Systems Integration as a means to cost reduction

System integration in an organisation refers to a process whereby two or more separate systems are brought together for the purpose of pooling the value in the separate systems into one main system. A key component of process consolidation within any organisation is the utilisation of IT as a means to achieve this end. As such, system integration as a means to cost reduction offers organisations the opportunity to adopt and implement lean principles with the attendant benefits. The implementation of lean techniques requires an adherence to stated methods to facilitate the elimination of wastage in the production of goods and services. In summary, the lean philosophy seeks to optimise the speed of good and service production, through the elimination of waste.

While analysing some of the traditional sources of waste in organisational activities, things like overproduction, inventory, underutilised ideas, transmission of information and ideas, transportation of people and material, time wastage and over-processing stand out. The fact is that companies can eliminate a significant portion of waste through the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes within their organisation.

Adopting lean principles calls for the identification of all of the steps in the company value stream for each product family for the purpose of the eliminating the steps that do not create any value. In other words, this step calls for the elimination of redundant steps in the process flow. This is exactly what the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes offers a company. For instance, the adoption of a central cloud system across a large organisation with several facilities could increase efficiencies in that company. Such a company would drastically reduce the redundancies that used to exist in the different facilities, eliminate the instances of hardware and software purchase, maintenance and upgrade, modernise quality assurances processes and identify further opportunities for improvement.

Perhaps, from the company’s point of view, and from the perspective of lean process implementation, the most important factor is?the effect it has?on the bottom line.’reducing the number of hardware, eliminating the need for maintaining and upgrading hardware, removing the necessity for software purchase and upgrade across facilities also contributes to a significant reduction in operational costs.?This reduction in the cost of operations leads to a corresponding increase in the profit margin of the company.

Applying system integration as a means to cost reduction can also lead to the reduction in the number of people needed to operate the previous systems that have been integrated into one primary unit. Usually, companies must hire people with specialised knowledge to operate and maintain the various systems. Such employees must also receive special training and frequent ongoing education to constantly stay informed of the latest trends in process management. With the integration of the system, the number of people needed to maintain the central system will be significantly reduced, also improving the security of information and other company trade secrets.

Based on an analysis of the specific needs that exist in a particular company environment, a system integration method that is peculiar to the needs of that organisation will be worked out. Some companies may find it more cost-effective to use the services of independent cloud service providers. Others with more resources and facilities may decide to set up their own cloud service systems. Often, private cloud service system capabilities far exceed the requirements of the initiating company, meaning that they could decide to “sell” the extra “space” on their cloud network to other interested parties.

A company that fully applies the lean principles towards the integration of its systems will be able to take on additional tasks as a result of the system consolidation. This leads to an increase in performance, and more efficiency due to the seamless syncing of information in a timely and uniform manner.

Companies have to combine a top-down and a bottom-up approach towards their system integration methods. A top-down approach simply utilises the overall system structure that is already in place as a starting point, or as a foundation. The bottom-up approach seeks to design new systems for integration into the system. Other methods of system integration include the vertical, star and horizontal integration methods. In the horizontal method, a specified subsystem is used as an interface for communication between other subsystems. For the star system integration method, the subsystems are connected to the system in a manner that resembles the depiction of a star; hence, the name. Vertical integration refers to the method of the integration of subsystems based on an analysis of their functionality.

The key to successful system integration for the purpose of cost reduction is to take a manual approach towards identifying the various applicable lean principles, with respect to the system integration process. For instance, when value has been specified, it becomes easier to identify value streams. The other process of removing unnecessary or redundant steps will be easier to follow when the whole project is viewed from the whole, rather than’the part. Creating an integrated system needs some?patience?in order to work out kinks and achieve the desired perfect value that creates no waste.

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Transformation to a process based organisation

Today’s global marketplace rewards nimble organisations that learn and reinvent themselves faster than their competition. Employees at all levels of these organisations see themselves as members of teams responsible for specific business processes, with performance measures tied to the success of the enterprise. As team members, they are “owners” of the process (or processes) to which they are assigned. They are responsible for both the day to day functioning of their process(s), and also for continuously seeking sustainable process improvements.

