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Process Documentation and Business Intelligence

Author: John Kaufling | 4 min read | May 19, 2017

Business Intelligence software (BI) provides user-friendly ways to congregate and analyze data in the search for actionable business solutions. When BI is at its best, it is amazingly good at spotting low-hanging fruit: opportunities to improve operations and reduce costs that might otherwise have been missed. When BI isn’t working, it’s usually due to a lack of process documentation.

Process documentation is at the heart of BI solutions including process automation. Process documentation can be as simple as a spreadsheet you use to compare budgeted expenses with actual expenditures, or it can be as complicated as the steps taken to create a controlled nuclear reaction.

When detailed process documentation is created and maintained, BI systems can combine data and process to generate exactly the information decision-makers need, when they need it. When that documentation is not created or maintained, it creates costly delays for organizations.

Bad Process Documentation Is Holding Back Organizations

In a recent survey of 1,500 IT leaders from around the world, IDC discovered that the lack of good process documentation is one of the “Five Top Fails” in IT and it is a problem at the majority of organizations. Their findings:

  • 76% of survey responders say it’s hurting revenue
  • Three-quarters says it’s causing audit trail problems
  • Nearly half say it’s hurting their ability to budget and plan
  • 46% says they have problems with lost or misplaced documents

IDC found that poor process documentation was leading to lower employee productivity and reduced customer satisfaction, and these impacts were affecting revenue. There are many reasons that process documentation is difficult to do well. The biggest challenge is that process documentation is treated as an afterthought to be completed after the work is done, rather than a part of the process itself.

The key to good process documentation is to collect the data as the process is being performed. This can be done using a variety of passive capture tools such as keystroke loggers, screen capture, and revisioning tools that accurately create a trail of changes made to a document.

Segregation of Process Documentation into Silos

Another factor negatively impacting organizations is the segregation of the documentation they have into discrete divisional or operational silos. A new white paper from Datavail entitled Process and Project Documentation Best Practices and Case Histories explains the difficulties when different parts of an organization hold their data separately, often using different hardware and software solutions:

“The restriction of data into departments and divisions makes it difficult to get the full benefits of Business Intelligence software, which relies on comprehensive data to generate the information that drives product development, marketing, sales, customer service, HR, supply chain management, and finance.”

Process documentation is stored in a wide variety of document formats as well, from META data records of phone communications, to surveillance video to hand-drawn diagrams. For best practices in BI, all these documents need to be part of the same accessible and secure system. It is not easy to overcome the obstacles to good document storage and integration.

The Framework of Good Process Documentation

Also in our white paper on Process Documentation we detail a case history of how the City of Virginia Beach used improved process documentation to generate transformational business intelligence. The municipality’s IT department now focuses 25% of staff time on business process improvement rather than 100% of their time just ensuring system functionality. The difference has allowed the IT department to reinvent itself, freeing up valuable resources with the aid of an accurate BI system.

Process documentation works best as an automated part of the process itself. With keystroke loggers, screen captures, META data capture, and self-narrated recordings, employees do not have to rely on memory to recreate a process. With automated process documentation tools, employees can focus on editing and improving the process.

Good process documentation is easy to import, easy to export, and easy to share. Many BI systems have become incredibly good at importing data from a wide variety of both structured and unstructured databases, mapping to process workflows and measuring against industry standards.

Good process documentation is the foundation of a strong BI system, and enables organizations to leverage powerful dashboards and reports. If you are not getting the bang you expected from your BI system, or you would like to improve your process documentation pipeline, we encourage you to contact Datavail todayto see how we can bring your system up to speed.

Datavail is a specialized IT services company focused on Data Management with solutions in BI/DW, analytics, database administration, custom application development, and enterprise applications. We provide both professional and managed services delivered via our global delivery model, focused on Microsoft, Oracle and other leading technologies. Datavail can help you get started on the road to better process documentation and better BI.

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