At the Future of SharePoint event in London the other day I got chatting to a developer from another SharePoint consultancy. The conversation turned to the SharePoint projects that our respective companies had worked on.
He began telling a story about one of his clients. This one is an engineering company that digs up roads and fixes gas and water pipes all over the country. My new friend went on to explain that each maintenance project generates various forms that need to be filled out. Risk assessment certificates, briefing documents, completion documents, etc.
The surprising thing at least to people like me who work on intranets and digital workplace tools is that these forms are printed out and need to be filled out by hand. Not only that, but once filled out, they are collected by a chap in a van whose sole job is to drive around picking up similar paperwork from other teams working around the country. More surprising still is that these pieces of paper are dropped off to a central office whereupon they are scanned and tagged into a document management system. This generates an inventory sheet which then needs to be printed, circulated, and signed by various superiors before being scanned back in and stored.
My digital focus isn’t the only focus
When paper is digitised and then resurrected back into paper we all know that somethings really not right. Or is it? Its easy for intranet professionals to raise our eyebrows at this. But this is because its our job to banish paper and automate processes. The company I talk about above is concerned with entirely different things. Their forms and audit trails are peripheral and entirely minor to what they really do and to where they add value.
When business is good and customers are lining up its easy to see why a seemingly antiquated process like that might get overlooked and continues to exist. Obviously, they know its not the smartest way to do it but they have other concerns, many of which you and I cant even begin to imagine.
The thing is, companies all over the world are in similar situations. On virtually every project we work on we discover such manual processes. Even large corporates with deep pockets and abundant IT resource can at times seem very unsophisticated in the way they do things. Our job is to uncover these processes and help redesign and digitise them. We do this by meeting with lots of people, asking them plenty of questions about their jobs and, above all, by listening.
If you want to learn more about how we go about uncovering pain points and opportunities to drive productivity then please get in touch.