Transforming a traditionally designed “top down control” enterprise to a process-based organisation built around empowered teams actively engaged in business process re-engineering (BPR) has proven more difficult than many corporate leaders have expected. Poorly planned transformation efforts have resulted in both serious impacts to the bottom line, and even more serious damage to the organisation’s fabric of trust and confidence in leadership.

Tomislav Hernaus, in a publication titled “Generic Process Transformation Model: Transition to Process-based Organisation” has presented an overview of existing approaches to organisational transformation. From the sources reviewed, Heraus has synthesised a set of steps that collectively represent a framework for planning a successful organisational change effort. Key elements identified by Hernaus include:

Strategic Analysis:

The essential first step in any transformation effort must be development of a clear and practical vision of a future organisation that will be able to profitably compete under anticipated market conditions. That vision must be expected to flex and adjust as understanding of future market conditions change, but it must always be stated in terms that all organisational members can understand.

Identifying Core Business Processes:

With the strategic vision for the organisation in mind, the next step is to define the core business processes necessary for the future organisation to function. These processes may exist across the legacy organisation’s organisational structures.

Designing around Core Processes:

The next step is development of a schematic representation of the “end state” company, organised around the Core Business Processes defined in the previous step.

Transitional Organisational Forms/ Developing Support Systems:

In his transformation model, Hernaus recognises that information management systems designed for the legacy organisation may not be able to meet the needs of the process management teams in the new organisation. Interim management structures (that can function with currently available IT system outputs) may be required to allow IT professionals time to redesign the organisation’s information management system to be flexible enough to meet changing team needs.

Creating Awareness, Understanding, and Acceptance of the Process-based Organisation:

Starting immediately after the completion of the Strategic Analysis process described above, management must devote sufficient resources to assure that all organisation members, especially key managers, have a full understanding of how a process-based organisation functions. In addition, data based process management skills need to be provided to future process team members. It is not enough to schedule communication and training activities, and check them off the list as they are completed. It is critical that management set behavioural criteria for communication and training efforts that allow objective evaluation of the results of these efforts. Management must commit to continuing essential communication and training efforts until success criteria are achieved. During this effort, it may be determined that some members of the organisation are unlikely to ever accept the new roles they will be required to assume in a process-based organization. Replacement of these individuals should be seen as both an organisational necessity and a kindness to the employees affected.

Implementation of Process Teams:

After the completion of required training AND the completion of required IT system changes, process teams can be formally rolled out in a planned sequence. Providing new teams with part time support by qualified facilitators during the firsts weeks after start-up can pay valuable long term dividends.

Team Skill Development and Continuous Process Improvement:

Providing resources for on-going skill development and for providing timely and meaningful recognition of process team successes are two keys for success in a process-based organisation. Qualified individuals with responsibility for providing training and recognition must be clearly identified and provided with sufficient budgetary resources.

The Hernaus model for transformation to a process based organisation is both well thought out and clear. His paper provides an ample resource of references for further study.

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Are Target Operating Models strategic compasses?

The short answer is they usually are, because every organisation needs a road-map of where they are going. Target operating models can be complex documents with illustrative details including project management structures, special tools, implementation procedures and management metrics. They can also be simple statements, as for example Winston Churchill?s promise that ?we shall fight them on the beaches, on the landing grounds and in the fields? which gave Britain the strategic direction it needed.

Many initiatives unfortunately fail because managers are ?too busy? to bottom on what their target operating model should say, or simply don’t believe in paperwork. As a result, promising initiatives may blunder off course or die a slow death without them really noticing. We cannot manage what we cannot measure, which is where the management metrics fit in. One of my favourite quotes is ?if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there? which is what the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in Wonderland when she got lost.

