Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Why you Should Document Business Processes

Best Practices, Business Analysis, Documentation, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Small Business

By Denise Larcade

One thing I’ve seen in my 25+ years working in change management and business analysis is that documenting Business Processes and supporting documents like Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) adds value to a business in a variety of ways.

Unfortunately, some believe that documenting processes and procedures is not always the most exciting of tasks, and it’s often put off from one person to the next. Before you know it, the documented process for a task may be severely outdated—or nonexistent.

A lack of documentation can reduce efficiency of your business if, for example, someone goes on vacation. The back-up who’s covering for them should have access to the Business Process Diagram (BPD) and accompanying SOPs so they can do the job of the person who’s out. If there’s no documentation, the back-up has no idea what to do. The impact to the business is that while the process may be well-defined and streamlined, if it’s not documented, then time and labor is not utilized efficiently.

A complete lack of documentation can be a major problem if an employee leaves. Without knowing their day-to-day processes, it will be difficult to hire a qualified person to take over for them, not to mention keeping business running in the interim.

Luckily, documenting processes and procedures is not a daunting task. Businesses of any size can and should document their process. KAI Partners, a certified small business with fewer than 100 employees, regularly documents its processes and procedures.

When starting out, a good rule of thumb is that each WHAT documented in the BPD should be supported by some documentation on HOW (oftentimes an SOP). Further, when the Business Processes are updated, the accompanying SOP should be updated at the same time.

For example, if the diagram step in the BPD states, “Create Invoice,” there should be a manual/guide, SOP, or job aid detailing how to create the invoice. If today the invoice is created on a Mac and tomorrow it’s changed to a PC, the step in the BPD may not change, but the supporting documents will.

So, what do you do once you’ve documented your Business Processes? Stick them in a drawer and forget about them? No!

Depending on your current business state, you should look at your Business Processes quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. For mergers and acquisitions, I recommending looking at your processes quarterly. If your business is not going through a major change, you should check in with your Business Processes every six months or every year.

When you do regular audits of your business process, you’re checking for:

  1. Accuracy.Is everything the same, or have you made any business changes that should be updated? Think about the scenario above—if the software used to create the invoice is inaccessible due to a licensing issue, a work around may need to be created to keep the BPD current. If the work around does not have a solution date and may be a long-term work around, you should consider updating the BPD to reflect that. (Another reason why regularly-scheduled reviews are valuable—it forces the business owner to address something that was supposed to have been fixed by a certain date.)
  2. Improvements. Is there a way you can improve or streamline the process? What steps no longer need to be done or how can we automate? Perform a cost analysis to determine which step is most efficient.
  3. Future state. What may the future of this process look like? Look at how is the industry shifting or how have other organizations changed. If there’s a new system the industry is using, assess the initial cost to stand up using a new system, as well as the cost over time to change to the new process. This information will be helpful in the future, as changes start making their way down the pike.

I recommend every business—large or small—regularly document and update their processes and procedures. For those who are on the fence, just remember that while eliminating processes may eliminate roles, streamlining a business process means you can now put people in roles that need more attention. This will help your business running at its most efficient.

About the Author: Denise Larcade is an Organizational Development Consultant and Merger and Acquisitions Expert. She has over 25 years of experience in training, development, and leading companies through organizational change management. Denise has worked in corporate retail, technology, and government healthcare and most recently has experience with large-scale implementations nationwide. She currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing client support to one of KAI Partners’ state clients. Denise grew up in the Silicon Valley and relocated to Utah and Idaho before recently returning to her native California roots.

3 Steps to Achieve Work-School Balance

Best Practices, General Life/Work, KAIP Academy, Learning

By Danielle Cortijo

Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in one of life’s major balancing acts called pursuing an academic degree, all while being an active full-time employee! You’ve earned this moment of celebration by simply making the decision to participate in this major undertaking for your future. It won’t necessarily be an easy one, but some would say that nothing worth having should be. The implication is that the struggle helps you to appreciate the journey and the result that much more. The reward of finally completing that final exam—turning in the last paper and receiving your coveted degree—will be the ultimate prize.

But remember, success requires balance. This is the voyage of the avid professional’s daily work life. The one-to-four year mission to seek out new degrees and new ways to handle it all…To boldly juggle responsibilities like no one has juggled before!

Speaking from my own past and current experience, discovering how best to squeeze it all in has been nothing short of some of my most challenging moments in life. If you’re someone who is constantly trying to outdo themselves academically like me, you may relate to my past and present battle of having a full-time commitment to work, all while maintaining a heavy school load and even higher GPA.

As we speak, I am an eager Analyst by day and a relentless graduate student completing her degree in medicine by nights and weekends. Sound daunting? Well, it doesn’t have to be—not completely. Achieving success is definitely doable and I’m here to share some tips on how to do just that!

