expense reimbursement process from a once-a-month to an at-all-times system. This is beneficial for employees because they will be less likely to forget.

The *Inspirational* Workflow!

Sunday, November 7, 2010
"Dude, I just had the best idea ever!"

Everyone has that moment when they are graced by the touch of inspirational genius. (Too much?) There have been many an R&D researcher who thought of the greatest ad copy while sitting on the commode, and many a sales rep who came up with the ideal function that would boost sales of their company's product while driving. In fact, there are probably numerous ideas in your company's employees' minds right this moment. Unfortunately, most of these ideas die a lonely death. Let's think of a system that can pick up these ideas.

Sometimes we need to prepare workflows that won't be frequently used; i.e., crisis response workflows. Think contingency plan! We need not explain why.

This workflow is for server emergencies.

Emailing is one of IT's greatest inventions, but it does have its own problems. One is that it is hard to differentiate between emails that need to be answered and those that don't. Especially if there are long-term deadlines, like "Please reply within 1 month," which tend to get lost in ever-overcrowded inboxes.

You may want to consider a general request workflow.

Websites whose members number in the millions usually have a system for reissuing passwords. This is the "forgot your password?" button that auto-sends a reissued password to your registered email address.

But if your company has only a few hundred members, and you are trying to make a name as a provider of great customer service, you will want to handle each case with attention. (And to record each incident.)

Let's say your team has to produce five proposals until the next plan meeting. The theme has already been announced so you sent requests to your team members to create proposals. One or two of the more diligent members send you their drafts for review, but it stops there... And the meeting is the day after tomorrow. You get worried and check the state of the late processes, and notice that they were not even accepted!

One way to scare your suppliers is to boast of the relentlessness of your procurement division.

From the buyer's point of view, though, it's better to centralize procurement processing, which can be a frequent task. It's costs effective, too, when simply considering economies of scale. And when it comes to ordering production materials, this directly impacts the company's profit (obviously).

Organizations with volunteer workers have a hard time moving their processes forward.

Take monthly reports; these can be bothersome tasks for coordinators who have other work to get done. But the accounting team needs the report in order to settle each month's expenses, so it has to be done…

In this case the Timer Start Event—an event that automatically starts the task on, say, the first day of every month—can come in handy. (Hurray to the inventor of BPMN!)