The author blundered through life without a plan because there was no one else with his particular brand of imagination. The current business climate is different because everybody is trying to ramp up, and investors want to know exactly what is going to happen to their money and by when. Hence a target operating model can be indispensable throughout a change or product cycle.

The benefits of having a measurable operations / technology plan can produce powerfully tangible results if the organisation follows through on it. Built-in metrics with milestones are powerful tool for management, and, when they map through to the company financial plan almost irreplaceable as cash-flow forecasters.

Other benefits may include:

  • Shorter times to market and greater agility when launching new ideas
  • Reduced investor risk through a predictable process that’s readily monitored
  • A stable operating environment where there is consensus on direction
  • Greater likelihood of delivering on time and leading to repeat orders
  • A more cost-effective process, with less risk of loss of quality and money

Although it dates back a few years the Wills UK and Ireland Retail model still provides an excellent benchmark of a target operating plan that worked. The strategic goals were exceptionally clear, and they brought in a proven project manager to help them drive the program forward.

We have delivered advanced business management services to many of our clients, and believe you will find our personalised approach time-efficient and effective too.

What are Operational Reviews

Faced with growing competition, businesses continually need to find new innovative solutions and ideas to improved organizational performance, especially in various cut-throat industries where innovation and good management can make or break the company.

This is the reason why, businesses place greater emphasis on the evaluation of efficiency, effectiveness, and economics of its operations.

Conducting regular Operational Reviews are key to keeping your company at peak performance.

What is an Operational Review

An operational review is an in-depth and objective review of an entire organization or a specific segment of that organization. It can be used to identify and address existing concerns within your company such as communication issues between departments, problems with customer relations, operating procedures, lack of profitability issues, and other factors that affect the stability of the business.

Operational reviews allow the organization members to evaluate how well they are performing, given that they perform appropriately according to the procedures set by them, allocating their resources properly, and performing such tasks within time frame set and using cost-effective measures. More importantly, it also shows your company how well it is prepared to meet future challenges.

What are the objectives of an Operational Review

The goals of an operational review are to increase revenue, improve market share, and reduce cost.

An operational review allows the management to see their company in a different light i.e a larger perspective. That is, it gives the management the opportunity to evaluate if the entrusted resources were used wisely to achieve the desired results of operations.

Operational reviews provide a comprehensive assessment of authority in that they help define expectations, and empower people within an organization to enact? up on it. This is due feedback provided will help them to better gauge the value of tasks performed and whether the job is being done the right or wrong way, and on what areas the company can excel and improve on.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Questions worth considering in an Operational Review

Are you able to view your own organization as a whole from an objective angle?

Do the different departments complement each other so that they form a cohesive unit that boosts your business in the right direction?

With our comprehensive assessment of your organization?s current systems, operations, processes, and strategies, our operational review programs aim to help you in achieving these lofty goals: to improve business profitability and identify incompetence in both operations and organizational systems.

Benefits of an Operational Review

The main objective of an operational review is to help organizations like yours to learn how to deal with and address issues, instead of simply reacting to the challenges brought about by growth and change.

Information and data gathered in an Operational Review is practical from both a financial and operational perspective. Using? data, management can then formulate recommendations, which are not only realistic, but more importantly, can help the organization achieve its goals.

The Operational Review recognizes the extent to which your internal controls actually work, and enables you to identify and understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

What should be included in an operational review

  • Assess compliance within your own organizational objectives, policies and procedures
  • Evaluate specific company operations independently and objectively
  • Impartial assessment regarding the effectiveness of an organization’s control systems
  • Identify the appropriate standards for quantifying achievement of organizational objectives
  • Evaluate the reliability and value of the company’s management data and reports
  • Pinpoint problem areas and their underlying causes
  • Identify opportunities to increase profit, augment revenue, and reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the product or service.

More Operational Review Blogs

 

Carrying out an Operational Review

 

Operational Reviews

 

Operational Efficiency Initiatives

 

Operational Review Defined

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