  1. Support Team on deck: I can’t stress enough how important this particular factor can become for anyone pursuing their degree while working full time and doing their best to maintain some semblance of a regular life. It’s a challenge and sometimes you just might need a soft place to land. That can come in the form of support from incredible friends or family who understand who and where you are in life and help you to return to center. Don’t be afraid to lean on whoever you’ve chosen. You’ll be all the better for it.
  2. Scheduling is a MUST: It is so, so important to create a schedule for yourself that will allow you to keep track of everything you have on your plate. More importantly, it will force you to always be aware of assignment deadlines for both work and school. Find what works for you. Are you the weekend warrior, someone who can get it all done in 2.5 days? Or are you the all week guru, someone who needs to complete little by little after work during the week with a finale weekend? Whatever your preference and best tactics, be sure to put a schedule in place that works and helps you be the best school and work balancing champion you can be.
  3. Disconnect, Disconnect, DISCONNECT: This may sound like the opposite of what one would want or should do, but honestly, it is utterly necessary. You will need time to concentrate and focus on your work when it’s company time and school when it’s education central. At the end of the day, all stops begin and end with you when it comes to your final product. Your tasks at work carry an equal amount of importance as do your assignments for school. So, do yourself the biggest favor and let it be known that disconnect time is in full effect. You aren’t being selfish. This isn’t you ignoring life. Try to see it as you giving back to yourself by providing adequate time to achieve your dreams. Trust me, your GPA and daily work will thank you for it.

These steps can be the very things that preserve your sanity and help you to maintain both your stellar professional face and academic prowess. It’s true that we are perfectly imperfect creatures, but doing all you can to shine in all areas of your world can feel extremely overwhelming if the planning and consistency in the rituals you establish aren’t properly maintained.

It is indeed possible to successfully balance your work, home, and academic life all in one. Try not to let the stressful moments get you down. Create your own work and academic rhythm and achievement will follow! It can be done—I am living proof.

About the Author: With a Bachelor’s in Communications and actively pursuing her Master’s in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Dani has an extensive professional background in the public and private sectors focused in Contracts, Human Resources, QA, and Process. Currently the Procurement Specialist on the amazing Administrative team for KAI Partners, she is working diligently to assist in the successful acquisition of procurements for the company. When her world slows down a bit, she loves scouring for an incredible deal on retro sneakers with her partner in crime, listening to music 24/7, and laughing as much as humanly possible.

3 Tips for a Successful (and Fun!) Career

Communications, General Life/Work, Hiring, Human Resources

By Sarah Walsh

I’ve only been out of college for 12 years, but I feel like a cat with nine lives with the amount of jobs I’ve held across various sectors and industries. I’ve worked for a major political party, two elected officials, a Native American tribe (where our lunch meetings took place at a casino), the pharmaceutical industry, and, finally, consulting.

What I’ve found along the way is that where you start is not necessarily where you’ll finish. What you think you like and what you actually do like may change over time. Your life, ideas, politics, values, and dreams will change over time. Despite—or because of!—the various roads you take, you will have many opportunities to reinvent yourself.

Today I share three things you can do to ensure continued career progression while allowing for life’s many changes. While these tips are targeted towards those starting out their career, they can also be applied to the more seasoned professionals who perhaps feel stuck in their current state.

  1. Intern!

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Intern.

Know exactly what you want to do with your life? Intern.

The benefits of an internship cannot be overstated. You not only learn more about the field in which you’re interning—which can help you decide whether or not it’s what you actually want to do—you also meet valuable people, whether a mentor, a future job reference, an industry connection, or a friend.

When I graduated college, my major (Political Science) required either a 12-page paper or a three-month-long internship to graduate. As much as I love writing now, writing a required 12 pages wasn’t a passion at age 22, and so I chose the internship route.

This move ultimately put me on a path towards doing what I truly love (writing and editing, creating communications plans and procedures, and hanging out on the Internet)—although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d work in politics forever, and while that goal shifted (I happily no longer work in politics), I still have the skills and inside knowledge my years in politics provided…All because I choose to take an internship.

  1. Build and Foster Relationships

It was only through the relationships and connections I built along the way that enabled me to continue to progress in the political field. Hilariously, in my early years, I ended up following my first internship supervisor in several roles as she vacated them—was it any coincidence that each time she took a new position, she thought of me to replace her?

Mentorships are just as important and being mentored is not something that should only happen at the beginning of your career. As your roles change or you take a job in a different industry, you may find that being mentored is critical to your success. Shelve the idea that age matters and remember learning is continuous, even if that means learning from someone who is younger than you—insight is ageless!

