Let’s discuss an issue faced by a medium enterprise company that has about 100 employees and how IT system can govern can help govern an SOP. This is a company in business for the past 30 years and has been steadily growing from a small setup of less than 50 employees to having employees from all over the nation. As it has been in the business for many years, it already has a usual set of daily standard operating processes. The company, although has been growing steadily, it was unable to grow at a faster rate which is on par with the industry market growth. The company did not find any needs in investing for any IT systems as they find that humans could resolve the issues just as well. The only system that the company has is an accounting system which caters more for accounting purposes. Being a FMCG supplier, this company has quite a full setup which includes warehousing and distribution. As it receives more than 100 orders daily, the warehousing relies a lot of human efficiency to ensure the right products are picked up and delivered to the correct customers.
While there are sets of standard operating procedures that are in place daily to ensure smooth process, there are a few issues and hiccups that are hindering the company from expanding further. Some of them being :-
- No proper documentation of the processes causing confusion amongst employees
- No one to govern the process causing questions of responsibility of each department/person
- Flexibility of changing the process whenever it suits/benefits one department while causing the others unrest
- New employees needed to take the time to learn the process and procedures through repeated mistakes ie “banging on walls”
- New and better SOPs which are discussed and agreed upon to implement for better efficiency or market changes are not implemented or “forgotten” in time due to lack of governance
- Missing documents when documents are passed around for approvals ie approval is needed from marketing via documents raised by sales which thereafter is then needed to be sent to finance for further processing.
The issues above shows heavy reliance on human discipline and while this may not be an issue to some but let’s be real, each of these issues will hinder the company’s progression and the impact may not be as simple as what you think
While I understand that it is very expensive to get an IT solution or system for an entire company and moreover to get it customized to your business needs, there is a need to invest in one. With the recent pandemic, it raises a question of how to ensure a smooth operational process for those working from home. By using an IT system, you can no longer need to rely on human skills to help govern your SOP procedures as the system can help act as the reminder, the executor, the assignor to the process. While in the market the current expensive solution is SAP, there are also a few alternatives that you can consider
- Invest in an IT team that can write programs. Get them to come up with programs and because they are your internal team, they can write programs that cater specifically to your business
- Hire an external IT expert to analyze your business module and come up with programs to smoothen the process and procedures. It maybe costly but perhaps you can negotiate for monthly subscriptions instead of paying one whole lump sum which maybe an issue for some companies with tight cashflow
- Look for free open source programs that fits your purpose. There may of course be limitations since its open source and free