Building relationships/mentorships can be tricky. You need to make sure the relationship is symbiotic, not just something you dip back into when it benefits you. A piece of required reading on this topic comes from a friend of mine, a successful writer. People with whom she had little to no relationship were forever asking to, “Pick her brain.” Eventually, she’d had enough and shared her thoughts on the brain-picking epidemic. Underscoring her blog post is the reminder that professional relationships don’t happen in a vacuum—they are something to be nurtured over time.

  1. Embrace the Change

Some of my career changes were by choice and some were not (dreaded political term limits!) Each change while, on the one hand scary, was also an opportunity to take what I’d learned and shift that knowledge into a new role.

My years of writing political briefings may not have been an obvious transition into more typical communications functions like internal comms, social media management, marketing/PR, etc., but what was obvious was that the raw skills transferred across industries.

While initially there was fear around the unknown—in my case, abandoning one industry for another in which I had little to no knowledge or professional contacts—it was a challenge that ultimately got me here, to a job I enjoy and value. The first step was taking the leap and embracing the initial change—and the discomfort that went along with it.

Another example of embracing change is our own Human Resources Generalist, who recently made a career change, going from Research Analyst to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

Through her years of research work, she eventually found a new passion in HR—and didn’t even have to give up her beloved research in the process. As she said about the transition, “I still get to do research as part of my work. … While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.”

Remember, change is not only ok, it is necessary to keep growing in your career and life! We hope these tips will help in your professional development—whether a reminder to pick up the phone and call text your old boss to catch up, or by deciding to finally pursue a long-held dream.

About the Author: Sarah Walsh has over a decade of communications experience, including public sector roles in the California State Senate and State Assembly, as well as private sector roles for a sovereign Native American tribe and a global pharmaceutical company. In addition to communications work, Sarah and her husband are team captains and fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Walk MS event. When she’s not writing, editing, or watching The Real Housewives, she loves performing comedy, hanging out with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and cooking. One day, maybe she’ll figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Until then, follow her on Twitter @sarahsykeswalsh.

Equifax Data Breach: Next Steps

Cyber Security, Information Security, Information Security Management System (ISMS), Information Technology, ISO27001, KAI Partners, Ransomware, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Technology

As you may have heard, there has been a major breach of data at credit bureau Equifax.

It’s now more important than ever to protect yourself. To check whether you were affected by this data breach, visit: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/. It’s quick and easy—it took our staff less than a minute to check their status.

If you were compromised, check out this article on ways you can protect yourself:
http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/07/technology/business/equifax-data-breach/index.html?iid=EL

Remember, KAI Partners can help your organization assess its security protection through our small business information security risk assessments and Information Security Management System frameworks.

Planning for Test Data Preparation as a Best Practice

Best Practices, Data Management, Project Management, Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC), Testing

By Paula Grose

After working in and managing testing efforts on and off for the past 18 years, I have identified a best practice that I use in my testing projects and I recommend it as a benefit to other testing projects, as well.

This best practice is test data preparation, which is the process of preparing the data to correlate to a particular test condition.

Oftentimes, preparing data for testing is a big effort that people underestimate and overlook. When you test the components of a new system, it’s not as simple as just identifying your test conditions and then executing the test—there are certain factors you should take into account as you prepare your test environment. This includes what existing processes, if any, are in place to allow for the identification or creation of test data that will match to a test condition.

A test case may consist of multiple test conditions. For each test condition, you must determine all the test data needs. This includes:

  • Input data
  • Reference data
  • Data needed from other systems to ensure synchronization between systems
  • Data needed to ensure each test will achieve its expected result

Planning for test data preparation can greatly reduce the time required to prepare the data. At the overall planning stage for testing, there are many assessments that should be conducted, including:

  • Type of testing that will be required
  • What testing tools are already available
  • Which testing tools may need to be acquired

If, at this point, there are no existing processes that allow for easy selection and manipulation of data, you should seek to put those processes in place. Most organizations have a data guru who is capable of putting processes in place for this effort—or at least can assist with the development of these processes.

The goal is to provide a mechanism that will allow the selection of data based on defined criteria. After you do this, you can perform an evaluation as to whether the existing data meets the need—or identify any changes that must be made. If changes are required, the process must facilitate these changes and provide for the loading/reloading of data once changes are made.

One word of caution concerning changing existing data: You must be certain that the existing data is not set up for another purpose. Otherwise, you may be stepping on someone else’s test condition and cause their tests to fail. If you don’t know for sure, it is always better to make a copy of the data before any changes are made.

About the Author: Paula Grose worked for the State of California for 33 years, beginning her work in IT as a Data Processing Technician and over time, performing all aspects of the Systems Development Life Cycle. I started in executing a nightly production process and progressed from there. As a consultant, Paula has performed IV&V and IPOC duties focusing on business processes, testing, interfaces, and data conversion. She currently leads the Data Management Team for one of KAI Partners’ government sector clients. In her spare time, she is an avid golfer and enjoys spending time with friends, and playing cards and games.

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